Seriously. Fuck Those Guys. (The Big Brain Theory)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I’ve been watching Discovery’s The Big Brain Theory for a while, on a tentative basis.  It’s a show I should like, with a Mythbusters-like premise: a bunch of smart guys get together to solve engineering challenges.  And it should be fun, except the people who make it have clearly never watched reality shows.
Which is to say that there’s some really poor choices that go into the structure of the show.  For example, when someone is voted off the show at the end, they stay on the team, which makes a modicum of sense; you want guys working on big challenges that require massive infrastructure, and if the nerds left then the finals would be two dudes working on erector sets.  So they keep them about.
But they don’t have them wear different clothes, so you can’t tell who’s been kicked off and who’s not.  They’re just eight interchangeable nerds in nerd T-shirts.  And the mechanism via which they’re incentivized to stay on the show, the chance to get voted back in, is completely incoherent. Nobody’s sure how they retain their old standing. So there’s no sense of forward motion, no sense of anything at stake.   If you lose?  Well, you’re still there.  (Not that there’s any tension in losing; Kal Penn shrugs and says, “Okay, well, it’s not you.”)
The bigger problem is, however, the idiot judges.
See, at the beginning of each show, the contestants are presented with the challenge (stop an incoming foam missile, prevent this box from exploding), and they have an hour to sketch out their designs to solve the problem.  At which point the judges decide which designs are worthwhile, choosing the two team captains.
But the judges are never held accountable for their poor decisions, and inevitably prioritize “flashy” over “workable,” meaning that both teams failed the first three challenges.  And the show might have been interesting if the judges had sat down and said, “So what are we doing wrong in choosing people?” and treated the show itself as a scientific theory to be  refined, as in, “Clearly we’re not picking the right designs, so how can we improve our decision-making process?”
And then there was Dan.
The nerds were, typically, competitive and asocial, but Dan was the worst.  He was a flat-out bully, yelling at people in attempts to intimidate them, throwing things, shrieking at the top of his lungs and then storming out in a paroxysm of fury.   He verbally threatened people with veiled threats of physical violence, throwing hammers to prove that he was better at welding.  One of the women in the group was so threatened by his antics that she literally could not remain in the same room with him.
And when it came time to choose who got to go back on the team, was there a contest?  No.  Was there a challenge of wits?  No.  The judges merely picked one person out of the elimination lineup, because they thought he had potential.
And they picked Dan.
Oh, sure, he had temper problems, they said.  But his engineering designs –
– and I turned it off.
Fuck those guys.  Fuck their show.  When they do this on television, to a show with millions of people, what you’re telling folks is that it’s perfectly okay to be an abusive asshole, as long as you’re really good at what you do.  (A talent that wasn’t necessarily shown on the show, but whatever.)  And it’s telling people that yes, if you’re smart, you too can be a bully!  It’s okay!  We want to reward this behavior!  He’s good television!
I can’t stop them from choosing whatever damn fool person they choose to pick.  But I can stop their show, cancel my DVR subscription, and tell everyone that this show is a steaming pile of shit that should be ashamed of itself.  If you were watching, I heartily encourage you to stop.  And if you weren’t watching… well, it looks like you made the right choice.

1 Comment

  1. Scott Van Essen
    Jun 6, 2013

    Hey Ferrett,
    While I’ve never seen the show (and now I never will), I’m inclined to agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of the flaws of the show and particularly with the message being sent by keeping Dan around.
    I do think that you’ve neglected one key aspect about the judges’ decision making process. These days, a large number of reality TV fans and producers equate yelling and abusive behavior with “drama”. So, I suspect that there was a significant amount of pressure behind the scenes to keep the most “dramatic” character on for a while longer.

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