Thursday, October 11, 2007

Getting The Geek Right

I’ve been diligently watching the shows on my Show Killer Short List and have not been impressed. To give everything a fair shake, I’ve watched at least two episodes of each of them, but none of these are must see television. However, since I recently upgraded my cable box for a DVR version, I might as well leave them in the record queue an hope they get better.

The one show not on the list that has caught my attention is the new show following How I Met Your Mother (which is showing signs of incipient shark jumping). The Big Bang Theory has a really unpromising premise. Two uber-nerd roommates and their ultra-dork best friends have a superhottie move in next door. All the geeks get crushes on this girl that is so far out of their league that a tee ball player in the World Series has a better chance of scoring than they do.

The show works for two reasons. The first is that the writers get the geek right. When the nerds argue superhero powers, they know what they talk about. When the alpha nerd mumbles on about how string theory is unprovable he is right. Nerds and geeks have been sidekicks and comic relief forever. Usually they are played with a broadness and unsubtlety that makes Jerry Lewis look like Robert DeNiro. From the gadget mastermind of Simon and Simon to breakout dork Urkel, nerds have been laughed at rather than laughed with.

The only other show that even tried to show nerds in an accurate light was Freaks and Geeks, or as it’s known in my house, My High School Resume. Seriously, Judd Apatow owes me some coin. While Big Bang plays the nerds for laughs, they do it without malice.

The other part of the show that breaks the mold is that the blond neighbor is no bimbo. She isn’t the brightest bulb and has a crappy waitress job at Cheesecake Factory, but she isn’t a Chrissie Snow airhead or a Kelly Bundy slut. She seems to genuinely like the geeks and is only slightly oblivious to their pathetic romantic overtures. I just worry about the creators being able to pull off this one sided sexual tension for too long without things blowing up in their face. And of course, now that I’m watching it, it’s doomed to cancellation.

I could also sue this show for stealing a minor fraction of my life story. My first apartment in college was in a highrise on Peachtree called The Darlington. The average age of the tenants was between geriatric and dead. The building had a sign up front with a running display of the population of Atlanta. I used to joke that they had the sign so that rather than send out funeral notices when a resident died, they could just click down the count by one.

Anyways, the basement elevator lobby exited to the parking lot and I kept running into a very attractive blond and we would make small talk while waiting for the elevator. It turns out she was a dancer at one of the B-list strip bars in town. Her life had plenty of drama. Everytime we ran into each other she would update me on the situation. She broke up with her boyfriend, moved out, moved back in, made up with the boyfriend and so on.

She would invite me to come see her at the club and I kept politely making excuses. She seemed genuinely hurt I never came by. Her trying to drum up business may have been part of her friendliness, but she seemed preternaturally perky even when coming home from a double shift on the pole.

So here I was a nineteen-year-old geek regularly chit-chatting with an exotic dancer never realizing this would make a great premise for a sitcom. I only lived there three months and never saw my erstwhile elevator pal again. I harbored no delusions about my chances with her even if I had been available, but you can never have too many hot blonde friends. And it never hurts to be friendly to someone no matter how good looking they are.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What TV show is based on your life?


Dave2 said...

Strange. I think "How I Met Your Mother" is actually getting better... especially after the genius episodes last season... and nowhere near jumping the shark yet.

"Big Bang Theory," on the other hand is very one-note to me. The guys are geeky. The girl is hot. They just don't seem to be doing anything other than reinforce those two themes over and over, again and again. I only watched two episodes, and already felt the show is stuck in a rut. I can't imagine watching a full season of it.

yellojkt said...

Whacky shenanigans are part of the stock in trade in "How I Met Your Mother". I fear the writers have gotten into "can you top this?" mode. where they cross the line from clever to just stupid. "The Drew Carey Show" went over that cliff about the third season.

I share your concern about the need for a bigger variety of plot set-ups for "Big Bang Theory". What impressed me was how nuanced these stock characters are. Now they need to do something with them.

PsychoToddler said...

I always thought Bosom Buddies was great not because of the whole men in drag thing, but because Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari had such great screen chemistry.

Elizabeth said...

When I lived in Nome I sometimes felt like I was in an episode of Northern Exposure.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

So is the show's title supposed to be that obvious of a sex pun or is it a weak attempt to get by the censors wrapped in a "geek concept"? If there even is such a thing anymore.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Censors that is.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I love the show, but I doubt it will last, because well its good and you can only make up so many storylines to try to get the blonde girl to go out with you before they give in and give her to one of them or they right in another female for them to be involved with.

Still I'll enjoy it while it's on.

Linda said...

OH my....Freaks and Geeks was a page out of my life too! I'm not so excited about Big Bang, but like you, it's probably going to get me hooked then get dumped...guess I should play my cards right now and just NOT watch it. My hubby likes "How I..." and that of course dooms it to extinction.

Michele sent me to read your review.

And for TV show? Family Guy, with a little American Dad in there...I'm either Meg or the geek brother in AD....sigh.

Anonymous said...

"Eight is Enough!"

Here via Michele!

Anonymous said...

The New Adventures of Old Christine. I'm not divorced but can really relate to what she goes through with people. When she has to deal with the "meany moms" at school, it always cracks me up.

I'm here because Michelle sent me, which is cool because you just visited me. I see you're also part of NaBloPoMo. See you around the blogosphere in November!

Geggie said...

Ya know, I never watched Freaks & Geeks, but I'm thinking I may buy it. I hear it's fab.

Michele sent me!

Anonymous said...

Ok... I admit... I'm boring. All I watch is History Channel, Discovery Channel, and Sci-Fi. Most of the time. However Mr. Muse and I often find oursleves in very Sienfeld-ish circumstances. Life is a grab bag for us. I don't think there could be a sitcom that would cover it humorously or accurately enough.

Michele sent me to say hi!

Anonymous said...

I had to really think about this one awhile, and the best I can come up with is Numb3rs.

Not that I'm a math geek or anything, but I'm a little more facile with them than most people. I have a couple of mental algorithms that help me calculate rough percentages or count calendar days quickly, and people are always amazed that I can do it in my head.

The other thing is that I have a pretty large working vocabulary, and there have been many times when I've used a word only to be met by a blank stare, which leads me to break out a synonym.

As Colby Granger once said on the show, "Just nod and wait for the punchline."