It’s said that competition is a healthy thing. People pushing one another to glory does good not harm. Television contest shows centered on a competitive nature are created to promote these very things. Last year the good folks at TBS decided to jump in the fray of competition series with a whole new twist. That is to see who will be the defender of all things nerdy.
Producers at the cable broadcast network conjured up the show King of The Nerds. The premise was to follow eleven contestants as the battled through eight episodes to see who would sit atop “the Throne of Games” and earn $100,000. But it that’s a just one of the caveats the show boasts. The other being that amongst the executive producers are two of the biggest nerds in pop culture history. The nerds in question are none other than Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong.
The show wound up being a hit with its target audience, causing TBS to pick it up for a second season – slated to air on January 23rd. Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with not only Carradine and Armstrong but with last year’s runner up Genevieve Pearson and this seasons People’s Nerd Contest winner Josh “JWittz” Wittenkeller at New York Comic Con 2013 to discuss all things nerd related.
DR: What can we expect from season two?
RC: Well we shined up the challenges a bit. And I think you’ll really enjoy the challenges we came up for this year.
CA: One of the questions we had even from some of the nerds last year who were on the show said “well you know these aren’t that challenging.” Which we thought was actually presumptuous. After we thought about it we thought we could do better. So this year we really did. One of the great things is that we have Genevieve from the first season has worked with us fulltime, as somebody who helped us develop the challenges.
RC: She’s like the challenge co-coordinator.
DR: Like a consultant in a way?
CA: She was on the set. She not only helped develop them but she was there every day and she helped build them.
RC: Totally hands-on.
CA: She was the runner up but she has a great mind for that kind of thing. What happened was they (producers) had gone to a bunch of the nerds from last season and said “give us some ideas” and a bunch of them wrote in. Ivan did and Virgil did.
RC: We had a whole stack of stuff to do.
DR: How big was the stack?
CA: They all came up with ideas. And they were good ideas. But she was just all over it and was really obsessed with it.
DR: You are now hands-on with the show. How did that come about?
GP: Well it’s a really fun story. I got called up one day and they asked if I was interested in being a challenge consultant. I asked what that was. They asked me to submit ten ideas for challenges and we had a group meeting about it. So I submitted my nice little break down, my very nerdy OCD homework style breakdown of ten challenges.
JW: They told me you wrote like a book.
DR: Was it an Excel sheet?
GP (Laughing): It was over sixteen pages. And afterwards after we had the meeting and a couple of the other nerds were involved as well they called me up and asked me if I’d like to work for the show. Of course I said yes. Thus I got to be brought on as a challenge consultant.
DR: Her ideas were pins and tails above the others. Are there any specific examples you can share?
CA: There is but I’m not sure I can tell you which one. But there was one big challenge. A nerd war challenge midway through the season which is entirely hers. It was the one that got her the job.
DR: Genevieve you developed this “nerd war” for the middle of the season. Can you explain how that came about?
GP: Yeah, my ideas were for a number of challenges. But in actuality what people don’t realize is in a show like this hundreds of ideas are thrown out there. And one of mine got picked and actually made the final cut. That was a pretty rare thing for somebody who hadn’t done this before. So I’m really excited about that I have a “nerd war” that fits my idea. It’s called “Robot Dodge ball”.
JW: That was you’re idea?
GP (Giggling): Yes.
DR: Has there been any negative reaction from fans from the previous season? Have you taken that into consideration?
RC: Well it seems that everybody who wrote in you know they sometimes wanted different aspects to be brought forth of the nerd universe. You know we tried to accommodate them.
CA: One other thing was that there were some complaints about the final challenge. And we acknowledged that we could’ve figured out a better way of doing it. And we figured out a better way of doing it this year. And it’s completely awesome.
RC: It’s also completely nerdy.
DR (Laughing): Any insight on that? I can’t twist your arm or anything like that?
CA (Laughing): You cannot! But I’ll tell you it’s an amazing thing they came up with!
DR: How did you guys come together to eliminate the voting process?
GP: Well obviously the fans were a little dismayed with how it ended. And I think even the producers had a different idea of how it would all come out. You know life happens in reality happens. That’s why it’s Reality TV. And they just knew going in that they needed to change it. And they just wanted to make it more of an objective and fair process but still involve everybody. It’s still going to be a lot of fun and very exciting bringing back everyone’s favorites.
DR: Do you think anyone’s going to be able to match the nerd intensity in terms of competition that you and Celeste had?
GP (Chuckles): Oooohh I think it gets really close! There are definitely very competitive people this season.
DR: Can you run through the gamut of contestants? Is it more gamers or do you have a big mix?
GP: It’s a big mix this year and a lot of different types than last year. So obviously we have JWhittz who I would say is a gamer YouTuber type.
JW: That’s not new
GP (Laughs): We have animae nerds. We have puppeteer types, a roller derby girl and a rocket scientist. So we’ve kind of run the whole gamut and we have an academic English professor type.
DR: Can you both tell me how you were approached to be contestants? How did you feel when you got the call to be on the show? Where were you?
JW: It’s funny because I was just cooped up in this hotel room. I was part of The People’s Nerd Contest. They had brought it down to three people. So I knew I could be one of the three people that win. But it was a just this long arduous process that by the time they told me it didn’t sink in. They told me they were going to tell me on the 12th. They told me the night of the 11th. I wasn’t mentally prepared yet. It was like oh that’s nice. Oh, wait what? It didn’t strike me until I was there on set. That’s when it really hit me. Like wow! I’m a part of this huge thing that I wanted to be a part of for a year.
DR: So you were a fan from the start?
JW: It’s funny you say that because when I first saw the promotional material for the first season I thought it was stupid and exploitative. Why would they make this show? I’m not watching this. And the only reason I ever tuned in to it was because of this website pennyarcade.com. They just dropped a positive recommendation. They’re just said it’s actually fun and involving. It’s genuinely nerdy and not exploitative. I gave it a shot and became a huge fan right away.
DR: What are your least favorite challenges?
GP: The dance challenge. I am a terrible dancer. I’ve always been a terrible dancer my whole entire life. And remember I had this growing fear. I though it has to be something that ties into the nerd anthem. I bet it’s that dancing game. And when then announced it my face fell. I was so traumatized (laughing).
JW: I don’t know if I can say specific challenges. But my skill set is creative performance and fan knowledge. So anything science and math based was really out of my forte.
DR: How does one become an honorary Tri Lamb? Do you have to drink the punch just like Ogre?
CA (Laughing): Wow!
RC: Honorary Tri Lamb…
CA: I think that there are no rules to make you an honorary Tri Lamb. I think that if you’re a nerd at heart and say you’re prayers at night you will be a nerd when the wolf’s bane blooms. And the moon is full and bright. There you go. So you are one basically already.
DR (Laughing): Thank you.