The desire to tap into the ardor of the most zealous entertainment fans has met welcoming arms in reality TV’s appetite for colorful characters, birthing two series that possess similar concepts and titles: “Fangasm,” a new sort-of competition show, featuring seven people who win jobs as interns working for Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo convention; and “FanAddicts,” a Reelz Channel half-hour about obsessive collectors of movie memorabilia. Both shows are, in a way, slightly schizophrenic, taking a somewhat benign view toward their subjects but still wanting to exploit the carnival-sideshow aspect of their oddness and eccentricities.
Perhaps not surprisingly, since “Fangasm” (pictured) airs on the more prominent network and comes from the producer of “Jersey Shore,” the show has a certain “Throw young people together and seek to create drama” vibe. The seven contenders (four men, three women, all in their 20s) hail from different places and are housed in the same apartment. Sure, they’re well-schooled in phasers and sci-fi trivia, but completely inept when it comes to operating a gas grill or hot tub.
“You guys just won the nerd lottery,” they’re told upon their arrival at Comikaze, before being assigned the requisite task – collecting signatures at Universal City Walk – to see what they’re made of.
Unlike a lot of reality players, though, these folks are generally too raw and awkward to come across as totally rehearsed, posturing for the camera or eagerly awaiting their deal with WME. And when one wins a dinner with George Takei from the original “Star Trek,” the actor’s mere presence reduces one of the guys, Andrew, to a bawling mess.
“This is a huge part of our lives,” one participant explains, and the show mostly conveys that, while reserving a slightly arched eyebrow for how weird it might appear to the uninitiated to invest so much, energy and passion in such trifles.
If “Fangasm” contains serialized, relationship and contest components that are staples of the genre, “FanAddicts” is a more self-contained, stand-alone construct, in the latest installment introducing a young man who has inexorably amassed “Wizard of Oz” memorabilia since he was a child. There’s a certain “Hoarders”-like vibe to that, but also some general interest in whether the money was invested wisely, which pays off in the final portion when an expert evaluates the collection.
Narrated by Adam West (TV’s “Batman” of the 1960s), there’s an obvious element of gawking involved, but given what some of this crap is worth, it’s not entirely clear the collectors are nutty, just … different.
These programs join a growing roster of fare aimed at what amounts to real-life counterparts of the characters on “The Big Bang Theory,” advancing the idea that in an age where “The Avengers” and “Avatar” gross billions worldwide and Comic-Con has gone mainstream, the geeks shall inherit the Earth.
Maybe so, but in terms of the TV world, real-life nerds still appear mostly confined to so-so timeslots on basic cable networks. And thus far, the jury remains out on whether they’re the victims of a Jedi mind trick — being celebrated or being mocked, once again, by the cool kids.