A quick note before we’ve started, because I’ve seen this happening on various blogs and Twitter feeds already: if you’re reading this and you were on the programme, you’re probably a cool person who I can’t pre-judge – good or bad – based on only a single heavily-edited TV appearance; we probably share a fair few of the same interests, and I wouldn’t have said no to a free holiday either. Cool? Cool.
So let’s get right into it: in episode one of E4’s new reality TV series Geeks we’re treated to a holiday experience in Marbella being shared by a group of female Quidditch players and a group of male physicists. While we’re treated to shots of them wearing lab coats, playing Quidditch and partaking in various other nerdy activities, the narrator asks “how will they cope at the top of the social ladder?” And immediately, with nearly an hour of viewing still ahead of me, I’ve got my Cornette Face on.
Ten seconds in and it’s been firmly established by the presenter that these guys are jokes. It’s all fairly light-hearted zingers, but there’s definitely a strong distinction being made immediately between Us the viewer, and Them the geeks. Already, it’s being beaten into our heads that the only thing which makes these people live and breathe is either scientific study, or an advanced level of appreciation for a game invented in a fantasy novel. You won’t be allowed to forget this, because you won’t not hear the words ‘Quidditch’ or ‘physics’ for ten fucking seconds.
So hey, these crazy guys and girls are being thrown together in a holiday apartment for the week, and you’ll never guess what – when they first meet, some of them are nervous! Well, wouldn’t you be, holidaying with strangers? Of course not, because if you’re anything like the “normal” viewers this programme is talking down to, you’ll be wondering why they’re not doing shots out of each other’s bellybuttons within seven seconds! Who are these people with their nerves and their shyness? How dare they! Freaks!
Their opening exchange:
“Who are you guys?”
“We’re into Quidditch. Who are you guys?”
Nobody actually talks like this. I never introduce myself to someone as “into” anything. I may try and interject it into small talk but I don’t say it ahead of my own name. I’m certain that this is down to tricky editing though; that bane of any TV programme with an agenda.
One of these said freaky female specimens says something to camera like “if you can’t accept me for who I am, then that’s okay”. The narrator then pipes up with “so, they want to be accepted!” Erm, that’s categorically not what she said, mate.
Oh, that fucking arsehole of a narrator. I think he’s a radio presenter or something. I know he’s not writing his own material, so I won’t go so far as to call him an absolute prick. However, he had a choice, and he chose to take the money to give a snarky, snotty, sneering running commentary – saying things like “the apartment is just a short broomstick ride away for the Quidditch players” and “oh go on, you might even meet Mr Right!” – so I’ve changed my mind: he is an absolute prick. Clearly the gold standard of witty putdowns has been set by Dave Lamb on Come Dine With Me, but that won’t stop this guy just being so excessively, exceedingly fucking twatty for the whole duration of the…
…okay, I admit it. I switched off at the first ad break because I could not stomach another second of it. And that’s not down to the cast: they all seem like perfectly nice people; not even a reality TV edit could take the shine off their personable nature and great sense of humour.
No, it was the whole excessively dumbed-down format of the programme. The thoroughly unbearable shithead lines of voiceover; the heavy-handed implication that these people are Doing Something Wrong With Their Lives just by hanging out and having fun, and having a life in their own way; the whole reality TV thing. I will never understand the popularity of this genre.
The real failing of this programme was the downright ludicrous pretence that any of this was the kind of ‘normal’ that any ordinary Joe apart from these geeks is living. There was a scene where they all got in a hot tub together and drank ludicrously expensive drinks in a room which cost £5,000 to hire; one of the guys says it wouldn’t normally be his kind of thing. I don’t think ‘normal’ people could afford to ‘normally’ do this disgustingly expensive activity.
Given their great rapport and camaraderie within their own groups, it was clear to me while watching just the opening segment that these people would do perfectly well at a normal everyday student house party, or even maybe a proper night out among proper friends. But taking it to such lengths of decadence – the hot tub, the five-grand room, the massive apartment – just to point out how goddamn awkwardly they’re all acting? It would be a shock to anyone – nerd or normie – who hasn’t been so irreparably jaded by being that lavishly spoiled on TV in the first place!
I’ve never liked reality TV. Ever. I don’t know why I thought I’d like this any better when it was only the title which caught my eye to begin with – it’s part of my blog name after all and it’s finally beginning to feel like a personal designation (which is presumably why I feel so insulted by the use of the word in this ugly context). But I had to watch it. It had to be done. For science.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a coffee table in my living room which needs de-flipping.