TV – Nerds Vs. Jocks: Who…Is…”Deadliest?”

I, like everybody with a penis, am a sucker for reality shows where shit blows up real good. Yes, even the gayest of gay men love explosions. It’s just genetic.

“Man Vs. Cartoon”, “Mythbusters”, “Time Warp”, “Destroyed In Seconds”, I’ll watch ’em all and come back for more. But none are quite as beloved to me as “The Deadliest Warrior”, which airs on Spike TV (which, full disclosure, is one of my writing gigs, although I don’t work with anybody associated with “Warrior” or TV at all, actually).

The concept is pretty simple: oversimplify two types of warriors, put them in a jar, shake it, and watch ’em fight. But the overarching “versus” is, well, didja read the title?

First, let’s not split hairs here: this show is a forum thread turned into televised entertainment, with the arguments settled not with flamewars, but with a role-playing game. If you pay attention, it quickly becomes clear that the “battle software” is, at root, a scientifically accurate D&D game.

But, since the show airs on Spike, which is the Man Channel (that came out wrong), it has to have a macho chest-pounding attitude that’s pretty much totally at odds with what the show really is. Hence, the test subjects providing the data brag about how tough and powerful their respective cultures are, even when it’s pretty obvious to the viewer who’s going to hand who their head. Sorry, Maori warriors, but it was clear from the get-go the Shaolin were going to kick your ass. Not that I’d want to get in a bar-fight with either, but still.

What’s especially fun is the fact that the show tends to confirm the idea that people who fight intelligently will dominate over people who go for sheer power. The IRA vs. Taliban episode, in addition to being a display of willful and thus absolutely hilarious bad taste, shows one IRA soldier bumping off three Taliban. The samurai kicks the viking’s ass so hard it leaves a dent in Norway. And so on. Basically, the people who spend lots of time strategizing and practicing over and over again win. Sound like anybody you know?

But, of course, the scientific testing porn can be appreciated by anyone who likes awesomeness. These guys love the shit out of high explosives, ballistics gel, and high-speed footage of grown men abusing the living hell out of both. I still think the Shaolin episode, wherein a wushu champion stabs the gel dummy in the face about fourteen times, opening with two kill-shots before ripping out both eyes and then stabbing him so much the top of his skull can peel back, or the slo-mo of the mere wielded by a Maori warrior smashing through three bricks and then destroying another two on the backstroke, is some of the awesomest stuff I’ve seen.

Still, that said…I think, in this case, the show proves that it’s the nerds who are truly deadliest.


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