Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
The nerds inherited the stage at TCA in Pasadena this morning, led by a self-professed nerd named Ben Silverman, as Turner — undaunted by recent failures in the reality space as Wedding Day and The Great Escape — introduced a quartet of new unscripted projects to the gathered critics. The first of them to premiere (on January 17) is TBS‘ King Of The Nerds, featuring hosts/exec producers Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong of Revenge Of The Nerds fame and Silverman also exec producing. The show features 11 competitors going head-to-head (literally) in activities that span the “full nerd spectrum” while living together in “Nerdvana.” With a straight face, Silverman admitted, “We debated nerds and geeks (with great gusto) because geeks identify differently. We didn’t want to alienate geeks by calling them nerds, and vice-versa. It was all about how to do things in a different way…We’ve seen more and more people stand up and say, ‘Hey I’m smart and I don’t need to hide it’.” The point of King Of The Nerds, Armstrong added, isn’t to put down or make fun of nerds but to “celebrate nerd culture…We got 11 amazing nerds on this show”.
Silverman said he got the idea for the series while watching the scene of the computer nerds sitting around drinking beer and performing a hack-a-thon in the Oscar-winning film The Social Network. “That was our inspiration,” he said. “I said, we need a show celebrating that. I think The Office also pushed forward on that culture. This is a great opportunity to translate that (vibe) into a celebration. We find that more and more, people are identifying themselves as brain-first and smart-first and not hiding the fact that they have a giant Batman collectible at home.” He also noted that the success of the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory has fueled the escalating success of nerd culture, noting that he’s “aware a few people are watching it. And thank goodness it’s our lead-in.” TNT’s head of original programming Michael Wright also confirmed how “nerd culture” has gone mainstream in confirming the reason the show got greenlit. Later, Silverman was asked the differences in producing for cable versus broadcast. He feels that, contrary to popular perception, viewers are consuming as much content as ever — no matter the network — and that he isn’t worried the target audience of nerds are the demographic most likely to download a show illegally online rather than watch on TV in the conventional way. “I think the opportunity to tell stories in new environments has opened up incredibly,” he believes. “I also don’t think there are as many people lining up and saying I only watch this kind of show or that kind of show.”