Why Hasn't Someone Resurrected Beat The Geeks For Today's Otaku-Friendly Universe?
Here's How We Should Bring It Back.
The early aughts. We were getting on the world wide web with Netscape 4, and GeoCities’s Hollywood and Hills neighbourhood was the up-and-coming hotspot of pop culture fandom. It was the dawn of the new geek self-awareness.
The internet, as young and slow as it was, was connecting like-minded otakus who shared common obsessions about film, TV, and celebrity. The fansites and usenet groups of 2000 were not yet the social media force of nature that empowered geeks worldwide today, but something was in the air and Comedy Central knew it.
And so Beat The Geeks was born.
Looking back on it now, the short-lived show (it had two short seasons starting in 2001) was very much a product of its time. The tone hit somewhere between Revenge Of The Nerds and Jeopardy: a test of pop culture trivia wrapped in a old fart TV executive’s poor understanding of these pale basement-dwelling weirdos in the internet. Yet we ate it up because there wasn’t a lot on the otaku menu back then.
Now we live in a very geek-friendly universe. Hell, we run this place. So isn’t it time for this idea to be brought into the now? Yes. Yes it is.
The Players: Geeks Are The New Normal
Beat The Geeks was an us-versus-them affair. The normals tried to answer more pop culture trivia questions than the four titular Geeks. There was the TV Geek, the Movie Geek (not the "Film Geek," pshaw!), the Music Geek, and then a guest geek who would sit in for an episode, with his or her specialty — such as Friends or Michael Jackson — would be thrown into the mix.
The Geeks were portrayed as know-it-all mama's boys, and if a game show could have a non-Whammy villain, they were it. Why? Because geeks deserved it. Damn you, 2001 geeks, so worthy of our collective scorn what with your arcane knowledge and love of lowbrow culture! Grrr!
There are enough geeks to go around these days that we don’t need these weird characters. The new Beat The Geeks should embrace the new geek culture wholeheartedly with a true geek-to-geek affair. Have players in small teams or 2 or 3 play against each other and eschew the stereotypical Geeks for celebrity geek guests (such as Patton Oswalt, Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters, or Neil DeGrasse Tyson) who can present special questions, be a Lifeline-style opportunity, or provide color commentary. It should feel familiar, like a podcast.
The Format: Award Both Encyclopedic Knowledge And Creativity
There were a few little rule gimmicks thrown in to the original Beat The Geeks, but basically it was a slower version of Jeopardy with TV, movie, and music questions. At Previously.TV, we are big fans of game night, so we’d mix the trivia with more creative challenges like we (and people like Jimmy Fallon) play -- Celebrity, Pictionary, and things in the spirit of Doug Benson’s Leonard Maltin Game (think Name That Tune with movie casts).
Important to the success of a game show is to play the damn game. That means no talking through your life history for three minutes before you answer. We’re all busy people. You answer in a few seconds or we move on! If you are not taking this game seriously, you don’t get on air. Have fun, but be engaged, know the rules, and play to win (looking at you, Hollywood Game Night).
Also, mix up the games! Shuffle the format and subject focus from episode to episode and expand the subject matter to include the pop science and maker cultures too. Let’s peddle some stealth higher-learning gateway drugs.
Finally, we want to see a structured system with a champion each season. Bragging rights are important.
The Host: One Of Us, One Of Us!
Rule #1: no booth babe sidekick crap. This is not E3 2002.
Our host should be “one of us.” Not mocking but engaged, yet still critical. I’d lean toward a female host to balance out what still can feel like a male-dominated sub-culture. Something more Thora Birch in Ghost World than Zooey Deschanel; a lady Chris Hardwick who might have a dissenting opinion about something once in a while.
The Set: Make It Your Own
Geeks love comfort and familiarity. The set shouldn’t be this post-Weakest Link museum security set with blue lasers and exposed spotlights. It should be your rec room, bedroom, and a comic shop tossed into a blender. In fact, if you want to go the distance, the contestants should dress up their parts of the set. If it ends up looking like a programmer’s cubicle or Star Trek bridge, that’s pretty cool -- it's like cosplay for the set.
Oh! We should allow cosplay too.
The Network: A Place We Can Say "Shit!"
This needs to live off network TV. In the real world, games can be serious, high-stakes business, and sometimes swearing is quite necessary and genuine. Also this isn’t going to bring in crazy-ass numbers, so a spot on cable feels right and should help its long-term prospects.
(Beat The Geeks - Gross Stereotypes + Better Sets) + Your Game Night Parties + (World Series Of Pop Culture + Science + Hobbies x Swearing) x (Eye Of The Tiger / Genuine Celebration Of Geek Culture) = Beat The Geeks 2013.