Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nerd alert: Geek culture gets its own clip show

Posted By on 06.25.14 at 05:35 PM

Wil Wheaton and Chris Hardwick, nerds and proud of it
  • Danny Feld/Syfy
  • Wil Wheaton and Chris Hardwick, nerds and proud of it

"Nerds, we've got a show!"

So said Wil Wheaton in the premiere episode of The Wil Wheaton Project (henceforth TWWP), which is SyFy’s foray into the clip show territory of Tosh.0 and The Soup. Because you can't have too many clip shows (thank you very much, Rob Dyrdek). There's a bit of a twist, of course: it's a clip show, but by and for nerds—or geeks, if you prefer or insist (let's please just not fight about it). But relax, you won’t need to deal in Magic: The Gathering cards or shout "Excelsior!" regularly to enjoy the show. It's a pretty standard clip show which, targeted toward nerds or not, may end up being a problem.

TWWP, which premiered about a month ago, is a half hour of pop-culture fun, comprising clips from popular TV programs, as well as the various nooks and crannies of the Internet. In weeks past, Game of Thrones references figured prominently and ran the gamut from jokes about dragons with STDs ("Drogonorrhea") to fan fave Hodor shilling his ambulatory service, Hodoround. The writers did manage to tear themselves away from the HBO hit long enough to focus the "Sex and Violence Recap" on The CW's Salem, which prevents the show from coming across as a Talking Dead knockoff. (Gab of Thrones, anyone?)

And, of course, no nerd show would be complete without superhero references. After showing a teaser for Fox's Gotham, Wheaton mocks the show's "world before Batman" premise, cracking that Gotham's "thriving art scene" is probably as much of a draw for the city. There's also my favorite bit, a segment on "knockbusters" (also known as "mockbusters"), which are Hollywood blockbuster rip-offs. Wheaton salutes the “contrapreneurs” and their efforts, which include Adventures of Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor, and one that I was already familiar with (thanks, Internet), 3 Dev Adam.

Then there's the host, Wil Wheaton, whose nerd/geek/whatever bona fides are well known. He's a self-proclaimed Mr. Internet—though not the Mr. Internet, a title reserved for Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick, who, by the way, was a guest on the premiere. I suppose it was naive to think that any show recap or revelry could happen without Hardwick.

Wheaton and Hardwick are old roommates and old hands at web curation of all things nerd and geek. And Wheaton's worked in Hollywood for over twenty years, so it's no surprise that he'd call on a few actor buddies to join him from time to time. But, if you roll out a show that's of the same ilk as several others—even if it's not in direct time-slot competition—it would make sense to go to pains to differentiate it from the rest. When Hardwick drops in and tells Wheaton that he's there to support him, he promptly plugs his show @Midnight, which also involves riffing on pop culture (just with comedians like Marc Maron and a game-show format). Still, it's like hanging an arrow-shaped sign with the words "Right This Way" on it.

TWWP is only a quarter of the way into its season, and has featured a few promising recurring segments, such as "Exploring the Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Drunk and/or Stoned" and "Wil's Memo," wherein Wheaton delves further into the show's topics. I suppose we could do worse than to have multiple smart, funny people helping us navigate the good and bad of TV and the Internet.

The Wil Wheaton Project, SyFy, Tuesdays at 8 PM

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