Sunday, March 12, 2006

The geeks come out

E4's Beauty and the Geek is a majestic programme. OK, the geeks aren't quite as geeky as they're portrayed - they're university graduates, but one presents a radio show, another is a comedian and Will managed to end up on the front of the Sun snogging Christine Hamilton. The beauties aren't really that beautiful either; they're mostly second division lad mag standards managing to tick all the right boxes (tall, slim, good fetlocks) but never quite achieving that Keira Knightley natural allure. None the less, both sides play their roles with aplomb; the beauties are shockingly shallow, the geeks awkward and cerebral.

Anyway, like all great reality TV shows, Beauty and the Geek is a straight forward gameshow with a dark brooding undertone. Ably narrated with sneering cynicism by David Mitchell of Peep Show, what starts as a straight forward game where the beauties and geeks pair up for a series of science (for the beauties) and pop/fashion tasks (for the geeks) slowly evolves into a ferocious melodrama depicting the evils of greed over emotion (and we all know what a laugh that can be). Will "My idea of getting ready for a big night out is putting on a slightly stripier shirt" starts to fall for Elissa. Who in turn, realises that "not all geeks are, y'know, bad people" - because she claims that Will's massage (one of the early challenges) was 'like sex'. Will's partner, Alex, has other ideas and when it comes to nominating someone for eviction (the prize for winning a task is to nominate two couples for a survival play-off). Will wants to prolong Elissa's participation, having once brushed her arm or something equally intimate, but Alex views Elissa and partner, Ben, as strong contenders so she wants them off. Will's only opportunity of going out with a 'beauty' slips away, but hilariously, he's incapable of persuading Alex to change her mind. "I have a very strong affection for her" is the best he can do.

When Elissa and Ben survive; Ben, becomes a confidante for the permanently moody (and crying) Sam; whose basic beef is that Ed, her partner, is the gawkiest geek of them all. Ed wasn't very good in the massage challenge, mainly because Sam would let him touch her when they were supposed to be practising. Ben's gentle unrequited romanticism towards Sam ("I just want to envelope you in my arms") is roasted when Elissa wants Ed and Sam out (again, for being a threat to the £40k prize money). This causes Ben, the woosy sap, to burst into tears and run off. Ed, cast as the obtuse social commentator, believes the girls are simply seducing the boys for the purposes of survival - possibly because he's right, possibly because everything all he knows about girls is what he's read in books.

Quixotically, Ed and Sam survive, giving Ben more time to envelope Sam in his arms. Incidentally, that week's challenge was for the geeks to dress the beauties without the benefit of knowing their size etc. When Ed produced a dress Sam liked she burst into tears in relief; "I'm so proud of you, I didn't think you could do it" - she said as though he'd just returned from an unarmed mission deep into Iraq. At this point she crumpled on the bed and sobbed loudly; Ed could only stare, rock from one foot to the other and self consciously take his hands in and out of his pockets. The following week, however, the beauties were charged with giving the geeks a make-over. Jon, Teri's partner, who typically dresses in bright puffer jackets, elaborate hats and vintage sportswear like those jazz funk Svengalis you see bouncing around the back of the stage at a Bent or Young Disciples gig, is made over like a mid-table Premiership fringe player - all fake tan and multi directional hair.

Sam proving that she is not shallow at all, instantaneously announces Jon to be 'hot' and without warning cheers up and, with the power of hypnosis or perhaps drugs, lures Jon to her milieu. This instant switch marginalises Ben even further. Then they're presented with a challenge for the geeks to go to a club and collect telephone numbers. Newly galvanised Jon beats Ben to every girl in the club causing him to retreat to the toilets for a cry. Jon then attempts to progress his relationship with Sam, usually by deliberately dumbing himself down; but when he makes a physical advance she rebukes him, turfs him out of the room they're in and asks Ed to come back - which the dutiful puppy does.

Last week the challenge was to solve a series of puzzles which appeared more complicated than they actually were (neat, because they appeared to be aimed at the geeks, but they were more suited to the beauties). When faced with the challenge of getting a key from a block of ice, whilst Ed cursed himself for not remembering the molecular structure of ice, Sam kept asking why they didn't just "'Frow it against the wall?". She was right. Ed and Sam have a beautiful chemistry, making them my favourite couple for next week's final.

Come on you dozy geek and moody sow.


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