Ironically, the people most likely to enjoy Beauty and the Geek are those least likely to watch it. It is, after all, a reality show, and that’s not normally the preserve of anyone with more than a room-temperature IQ. But just as I’d stumbled upon and eventually loved Big Bang Theory, I had the same slow thaw towards B&TG for precisely the same reasons.
There’s that mild discomfort that stems from identifying just a little too closely with one side or the other. It’s not the behaviour of the “geeks” that makes me realise I’m one of them, but my absolute contempt for the “beauties”. Beauty, it seems, means nothing more than to be slim and polished. You don’t have to be particularly good-looking – few of these women are blessed with pretty faces – but you do have to be skinny, orange-baked and big-haired. The former is something I’ll never master, and dieting knocks a good 20 IQ points off your glucose-deprived brain. The latter is easy enough to achieve, but every minute you spend exfoliating, waxing, plucking, scrubbing and moisturising is a minute you don’t spend (say) reading up on current affairs. If I look at the “beauties” and automatically assume them to be vacuous, shallow and a little bit thick, I’m probably not far off the mark. Since this is a TV game show, they’ve chosen the most extreme bimbettes – just as the geeks are fashion-clueless and socially awkward, with no room in their brains for anything beyond physics and Star Trek.
Beauty and the Geek is a game show, and one with a very simple premise. A group of “beauties” and a group of “geeks” spend several weeks together in a mansion, paired off and undergoing various trials. Tests have included teaching the geeks to rap and the beauties to assemble a home rocket kit. There are elimination rounds for the lowest scorers, using traditional quiz show question-answer formats. Thus the contestants are whittled away. The couple who demonstrates the most development – beauty develops a brain; geek develops social skills – stands to win $250,000.
Some of the most memorable moments to date have included the semi-finalist geek persuading people not to vote for his team, since his team-mate was so selfish that he didn’t believe she deserved to win. In season four, the format was revised to add one male “beauty” (who I frankly thought was gay until he stopped oiling his muscles) and one female geek who inevitably improved after donning a pretty frock. Interestingly, most of the geek boys fancied her a lot more than the bland, dyed, fake-boobed monstrosities that populated the rest of the house.
Even more interestingly, it is difficult not to warm to the ditzy girls after spending a little time with them. Sure, they’re thick as two short planks, but they’ve never had to bother to think about anything ever because one flutter of their fake lashes and boys are running around to do their thinking for them. Perhaps I sympathise because I too default to the let-the-man-do-it mentality because boys have more practice at (insert practical thing here) and are generally better at it. There’s a case to be made for effective resource management – I’m as likely to bugger up fixing the computer as he is to burn the lasagne – but there has to be some level of self-sufficiency, and as these women learn those skills, they become more confident in themselves.
On the other hand, it really has to be admitted that the geeks look better after a makeover. While I harbour a general distrust of any man who takes longer over his appearance than I do, basic hygiene is a must and beards rarely suit anyone. The made-over men again have more confidence, which allows them to drop their defences and converse more readily with other people. This in turn opens up their chances to date and socialise with wider groups of people, and that makes them happier. It’s hard not to be fascinated by that process.
Although season four has only just aired in the UK, production on season six is on hiatus as producers Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg (Punk’d) and Nick Santora (Prison Break) consider how to reinvigorate the format.
I’ll look forward to seeing what they come up with – but in the meantime, it has inspired me to drag a brush through my hair once in a while.
Couldn’t hurt, right?