Review: ‘‘The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius,’ ‘Karma’s a B*tch!’’

'The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius,'

Two Discovery networks trot out new shows this week, each with marketable titles: “The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius” on flagship Discovery; and “Karma’s a B*tch!” on the always-cheeky Investigation Discovery. While the first is merely derivative — representing the second reality show, following TBS’ “King of the Nerds,” to consciously trade on the success of “The Big Bang Theory” — the latter is more problematic, going beyond ID’s usual women-in-peril shtick to tacitly encourage “Don’t get mad, get even” behavior. For all the big brains at work, there’s not much genius to be found in either.

Host Kal Penn describes “Big Brain” as “a competition unlike any other,” which requires a whole lot of chutzpah, since in the broad strokes, this looks and feels like almost every other made-for-TV elimination game. It’s just a higher-degree version of “Shark Tank,” the main difference being the nature of the tasks, as participants vie to anoint a breakthrough inventor — “the next Steve Jobs,” as they put it — while engaging in challenges to see who will be jettisoned that week.

OK, so there’s some math the average viewer might not understand, and the Chyrons list contestant IQs under their names (seriously, who knows that about themselves?). Any real ingenuity from a TV standpoint, alas, was otherwise pretty much exhausted by the title. The next Steve Jobs? More like the next “The Apprentice.”

Still, if “Big Brain Theory” is a benign knockoff, “Karma’s a B*tch!” — ID’s second show hosted by “The Sopranos” alum Steve Schirripa, following murder-for-hire series “Nothing Personal” — features the customary stories of women cheated on by no-good men, with this twist: In almost every case, the women seek some kind of elaborate revenge.

Schirripa (who also interviews women on the street, in what amounts to interstitial filler) is by no means a detached observer, referring to one guy’s mistress as a “22-year-old hussy” and another woman’s ex as a “scumbag.”

It’s all in good fun, of course, with the usual dramatic recreations and interviews, down to the title (shades of ID’s “Who the Bleep Did I Marry?”). But that’s until someone gets the bright idea to go out and put super-glue on their cheating spouse’s penis — or (blecch) worse. Besides, why just walk out on the bastard when you can garner 10 minutes of TV exposure as part of the exit package?

In the second half-hour, Schirripa focuses on a guy who raped his girlfriend, then framed her for a crime. “Does evil triumph?” he asks. “This is my show. What do you think?”

The tough talk is cute and gives the show a little showbiz flair. Still, given even the remote possibility “Karma’s a B*tch!” might inspire someone to explore their own vigilante remedies, those responsible should hope its glib view of retribution doesn’t catch up with them.

The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius

(Series; Discovery Channel, Wed. May 1, 10 p.m.)

Produced by Pilgrim Studios and WET. Executive producers, Craig Piligian, Ralph Wikke, Mitch Rosa, Mark Fuller; co-executive producers, Barry Hennessey, Maria Villamil; producer, Kal Penn; supervising producers, Junko Takeya, Nick Bernyk; supervising story producer, Michele Gardner-Smith; director, Matt Novello; camera, Bruce Ready; editors, Elise Ludwig, Jeff Sielaff; music, Vanacore Music Group. 60 MIN.

Host: Kal Penn.

Karma’s a B*tch!

(Series; Investigation Discovery, Thurs. May 2, 10 p.m.)

Produced by Shaw Media. Executive producers, Simon Lloyd, Steve Schirripa; series producer, Richard O’Regan; series director, Sharon Lewis; editor, Gad Reichman; music, Russ Mackay, Brent Barkman. 30 MIN.

Host: Steve Schirripa.

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  1. Dank says:

    How is this show different from that awful show Smashlab? My god, talk about about a complete lack of knowledge of anything scientific. This show is just an excuse to blow stuff up, much like the equally stupid Sons of Guns. We need more shows with integrity yet still entertaining like myth busters.

  2. Ben Richardson says:

    this show is pure stupidity; their missile stopping episode will send any engineer to the dentist with ground down molars.

    All those “engineers” yet no one knows basic physics or ballistics. The team with the organ gun CIWS system had a chance, if they had a single person who remembered even basic multiple dimension momentum equations and kinetic energy.equations

    roughly you have gravity, air resistance, and the directional momentum of the projectile effecting your momentum and range. they used a massive projectile and a small force (puny compression chamber to fire four 3″ ball bearings) instead of a small projectile and a large force (or even the same sized) If they had fired 36 .5″ projectiles instead of one 3″ (and heavier) projectile and had a much larger, higher pressure air reservoir it could have actually sent the rounds high enough and with enough KE to actually destroy the object, instead of going at or below the projectile with barley any KE.

    The other teams idea was just fucking stupid, but that engineering grad student is either not an engineer and just some pretty f list actress, or has never worked on an engineering project with a team. They had a design and their tentative “leader” pieced out the R&D work amongst the team; the idea was stupid though, so someone should have spoken up about said stupidity (mostly the judges fault for picking his idea as a “good” design) or bothered to do the basic calculations of how much lift would need to be generated to exceed the downward force of 9.8m/s^2 to get off the damn ground (obviously more lift than they could generate for that massive, overbuilt monstrosity)

  3. Wayne Brown says:

    The Big Brain Theory was a big POS of a show! They advertised a show where very smart people figure out how to do some task. Then Discovery places an unreasonable deadline to do it, and at the end they make each contestant rat out the other contestants, much like the stupid Donald Trump show. I regret wasting an hour wat hing it.

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