Geek Love: Making Matches or Making Fun?

Some critics feel that the show centered on "sci-fi speed dating" invites viewers to laugh at the protagonists.

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Geek Love premiered Sunday night on TLC, the keepin’-it-classy network that brought you I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. The show follows participants in “sci-fi speed-dating” at Comic-Con, a festival where the quietly obsessed can, once a year, find the empathy that is lacking among what they call “normal people.”

This makes the venue uniquely prime for match-making, particularly under the guidance of benevolent speed-dating guru Ryan Glitch. As one attendee puts it in the first episode: “It’s really hard in the outside world to find someone that you like, because it’s really hard to find someone that understands you.”

The romantic hopefuls the show follows are certainly under-dogs—men and women who are forced, like the mutant X-Men, to hide their true selves in a world where one cannot wear an Iron Man costume to the office, or walk around lasering people with one’s eyes. And some outlets have worried that the public is being invited to gawk at them (rather than root for them) in their televised pursuits of geeky romance.

(READ: Comic-Con Royalty, Part One)

TLC does have a habit of exploiting those residing in society’s margins, like prim people saving themselves for marriage or British “travelers” who marry their women off at age 18 in dresses the size of Buicks. But there is a key difference with Geek Love: the people on this show are  self-aware and, often, readily make fun of themselves.

The portly, Wookiee guy knows he’s not your average fella. The Harry Potter fanatic, at least in the throes of Comic-Con, is openly proud to be a geek, dork and nerd. Making fun of the people on this show is too obvious to start with— like sending up the ocean for being so darn wet—and becomes completely redundant when the stars beat the viewers to the punch.

That leaves one’s emotional schedule pretty open for supporting the geeky speed-daters. The fact that these people are so marginalized and can feel so alienated makes the catharsis of geeky sparks all the more moving; one imagines that their geeky love, while harder to find, has the potential for an intensity much greater than “mainstream” flings. (And this is coming from someone who watched it, rather than someone who is wringing her hands based on the preview, which you can see for yourself above.)

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