Outcasts are in. Clumsy is cool. Awkward is awesome. Minds are beautiful.
The geeks have inherited prime time.
Sure, with the 2007-08 schedules the five mainstream broadcast TV networks presented to advertisers, you have your "Sex and the City"-inspired dramas, NBC's "Lipstick Jungle" and ABC's "Cashmere Mafia." You have your immortal detectives in Fox's "New Amsterdam" and CBS' "Moonlight," and your time-travel dramas, NBC's "Journeyman" and Fox's "Sarah Connor Chronicles."
But what the networks seem to be rolling their Dungeons & Dragons dice on this coming season are a bunch of sweet, smart and socially inept people.
Maybe it's all that time the programmers are spending with the computer experts in an attempt to formulate an Internet strategy. Folks like news CBS Interactive boss Quincy Smith, who showed up on the stage of Carnegie Hall in sneakers, and breathlessly told the advertisers how his team was "making rocket ships out of sudoku puzzles here" like it was most sensible thing in the world.
Whatever the reason, check your logarithms, there are going to be exponentially more of them this season.
CBS, for example, is introducing "The Big Bang Theory," about two geniuses. They're not 40-year-old virgins, but probably only because they look to be in their 20s.
"This hot young girl moves in across the hall and there's this line in which she says, 'You're like those "Beautiful Mind" guys, right?' And they are," CBS programmer Nina Tassler said. "They're genius. They've got a combined IQ of, oh, maybe 1,000, and what's really funny is they open you to this world of their friends who are these nerdy, geeky Cal Tech-science guys."
NBC this fall will have "Chuck," a light drama about a computer expert with the "Nerd Herd" at Buy More who finds himself thrust into an action hero's role when a government database downloads all its secrets subliminally into his head.
ABC programmer Stephen McPherson says his midseason comedy "Miss/Guided" is based on the notion that every day, at almost every station of life, is like high school with its cliques and social strata.
"This is a woman who goes back to her high school, having lived as the nerdy teen, to be the guidance counselor and really her goal being to not relive that reality," McPherson said. "But as we find, you do relive those things."
But McPherson probably was always one of the popular kids.
The CW is introducing "Aliens in America," a comedy in which a Wisconsin teen who doesn't fit in is paired with an exchange student who, being a Pakistani Muslim, fits in even less.
Heck, NBC plans a midseason comedy based on a British series called "The IT Crowd." "IT" centers on a bunch of computer techies the network describes as "the misunderstood masters of their high-tech domain [who] lack the people skills to befriend anyone but each other."
It's not as though this is entirely new. Maybe the very unnerdlike scientists on the "CSI" series made the world safe for smart people, albeit unusually attractive smart people. That paved the way for CBS' "Numb3rs" about mathematicians who solve crimes and the CW reality show "Beauty and the Geek" (from producer Ashton Kutcher, who also sold ABC on "Miss/Guided"), based on the premise that nerds and model types have more in common than one might guess.
The message must have sunk in because America seems to have embraced the beauty of ABC's "Ugly Betty," who, behind her glasses and braces and decidedly unfashionable attire, is the cheery role model among the supermodels at the fashion magazine where she works.
Maybe, for some reason or another, the nation no longer finds dumb but photogenic people so entertaining in escapist fare. Maybe the networks are making a naked play for the affection of critics and online addicts who can validate their work.
What are the odds, you might wonder.
A nerd would know.
Nerds have their revenge in prime time
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