Set to premiere in early 2013, “King of the Nerds” is a new TBS reality competition show created and hosted by two very familiar faces. Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong (Louis and Booger from the Revenge of the Nerds series) is a show that will feature 11 geeky competitors living together and facing challenges that test their intellect, ingenuity, skills, and pop-culture prowess — all in the quest to be crowned king and win $100,000.
Carradine and Armstrong were on hand at this year’s New York Comic-Con to premiere footage of the show to an adoring crowd. We sat down with these seasoned actors to discuss the show and revel a little nerd nostalgia.
A movie like Revenge of the Nerds relies on a strong moral compass that states, “We’re not here to make fun of people.” Was it important that “King of the Nerds” stuck to the same principles?
Curtis Armstrong: Absolutely… Today [at Comic-Con] we showed a six-minute clip of the show, the first screening of anything for an audience, and what was interesting in their response was that they were laughing, but I think they were laughing out of recognition as opposed to laughing out of contempt. I think it’s one of the things that made the original Revenge of the Nerds work, and I think it’s what’s making this work. I think people genuinely find this group of people [to be] like themselves, and it’s very important that we don’t come off like we’re putting down their image. We’re the last people who would want to do that.
Robert Carradine: That was sort of our mandate at the first meeting. We’re here to celebrate everything nerd.
Was this an idea that one or both of you had, or did someone approach you with it?
Carradine: We had a phone call with each other in August of 2010, and I said, “Hey Curtis, remember when we talked about doing a nerd reality show five years ago?”
Armstrong: Yeah, we first came up with the idea five years ago — well, five years from then, sorry.
Carradine: He said, “Yeah, let’s try it again.”
Is the now-completed show highly different from your original idea?
Carradine: Well, we really didn’t have a concrete idea for what it was, but we did have an idea that it should be competition-based. Maybe it was going to be like impersonating Geek Squad, we didn’t know exactly what it was going to be. But Curtis drew an outline and we presented it in a pitch meeting to a reality house, and they immediately seized on the name “King of the Nerds,” and [the concept] that it would be a competition show.
Armstrong: Being actors, there were a lot of areas in it we didn’t know a lot about — the details of how you put together stuff like this. How you put together a reality show is unlike anything else in the world. So for us, we needed people who had experienced in that field. We’ve got people who put together “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race, “Fashion Star,” Mythbusters” — we’ve got a great crew and producers who’ve come from these shows; people who’ve had years and years of experience in reality TV. So we can give them our outline with the ideas of how we want to approach it, but getting to the point we can actually do it — that is where their experience came in.
Can you give a rundown for people of what the show consists of? For instance, is it a weekly competition show?
Carradine: Every week there will be a new competition. One of the competitions we have is full-sized chess, which doesn’t sound very interesting by name alone, but when you see the way we do it — we have Lou Ferrigno’s son being the warrior that dispatches the chess pieces that have been ousted from the game — it gets very visual.
Armstrong: Extremely visual.
Carradine: We’ve got a physics challenge that features these towers of glass that are stacked at certain distances apart with a bowling ball above them. The nerds had to use their physics training to figure out how many pieces of glass would break if the ball was dropped from certain heights; it was very technical, but visually wonderful.
Armstrong: Then we have a gaming challenge for our gaming episode. We have gaming, but it’s live gaming. We constructed this entire room, this black room with these obstacles in it, and one of the teams would fly these helicopters through all of the obstacles.
Carradine: Yeah, they’re operating them with iPads.
Armstrong: They have to go through flames in one, chomping bits in another. They go through all of these for points. While they’re doing that the other team has selected one of their players to try and shoot down the helicopters using Nerf guns. So it’s gaming, but instead of doing it with your thumbs, you’re doing it in a huge room.
So it’s like you built a huge arcade cabinet and the screen is this room?
Armstrong: Yes, exactly. That’s exactly what it’s like.
Did you have any favorite competitors you were pulling for?
Carradine: Well, we were pretty neutral. There are a couple of nerds that we thought were standouts, in their nerdiness and their fortitude.
Armstrong: Well put. Yeah, they were all great nerds, and every time one of them left, we were sad. You hate to have to say goodbye to those nerds, because they were just too cool. But I wouldn’t say there was one we were sort of universally behind, or one who you could tell the whole time was going to win.
So when we see it it will be a fairly open competition?
Armstrong: It’s definitely an open game all the way through. As someone who’s never really followed reality shows, I always had the idea they were fixing it behind the scenes.
Well gentleman, to wrap things up and bring this full circle, did you ever feel Revenge of the Nerds would garner the response it has over the years?
Carradine: You know, it’s funny, but we really didn’t realize it when we were making it. We were having a good time, we knew we were striking a chord, but when we had the very first sneak preview in Westwood there was a line around the block, and we hadn’t really advertised it. That was the first time we thought that maybe we had something special.