Tonight at 8:00 on WB, Ashton Kutcher's new show "Beauty and the Geek" premiered. Ashton Kutcher is known for his surprisingly funny role on "That 70's Show" and his equally surprising "Punk'd." Both shows proved that Kutcher has a genius for comedy. As soon as the (many) ads for "Beauty and the Geeks" played, I was hoping to be surprised one more time by Kutcher. The commercials indicated that "Beauty and the Geeks" had the capacity to either be another cliché reality TV program, this time with dumb blondes and Revenge of the Nerds type geeks, or was potentially as unpredictably funny as Kutcher's other successes.
Kutcher's Beauty and the Geek: a Strange Social Experiment
"It's not a dating show; it's a social experiment" the announcer informs the audience at the beginning of the show. The show's premise is to take unattractive intelligent men (the geeks) and attractive but unintelligent women (the beauties) and force them to teach each other what they know. Theoretically, at the end of the show, each group will consist of average people.
There are seven beauties and seven geeks. They pair off, and the pair that, at the end of the show, has acquired "new skills," wins $250,000. Contests eliminate couples as the show progresses. The first contest had the beauties answering fifth-grade level questions while the geeks had to show off their new dance moves. While the contests weren't original, it was extremely funny to watch the geeks dance (funny in that painful kind of way), and surprisingly endearing.
One of the best aspects of the show is the way in which it has captured the oddities of modern society created, almost paradoxically, by extreme norms. Society encourages women to be beautiful and men intelligent to such a degree that it ultimately creates the type of people the show highlights. Women neglect the intellect and men neglect appearances, creating these freaks with limited abilities. "Beauty and the Geek" is original. The show purports to better people, albeit in a reality TV-type way.
The worst aspects of the show were the types of problems you might expect from any TV program. The geeks were all "TV ugly" and the beauties couldn't have possibly been as dumb as the clips implied. The cheesy cuts and music were reminiscent of programs like "Joe Millionaire" and push the high level of editing in the viewer's face.
There have to be some moles. Richard was way too geeky (does anyone actually wear their pants above their navel and constantly push their glasses up?), and Erika (what the hell is a "life size Barbie model"?) way too blonde. Perhaps Ashton Kutcher is performing the social experiment on us, and they are all actors acting out this extreme. Too much of the show smacked of over-the-tops stereotypes.
Ultimately, "Beauty and the Geek" is better than awful but not genius. It is worth a watch during the off-season of TV prime time. At the very least, the show will tell us if the social experiment worked or not.