Too late, TBS! We’re all King of the Nerds now

King of the Nerds

The producers of TBS’s new reality competition King of the Nerds worked really hard to find themselves actual nerds. Out of the 11 contestants, 5 of them are scientists of some variety (including astrophysicists, a neuroscientist, and a theoretical physicist). The remaining 6 blog about gaming, host podcasts about gaming, or simply game too much to hold down a full-time job. The glasses count, if you’re curious, is 7 with to 4 without.

No surprise here: The show is populated by nerd caricatures. Like all reality shows, they went out and found people who fit their mold, then told those people to amp up their personalities to 11.

Why go to such extremes? Because if the show reflected the real state of “nerds” in 2013, we would all be contestants.

Once upon a time, in this very galaxy…

To understand how far nerd culture has come in merging into the mainstream, you really have to go back nearly 20 years to a time it was still distinct from normalcy: the mid-90s. Had King of the Nerds been produced then, your contestant lineup would look something like this:

Two or three of your contestants “code,” which they’re forced to explain means they design software applications for computers. Today, nearly 1 million people are listed as software engineers in the US. To put that in perspective, there are only about 550,000 lawyers.

Another two or three are comic book aficionados. Because in that era, there hadn’t been a financially viable comic book movie since 1989’s Batman and its sequels, you can assume that they mean actual comic books, which experienced sales of roughly 100 million copies in 1997. Comics now only sell between 70 and 80 million copies per year, while their related movies made up 3 of the top 10 highest earning movies of 2012.

One of the guests, Steve, wows the other contestants with his new PalmPilot, or as he described it, “a computer in my pocket.” He can even write e-mail to a friend and it will send when he syncs the PDA back at his computer! He seems to have the inside track on being crowned King.

The remaining contestants are your typical mix of mathematicians, semi-professional Magic: The Gathering players, and amateur fantasy authors who are hoping the exposure from the show will get them a book deal from one of the multitude of book publishers. Of course, the most popular book of 2012 was once self-published Twilight fan fiction, Fifty Shades of Grey.


The producers tried to entice at least one astrophysicist to join the show, but since NASA is launching roughly 10 Space Shuttles per year, none could be spared.

They did land one major coup by signing an actual developer from Nintendo, who brought with him a prototype N64. The video game system serves as the gathering place for our nerds, much like the hot tub does for MTV’s The Real World. The majority of them still frequent the arcade in their local mall, as they do not own a video game system. Now, 56 percent of households have a game console.

How times have changed

We all knew someone like the contestants described above, but somewhere along the line, we became them. Comic-book movies dominate theaters and fan-fic tops best-seller lists. Coding is widely practiced. Almost every person uses a computer on a daily basis, and half of us carry one in our pocket.

The fact that mainstream culture has adopted nerds and their activities as their own is no revelation. The point is not that nerds are cool, as any commentary of The Big Bang Theory seems to end with, but rather that King of the Nerds makes it painfully obvious that we’re all nerds, at least in the traditional sense of the word that anyone of a certain generation grew up with.

So TBS dove deep to find people that could be universally described as nerdy. And what they found were parodies of days gone by. These people don’t seem to be actors playing roles, in the strictest sense of the word. It’s just that their roles no longer exist. They seem as out of place as Gerard Butler’s Spartan warlord or Leonardo DiCaprio’s plantation owner.

In 1996, Time covered the tech boom with a cover story entitled “The Golden Geeks” that featured Netscape’s Marc Andreessen. As we now know, a lot of people would follow those geeks’ footsteps and become fabulously wealthy and powerful. But the adoption of geek culture was much more than just a cash grab. It turned out to be a more efficient and pleasant way to live.

King of the Nerds might as well be on the History Channel instead of TBS. At least it would make sense there.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Movies & TV

‘Venom’ devours the box office competition with monstrous second weekend

Sony Pictures anti-superhero movie Venom won the weekend box office for the second straight week, beating musical drama A Star is Born, as well as three new releases that made it into the weekend's top ten movies.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in October, from 'Mindhunter’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

15 epic sci-fi novels you should read before they become blockbuster films

You can get ahead of the next crop of science-fiction movies coming out of Hollywood by picking up the books that inspired them. We compiled a list of books you can add to your reading list now to get a glimpse of the future.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: The Haunting of Hill House season 1, The Romanoffs, and more.
Movies & TV

New 'Mandalorian' photo links series to Boba Fett and 'Star Wars Holiday Special'

Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service will be titled The Mandalorian. The series will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.
Home Theater

Dish Network or DirecTV: Which is the better choice for you?

So, you’ve chosen to go with a satellite television provider. Check out our quick rundown of what both Dish Network and DirecTV offer in terms of content, hardware, and pricing, and why you might choose them over streaming services.
Movies & TV

'Avengers 4' directors signal the end of reshoots with mysterious photo

The events of Avengers: Infinity War changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe in some big ways and left fans wondering how its heroes can possibly recover. Here's everything we know about Avengers 4, the sequel to Infinity War.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

'Spider-Man: Far From Home' photos and video reveal Spidey's new costume

Despite some mystery surrounding Spider-Man's future after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Far From Home swings into theaters in July 2019. Here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Movies & TV

Latest 'Daredevil' season 3 preview puts the spotlight on Wilson Fisk

Season 3 of Daredevil will premiere October 19 on Netflix, so here is everything we know about the next set of adventures featuring Marvel Comics' man without fear before the third season's debut.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.