With “King of the Nerds,” TBS invites viewers to Nerdvana

Back in 1984, being a nerd was more likely to get you beatdowns than ballyhoo. Heck, they even made a whole movie about nerds having to mount a David-vs.-Goliath campaign to stand up for their rights against the bully jocks.

Curtis Armstrong and Robert Carradine host TBS' "King of the Nerds"But the world has changed since Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong costarred in Revenge of the Nerds. Today The Big Bang Theory is one of the hottest shows on TV, comic book movies rule the multiplex, and tech innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are seen as masters of the universe. As for Carradine and Armstrong, they’ve each gone on to successful careers — occasionally reuniting for another Nerds movie — and are now joining forces in a completely new celebration of nerddom.

King of the Nerds — premiering at 10 tonight — has the duo presiding over a reality competition series that brings together 11 self-proclaimed nerds to determine over eight episodes who should be deemed to rule them all. Oh, and take home a $100,000 prize.

“We’re grandfathering in a new generation of nerds, giving them our seal of approval,” says Carradine, who added that the contestants were “tickled” to meet two nerd icons.

Carradine and Armstrong, who are close off-camera as well, likened their experience as hosts and producers to being scientists watching odd creatures in their natural environments. The finalists live 24/7 in a house dubbed Nerdvana, then face challenges that allow them to display their pop-culture prowess and scientific know-how. Some events involve clear-cut right answers (physics) and winners and losers (a life-size chess game) while others are left up to judges (a debate focused on superheroes). But there will often be celebrity nerd judges, and possibly even a few surprise appearances that will in particular delight Revenge of the Nerds fans.

Armstrong has nothing but admiration for the competitors, and says they make very clear to him that they are the genuine article when it comes to being a nerd, while he was just playing a role.

“These people have so many varied areas of expertise, it’s frightening,” he says. “We have one who works at NASA. One writes AP Physics handbooks on the side and also collects Batman figurines. They are all elements of nerd culture and nerd experience. It’s really hard to come up with something that at least one of these people is not an expert in.”