Every good nerd has a few things that they tend to fall into a quandary about, and when it comes to Josh Wittenkeller on “King of the Nerds” we have a major one. This is not a nerd who was selected by casting (otherwise known as the Justice League / League of Assassins depending on your view of the reality TV industry); instead, he was selected by viewers for a “People’s Nerd” competition that was held online, with the winner getting a chance to be added to the cast of the show.
Here is the major issue that we have with TBS making casting at least in part into a popularity contest, and it’s much of the same thing that we criticized the show for with its season 1 finale: Since when is nerdiness about being popular?
We don’t begrudge Josh for having a massive YouTube following, and major kudos have to go to him for working hard to make that and his casting on the show happen. If those were the rules, what else was he to do? If you find a star in a Mario level, are you going to let it disappear and decide to give the Koopa Troopas a fighting chance?
Personally, we just don’t feel that his internet achievements should be advantageous to him getting on the show over someone too concentrated on LARPing or marathoning old “Doctor Who” episodes to amass an internet following. Our issue is more production’s for allowing this to happen. To be fair, however, the rules of the People’s Nerd suggested that casting could have selected any one of the top three vote-getters, which did allow them a certain amount of leeway to choose someone else. Josh didn’t just get in entirely thanks to the public.
Okay, we’re climbing off of our soapbox now, and diving into the true test of Josh’s nerd might. We’re going to be using once again our not-yet-patented Nerd Scale to determine just how worthy a competitor that he is.
Nerd pros – Obviously, Josh plays a ton of video games. He claims to spend six hours a day outside of work on them, and he’s a Pokemon fanatic. Has he caught ’em all? Probably, since he literally made over 50 videos on his YouTube channel all about just one of the most-recent versions of the game alone. This is hardcore. He also loves cardgames, and then karate.
Brief aside … Is karate really geeky? This is a debate that we have waged for some time; many nerds take it to feel more like Goku, or at least Dwight Shrute or the Karate Kid. Then again, we’ve always imagined being able to defend yourself in a fight as one of those things that nerds dream about when they are bored during math class, but never actually comes to fruition. (This is at least our experience.)
Nerd cons – Let’s just throw the People’s Nerd competition out of the picture for a minute. Josh has the lamest bio out of any of the contestants we’ve talked about so far; he makes clear choices, but there’s no humor, personality, or entertaining nerd rambling on here. We’ve long held the belief that we could not help ourselves when presented with a chance to tell stories about cosplaying to “Return of the King,” or cosplaying as Auron for “Final Fantasy X.” Maybe we just talk too much about cosplay, but Josh doesn’t give any stories or insight into his life at all when he could have. Where’s the personality here? We don’t really get too much out of either the bio or the video, which feels at least in part like a #humblebrag for his internet achievements.
We know that there are going to be some haters out there who say (insert cynical internet troll voice) “of course Josh knows a ton about Pokemon and video games. It’s his job to.” Well, Josh created that job for himself. As someone who worked really hard to make a living writing about something that we love, we’d be a total troll ourselves to sit here and say that he is in the wrong somehow for turning his passion into a career (in fact we applaud him for it). The issue comes back into the show creating a platform for this public career to be leveraged to defeat other contestants in a popularity contest.
Nerd scale – 6 out of 10. This is our lowest score to date, and it’s not just because of the People’s Nerd business. As someone who doesn’t have the time to go back and watch his countless videos, Josh just doesn’t really sell himself to anyone who is coming into this show with no knowledge of who he is. All we really get is that he really likes video games, and that he has a big following online. All of the other contestants that we’ve talked about so far have gone the extra mile … or at least the extra half-mile.
In terms of the show, we wonder how big of a target he will have on him. So many nerds understandably form a popularity complex, and could be threatened by that. It’s possible he makes it very far (especially because he was chosen by people who will likely be viewers), but he is going to have more of an uphill battle than anyone else.