WB Richard and Mindy become a team in the new WB series "Beauty and the Geek."


Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 10:52 p.m.
Zany, excitable Richard looks like a cross between Jerry Seinfeld and Don Knotts. "The white Urkel," a woman dubs him. The nerdy perfectionist quickly grates on competitors.
So what? Richard is a bona fide reality star, one in the same league with Rob and Amber of "Survivor." Richard helps define the sweetly goofy charm of the WB's "Beauty and the Geek."
The series, debuting today, could easily have turned nasty. Consider the setup: Seven not-so-brainy babes pair off with seven socially inept fellows.
The men educate the women on history, geography and spelling. The women help the men learn to unbend and mingle. The most-improved team earns $250,000.
Think "My Fair Lady" as a reality game rather than a musical.
"This is not a dating show," says host Brian McFayden. "It's a social experiment."
The low-key McFayden can get away with such a highfalutin statement. Most crucially, he avoids condescending to the players.
That's not easy because the social experiment repeatedly puts the 14 players in embarrassing situations. The women have trouble answering simple questions. What state is east of West Virginia? (No, it isn't Massachusetts.) Who was the president during the Civil War? (Sorry, Hoover is incorrect.) It's easier to forgive the men when they stumble on pop-culture references. The Madonna song that is also a magazine is not "Like a Virgin."
The men have more success pulling off new dance moves, but they also must share personal details that affirm their wallflower credentials.
Bill has trouble meeting women because he's busy as vice president of the "Dukes of Hazzard" Fan Club. Joe has never been on a date. Richard never expects to have sex.
They could be the butt of easy jokes. Yet through the force of their personalities, the men emerge as real-life Barney Fifes deserving of audience support.
In responding to these unusual heroes, the women show surprising understanding and become more likable, but their idiocy generates the biggest laughs.
Lingerie model Lauren puts her IQ at about 500. Cheryl thinks that 1942 is the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And Mindi doesn't know the meaning of complacent.
In production notes, executive producer Ashton Kutcher explains the thinking behind "Beauty and the Geek." "We gave seven guys a fantasy, and seven girls a reality check," he says.
There's a reality check for everyone. Tolerance emerges as the main lesson when the men overcome unflattering situations.
"Beauty and the Geek" is the rare reality show that merits a reunion special.
--- BEAUTY AND THE GEEK Cast: Host Brian McFayden.
Where and when: The WB series debuts at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, its regular slot.

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