Genetic Freaks and Geeks (Episode 2-1)

Unleash the stereotypes! Beauty and the Geek returned for its sophomore season last week. Surely, these 16 new nerds and babes will be able to form lasting friendships based on mutual understanding as a result of the show. That’s the ultimate goal, right?

Beauty and the Geek’s original anithero was Richard, the nerd in the high-waisted pants who kept everyone at a distance with a pattern of obnoxious behavior. Filling Richard’s role this season is Josh, the Woody Allen-type museum critic so nervous he slept in a closet the first night rather than sleep in the same room as his female partner. While he certainly plays up his anxieties for effect, he’s got some very real fears about social situations. Josh said he’d even be willing to give up part of his intellect to get rid of his anxiety problems.

Richard’s rival last season was Chuck, an intense neurosurgeon whose introspective tendencies made him even more socially awkward than Richard. Chuck’s role looks to be filled this season by Brandon, an assistant neurobiologist who always looks like a deer caught in the headlights.

The sad characteristic that both Chuck and Brandon have in common is that they are so close to being regular guys, but they’ll probably be forever stuck just on the wrong side of weird. Their clothes and hair aren’t outlandish enough to be quirky, and their social unease is more uncomfortable than charming. They’re just close enough to normal that they’ll never be able to tell just what makes them different.

The rest of this season’s geeks are easily distinguishable thanks to their varied, nerdy interests, while the beauties are virtually indistinguishable due to their lack of interests. Teams formed as each beauty chose her favorite from the parade of geeks. Josh described the experience as “facing the sexual firing squad.” This season’s teams are:

  • Brandon and Tristin (cocktail waitress who’s fond of the phrase “wicked cool”)
  • Ankur (unibrowed M.I.T. grad) and Jennipher (camp counselor confused by fractions)
  • Tyson (Rubik’s cube champ) and Thais (model whose name sounds like ‘tie,’ not ‘thighs’)
  • Chris (has kissed one girl) and Amanda (hairstylist intimidated by big books and big menus)
  • Josh and Cher (beer spokesmodel eager to teach Josh not to wear terry cloth shirts on hot days)
  • Karl (Dungeon Master) and Danielle (cocktail waitress who owns 200 shoes and purses)
  • Joe (speed-chess champ) and Brittany (speed-tanning expert)
  • Wes (tracks monkeys with lasers, whatever that means) and Sarah (flaky dental assistant)

This season’s villain is Chris, who writes greeting cards like, “I hope you’re happy… because you broke my heart, you bitch.” He and partner Amanda won the first challenge, a general knowledge quiz in which Chris refused to let Amanda answer any questions. The reward for winning was the ability to switch players between any two teams. Chris grilled the other contestants in an effort to find the best players, offending everyone in the process. He even offended Amanda, who decided to use the chance to swap Chris for a new partner. The results of the team switch will be revealed at the beginning of this week’s show.

But the show wasn’t all contests of intellectual superiority. Some of the most interesting moments occurred when several of the contestants talked over breakfast about what the geeks’s chances would be with the beauties in the real world. Tristin stressed to Josh that he can’t worry whether a woman is judging him when he approaches her, because she doesn’t know if he’s judging her, too. Brittany and Tristin talked about their body image issues, and said the trick is simply to pretend you’re confident when you’re really not. Josh took a measure of comfort from learning that the girls were just as nervous as he was.

Hopefully, Beauty and the Geek will have more sequences like that as the season progresses. It’s hard to tell who benefits more from the experience, the beauties or the geeks. I think members of each group need to take a few extra seconds to judge someone’s worth when they first meet.