I, for my sins, sat through the entirety of the first season Beauty & The Geek, so that American television could ram down my throat what was, from the off, the moral of the programme. That beauty is there to trump any kind of intelligence.
Granted, the programme makers would probably argue with that, but the first season became highly uncomfortable viewing off the back of one of the ‘Geek’ contingent being singled out for what looked like bullying by television. Sure, he signed the waiver in much the same way the rest of the them did, but I’ve long cherished a belief that occasionally a bit of restraint on the part of programme makers would go a long way. It’s an ideal out of touch with the real world, perhaps, but it was enough to put me off Beauty & The Geek for the following two series.
Still, the other night, starved of anything new to watch, I switched it back on. The twist they’ve added is that they’ve now put a ‘geeky’ girl and a ‘good looking’ guy next to the existing nine male ‘geeks’ and nine female ‘hotties’. Apparently, they did a nationwide search to round this rabble up.
We know this, because much of the piss-poor opening double episode was spent following previous winners interviewing potential candidates. They’ve clearly been watching too much American Idol, and figuring that the auditions were the best bit. They weren’t here, as it became quickly obvious that the head of the rubber band club was going to make the geek roster, and the Hooters girl and the wannabe-Playboy model were a shoo-in for the beauties.
There is, clearly, some car-crash-esque entertainment to be got from the programme once it stops trying to ridicule its contestants and instead follows what is, undeniably, a premise with intrigue: can a hardened geek get more social skills, and can a brainless beauty say something that isn’t stupid?
Yet the angling of the show, while clearly taking potshots at the fact that the beauties get simple questions wrong, is one of leering at the girls, and looking for a transformation in the geeks.
And that’s my problem: the series I watched before, and the early signs of this one, gave off vibes that ultimately, the producers didn’t want to change the beauties much, and it was just the geeks they were looking to alter. Mixed with lots of shots where we’re supposed to laugh at, rather than with, people, and the old uncomfortable feelings start to return.
I’ll give it a few more episodes, perhaps, if nothing else than because so far the characters are less extreme than they were in the first series, and there might actually be some kind of progression in the formula as a result. But the jury’s already started voting on this one, and the result isn’t going the producers’ way.