If you’re in search of a spunky, entertaining show to quench your thirst for reality TV during quarantine, then look no further — “King of the Nerds” is the program for you. The problem? Only three seasons exist.
The show’s inaugural season was launched on TBS in 2013, designed to complement the channel’s other recently acquired nerd show, “The Big Bang Theory.” On “King of the Nerds,” 11 contestants battle each other in a series of nerdy challenges for $100,000 and the right to sit atop the Throne of Games.
The players are sequestered for several weeks in Nerdvana, a large facility filled with board games, textbooks, costumes and many other elements of nerd culture. Initially, the contestants are divided into two teams that compete against each other each week in Nerd Wars. Two members from the losing team are then sent into the Nerd-Off, where they must fight for their lives in the game.
Once several people have been eliminated, the Nerd Wars become one-on-one affairs. The last two nerds compete in a final Nerd-Off to decide who will be crowned king and win the $100,000 prize.
The show thrived for three glorious seasons, but was unfortunately cut short in 2015 when TBS rebranded themselves with a focus on “bold sensibility, and let’s face it, “King of the Nerds” is not exactly a show that one would call “sensible.”
The program did not get the chance to live up to its full potential. So, without further ado, this is why “King of the Nerds” should be revived.
1. It’s Hilarious!
Those in search of a laugh will absolutely adore “King of the Nerds.” From the very start, the show demonstrates its comedic genius with quotes from the contestants during confessionals.
“I would use the $100,000 prize for something fun, like investing in a good index fund.”
“I need a whiteboard to survive. Where else are you gonna write stuff? A piece of paper is not good for that… well, I mean, it is, but it’s not optimal.”
“I’m looking for people who are really intelligent, but it’s an added bonus if they resemble Batman or anyone from the ‘Batman’ series.”
Clearly, the contestants are funny, and so are the producers. The program incorporates a lot of utterly ridiculous elements to get people laughing. For instance, at the end of each episode, hosts Bobby and Curtis use an iPad to creatively murder the person who was just eliminated as they walk down the steps of the Nerdvana building.
Many of the challenges are also highly amusing. Contestants are forced to do things such as dig through buckets of sludge for lettered tiles or play adapted Quidditch. Occasionally, these gimmicks can be a bit cringe-worthy, but anyone who is willing to lean in and let themselves become invested in the show will learn to love these wacky moments.
2. The Hosts Are Committed and Engaging
The show is hosted by Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong, who played Lewis Skolnick and Dudley “Booger” Dawson in “Revenge of the Nerds” back in 1984. It’s immediately clear that Bobby and Curtis are committed to playing their host characters in an over-the-top, amusing fashion.
They’re often dressed up in wacky and somewhat disturbing costumes. Curtis has donned the look of a large orange octopus as well as several busty princesses — which only adds to the entertainment value. Every word that comes out of their mouths is bursting with energy and love for nerd culture.
3. The Contestants Are Compelling
A lot of reality TV shows look for similar attributes in contestants: good-looking, personable and often stereotypical. “King of the Nerds” also chooses contestants that follow a stereotype — nerds — but in doing so, the show displays a more underrepresented side of the reality TV population.
These contestants are quirkier, funnier and potentially more relatable to a lot of audience members. As a nerd myself, I found the individual stories of each contestant to be much more compelling than on other shows. It was difficult to choose who to root for because I liked so many of the players.
One might think that a cast of all nerds could come off as one-dimensional, but the producers have actually done a great job including a wide variety of contestants. They range from fantasy novelists to chemists to pro-gamers to puppeteering engineers. This ensures that every nerd who watches the show will find a player to connect with and root for.
4. They Bounced Back From an Original Weakness
Overall, the show received moderate ratings, with 6.4 stars out of 10 on IMDb and 3 stars out of 5 on Common Sense Media. One reason for the mixed reviews was that many fans were disappointed with the ending of the first season. For the final Nerd War, all of the previously eliminated contestants voted between the final two players to decide who would represent them as king, similar to the “Survivor” jury format.
This cost one of the strongest players the title, despite the fact that she had won the most individual challenges prior to the vote. Fans felt that using a popularity contest to decide the winner of a show about nerds didn’t make sense, and one can certainly see their point. Popularity and nerdom don’t exactly go hand in hand.
However, when the Season 2 finale rolled around, the producers took the audience’s feedback into account. Instead of a simple vote for who the winner should be, each eliminated nerd was asked to pledge their allegiance and assistance to one remaining contestant in the final challenge. The contestant with more nerds backing her up had an advantage over her competitor, but she won the final challenge, a series of nerdy puzzles, mostly by her own merit.
The jury was even more removed in Season 3 — instead of choosing a member of the final two to assist, they chose a member of the final four. In the final Nerd War, the remaining contestants went head to head with no interference from past players. The fact that the last two seasons adapted to what the audience wanted indicated a positive future for the show.
Ultimately, TBS may have canceled the program, but “King of the Nerds” will forever live on in the hearts of nerds everywhere. This show brought joy to video gamers, cosplayers and academics alike, and it deserves a second chance to show the world its brilliance.