In the first-season finale of ''Beauty and the Geek,'' brooding Chuck is crowned head nerd, edging out manic Richard with his slightly better interpersonal skills
Credit: Beauty and the Geek: Brian To

”Beauty and the Geek”: The head nerd is crowned

Ah, summer. The season when TV networks can roll the dice and run some riskier programming, from J. Peterman dancing the tango to Arrested Development coming out of the woodwork and singing ”Heaven.” Often these gambles pay off. But did anyone expect Ashton Kutcher’s ”social experiment” to win our hearts and eyeballs? I kept waiting for Mr. Demi Moore to jump out in front of the Beauty and the Geek cameras and shout, ”You’re actually watching this show? You’ve been punk’d again!”

I did feel a little punk’d when Chuck and Caitilin won it all. I had really started to dislike Chuck toward the end of the season and all-out hated him during the finale. Watching him pull a Jack Palance and do one-handed push-ups to calm himself after Richard and Mindi came back from the elimination room was too much. The icing on the cake? When Richard tried to bond with Chuck over martial arts and the much larger Chuck manhandled him with flashy moves. And of course, afterward he had to crack his knuckles for the 4,521,390th time. For a supposed geek, Chuck was surprisingly arrogant. (Remember when they were camping and he diagnosed Richard as having ADD?) Even though he showed some guts by chasing after Scarlet, he should have been smart enough to realize that she was just using him to form an all-important Reality Show Alliance.

That left me stuck rooting for Richard. Yes, readers, I did find him as annoying as most of you probably did. But he was still more fun to watch than brooding Chuck. We already know that Richard is TV gold: He’s parlayed his appearance on Geek into a gig as a talking head on VH1’s Best Week Ever, and he looks pretty comfortable under the bright lights. Moreover, the finale revealed a slightly calmed-down version of the boy who has only kissed two women — make that three now. I even found myself hoping that Mindi would follow through on her promise to make out with him if they won. Too bad it never happened, though her little peck during their exit interviews was a sweet gesture to a kid she had to keep in check for most of the series. There may be hope for Richard yet.

The episode itself was somewhat lame up until the last half hour. I wanted to fast-forward through the teams’ ”day off” with their partners and get to the final elimination, but when we got there — what a payoff! I was as shocked as panic-stricken Richard when they found out the questions were about each other! Oooo, the partners themselves were the study materials for the last test! At that moment, I could imagine Ashton sitting in his room, rubbing his hands together and laughing maniacally. But the producer got more than he could have hoped for: Who knew that a match including questions about middle names and studying abroad would be so gripping, and would even go into sudden-death overtime?

After that harrowing finale, I had to reflect on what made this show so utterly spaztacular: Sure, I was aware all along that the bashful boys and giggly gals were probably only there to get TV exposure or earn cold hard cash, but I genuinely believe that they did experience some personal growth after spending all this time together: Erika wept to the camera and told us that these were the nicest guys she’s ever met. Joe said that he’d have more confidence talking to beautiful women. Even poor Shawn, after catching his breath, decided he had to be more patient with himself in the future.

Though the little reality show that could has been picked up for a second season, I’m worried that it might not survive in the harsher TV climate of fall and winter. And I’m even a little sad that I can’t look forward to watching Richard run wild next Wednesday night. Let’s call it my own Listerine hangover.

What did you think? Were you happy or disapointed that Chuck won? Will you watch next season? And will you watch whatever show Richard winds up on?

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