Heidi Klum hosts a reality series where aspiring fashion designers compete for a chance to break into the industry. Each week, a designer is eliminated from the competition after exhibiting their work in front of a judges' panel.
If you know the concept, you've pretty much seen the show. 7 geeks and 7 beauties pair up , live in a house together and try to stay in that house long enough because the last pair standing gets $250,000. But we aren't here for the money are we? Of course not, we're here to learn a valuable lesson about life and how to treat those around us. Exactly what TV is good at right? "Beauty and the Geek" is yet another variation on the "Wife Swap"/"30 Days" model in which TV steps in like a humanitarian to "mend the divide" between everybody in America this time for those whose minds are still in high school. Understanding that that supposed "division" in America is a media concocted myth will help to understand why these shows are doomed to failure from the start. Yet I like "Beauty and the Geek". I like this stupid, phony show just as I took sadistic pleasure in "Average Joe".
Before I get into what delicious brain-candy it is, first a checklist of all the social myths that "Ashton Kutcher's social experiment" is guilty of perpetuating: 1. Women, by nature, can't be geeks. 2. Geeks are defined by simple stereotypes as liking computers, Star Trek, Star Wars, having beards, wearing glasses and being virgins. 3. Beauties are defined by simple stereotypes as being blonde, tan, thin, ditsy and wearing only skimpy tight clothing. 4. People are one or the other. If someone is beautiful they must be dumb, if they are socially awkward they must be smart.
The show doesn't reconcile any of these. We don't learn that the women are really smart or men are really cool, we just see them learn to accept the differences in each other. Another annoying quality to the show is that while all the tasks of the beauties (at the risk of sounding catty, I'm using the word very loosely in many cases) teach them to become more well rounded contributors to society, learning about everything from aeronautics to carpentry, the tasks of them men are oriented entirely toward teaching them "what women like". Because, apparently, there is no higher achievement for a man then to get a girl.
So, if you're taking the show as a serious social experiment you will be sorely disappointed and probably highly offended. It is hard to deny how phony and clearly scripted "Beauty" is. Edited with heroes and villains, twist endings and heart-warming moments. Not to mention, an improbable romance, both in season 3 and prior between two people who will probably never see each other again. Bt every once in a while a reality show comes along that knows what it's doing and it is hard to deny that despite itself, "Beauty" is crafted in a way that delivers some real laugh-out-loud moments. There are even a few authentically heart-warming moments in here too. Although, it isn't what you'd expect. I was more moved by the friendship that blooms between Mario and his beauty (using the word appropriately now), Nadia, than I was in the opportunistic please-love-us "romance" between Nate and Jennylee. Mario and Nadia were adorable.
The nature of the game doesn't make a lot of sense from the beginning and it ends up cramping the fun as the season moves forward. People aren't eliminated because they fail the tasks, they are eliminated for simply not winning, at the arbitrary choice of the winners. As a result the most interesting teams are thrown out early. Take 3rd season Uber-Geek Piao, "alternatively, you can call him Pi". Once your resident crazy SOB who delivered an obscenity laced rant for a comedy routine and drew a single boob when asked to sketch a nude woman has been kicked off the show really, what's the point in watching?
As a show, "Beauty and the Geek" suffers from "American Idol" syndrome: it gets less interesting, less funny, less entertaining as it goes. Early on we see a lot of bonding in the house. The funniest stuff shows us the beauties and geeks in their natural habitat. For example, the geeks trying to figure out that "booty" could mean anything other than pirate treasure. But soon the socializing is replaced with wall-to-wall tasks. "Beauty" races toward the finish line way too quickly, collapsing potentially funny and sweet moments of bonding between the groups into quickly edited montages that leaves us wanting to see more. Worse, the premise has barely gotten a foothold into us when the show cheats on itself and gives the geeks makeovers. Yep, those beards and glasses come off and faster than you can say "She's All That", they're studs. What's "Beauty and the Geek" without the geeks?
Filling "Beauty and the Geek" out into a few more episodes would have helped it greatly. Even so as guilty pleasure, socially inept reality shows go nothing has quite made me laugh as loud or as hard this one. And that counts for a lot.
* * * / 4
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