Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Strangely Riveting: Beauty and the Geek


The WB's summer entry into the reality-elimination sweeps is a strangely riveting competion of odd couples, Beauty and the Geek. I was prepared to dislike this show on the premise of it: a beautiful brainless woman teams with a high-IQ clueless guy, and they help each other win intellectual and social challenges. Yeah, sure.

Contestants in WB show Beauty and the Geek
     Contestants in WB show Beauty and the Geek

But I was captivated by the mix of male geek-styles, from the Jerry Lewis-spastic Richard to the quietly appealing Eric. Team selection was another surprise; men and women alternated between stepping up, alone, to present themselves to the remaining group of potential partners. Each couple's choice between a room with twin beds or one with a single large bed also was revealing.
"This is not a dating show," insists host Brian McFayden. "This is a social experiment, to see if beautiful women can turn geeks into social superstars—and can a group of geeks help these beautiful women become more than just a pretty face."

Couples vie for a chance to win a $250,000 grand prize, with challenges that include various activities "designed to test intellect, fashion savvy and even dance moves." A spelling bee is planned for the gals, and massage lessons for the guys. The women will even compete to see who can build a working rocket.

The initial competition is set for the morning following the choice of partners. The women will need to display competence in 5th-grade knowledge, with spelling, geography and history questions. The guys will have to dance creditably with their "beauty." And they have only the evening to prepare each other to win. At first, I felt the guys had a far more daunting task—Scarlet, the "beer spokesmodel", isn't sure how much a silver dollar is worth, and Erica, a "life-size Barbie model," isn't quite sure who was President during the Civil War.

Then we meet Chuck, a medical student who gets nose-bleeds whenever the stress of the social effort is too much—maybe the challenge is equal here.

I found far too many parallels between myself and these brainy guys. I, too, went stag to my high-school senior prom, and spent my time drinking punch, as one of the men reveals about himself. It wasn't until years later that my spouse taught me to enjoy dancing instead of agonizing about mistakes, as Richard does. And faced with choosing two couples to go to the elimination round, I too would see it as creating enemies. "This is a lose-lose situation," the winner complains.

With all the concept's potential for descending to the trite and stereotypical, it was great to see how quickly these misaligned partners developed into teams. The guys were thrilled when their women met the challenge, and sweetly supportive even when they missed answers. The gals were patient and creative in finding ways to showcase their man's dance moves, even when the guys were fairly uncoordinated. And the hot tub party was an eye-opener for both sides.

So I'll be tuning in again next week, if only to see if the show continues to surprise and delight. Every geek deserves a beauty (and vice versa)!

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