Wil Wheaton: What geeks should do to keep his new show alive

Wil Wheaton's new SyFy channel show 'The Wil Wheaton Project' has already amassed many viewers who adopt the labels of 'geek' and 'nerd' with pride. His pop culture convergence could represent another counter-culture triumph, if fans tune in via mainstream channels.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Actor Wil Wheaton attends the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment 2014 Upfront at the Javits Center in New York on Thursday, May 15.

Former “Star Trek” actor Wil Wheaton needs fans to boost the ratings of his new TV show, “The Wil Wheaton Project” on the SyFy Channel, and parents need his show to succeed so that kids can learn about the value of working with the system while retaining their individuality.

The problem with Mr. Wheaton being king of a counter-culture group is that those groups tend to gravitate to alternative channels online – rather than the official SyFy.com website or channel to view episodes – meaning his kingdom and subjects may be invisible to the network eye.

In an effort to educate fans about what it will take to keep their new favorite show on the air, Wheaton posted on Google+ a few days ago that while he understands that many fans without cable TV are viewing his new SyFY Channel show online, through alternative channels like streaming sites, he hopes they will use SyFy.com so he can prove to the network (via the website’s internal tracking  of visitors) that his show is popular.

“If you can watch it in some way that the network can score (on broadcast or via one of the legally-supported websites), please do that, because the more people who watch it in a way the network can count, the more likely it is they will order a full season of the show,” Wheaton’s post read.

I suspect my older sons may have been among those who first watched the show via a non-network source, having already been watching Wheaton's previous online show "Tabletop."

As the mom of a flock of proudly self-professed “geeks” and a herd of “nerds,” I feel like it’s now my job to help my sons and their friends wade into the mainstream in order to keep their new favorite show on the air.

For any network executives at the SyFy Channel reading, please consider this a note from their mother to let you know that “The Wil Wheaton Project” was an instant hit at our house.

After seeing the show online, my teens chose to view it on SyFy via the TV in our living room during a weekend geek-out. Quin, 10, two of my teen sons plus their girlfriends (all are “Star Trek” aficionados and geeks) were glued to a rerun of the first episode of Wheaton’s show.

Here was the scene I walked in on: three laptops playing the online game “League of Legends” simultaneously, a TV turned to the SyFy Channel, the remnants of Thai takeout boxes and their spicy aroma, and at least one teen in the group with gorgeous asymmetrically cut bright green hair.

Quin was soaking it all in as if it were an IMAX experience.

The discussion in the room ran from reminiscing about Wheaton playing the character Wesley Crusher on the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” to the news that geek goddess Felicia Day would be Wheaton’s guest on the show on Tuesday, June 3.

Ms. Day is known for both her roles on TV and multiple online series including ‘The Guild’ (which pokes fun at online gamer lifestyles.)  Day has most recently become an online favorite for her internet show "Geek & Sundry" on YouTube, which reviews games, films, TV shows, and other sundry issues of interest to her gamer audience.

After getting my parent brain past the noise and the mess, plus the mind-melting multitasking happening in the room, I foolishly said, “So Wheaton’s show is just ‘Talk Soup’ for nerds, right?”

This earned me a collective look of wounded horror from everyone else in the room, which had suddenly become silent, but for some mouse clicking.

They each drew breath and launched into individual rebuttals.

It was a geek meets nerd (Gerd? Neek?) cacophony punctuated by gaming slang and “Star Trek” references.

The gist was that Wheaton was bullied at school for his acting role and so is a hero for triumphing over his tormentors via success with this new show, striking a blow against the oppressors of nerds and geeks everywhere.

Also, I was reminded that the terms ‘geek” and ‘nerd’ are separate and distinct.

In order to more carefully apply these words, I went online to look up the definitions.

According to the Urban Dictionary, which usually has the most currently accurate slang definitions (although sometimes taking a more inappropriate slant to its definitions as well), geeks are, “The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult.”

The “Merriam-Webster Dictionary” gives a more traditional and less pleasant definition of geek as: “a person who is socially awkward and unpopular: a usually intelligent person who does not fit in with other people.”

A nerd, meanwhile, is said by The Urban Dictionary to be “One whose IQ exceeds his weight.”

Again, Merriam-Webster has a more negative definition as: “a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc.: a person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers, etc.”

Having seen the earlier Google+ post by Wheaton that my kids all missed, regarding the legitimate viewing of his show online or on TV, I am going to let the teens know that they should go “legit” in their viewing habits in order to keep their new favorite show viable with the network.

While this may not be an easy sell, I think it’s an important lesson on where power lies and how to work with mainstream systems in the support of counter-culture passions like Wheaton’s show.

Teaching head-strong teens to accept society’s rules, while encouraging individuality and out-of-the-box thinking is one of parenthood’s greater challenges.

Hopefully Wheaton’s show will gain enough popularity to stay on the air, but not lose its geek credibility along the way.

Then parents and kids can – as they say in “Star Trek” – “Boldly go where no one has gone before,” which may include the Nerd Neutral Zone and the Geek Galaxy.

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