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.