This change has happened in one jolly generation. Comics and videogames were once confined to the basement ... as were the people who savored them. Now they've moved upstairs and into the spotlight. The latest example is Zachary Levi's game show, which starts next Thursday (July 16). Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
Zachary Levi wisely
chose to be born in 1980.
Parts of the '80s –
Reagan and Wall Street and hair bands and such – may have been lost
on him. But there was something more important: “I was 4 years old
when Nintendo came out,” he said.
Entertainment System soon added its key game. “As soon as I saw
'Super Mario Brothers,' I was hooked,” he said.
So were other
people, which is why “Geeks Who Drink” -- with Levi as producer
and host – should have an audience. It's a cable game show designed
after something that's popular in bars; on a set that looks like
tavern, drinks flow heavily and people answer questions about sci-fi,
videogames and more.
That neatly fits
changing times. “What it means to be a nerd has evolved,” Levi
definition – never that accurate – was a bunch of guys who never
got the girls. They stayed in the basement, while the handsome,
athletic guys had all the fun.
By comparison, this
show's pilot film has:
-- Women as half the
contestants, overflowing with pop-culture knowledge.
-- Two jock-type
actors as captains: Eric Christian Olsen co-stars in “NCIS: Los
Angeles”; Scott Porter was the first “Friday Night Lights”
quarterback, before co-starring in “Hart of Dixie.”
-- And Levi, 34, who
is tall (6-foot-3) and handsome and sometimes romantically
successful. (He had a brief, six-month marriage to Missy Peregrym,
the “Rookie Blue” star.) And a self-professed nerd.
“Nerdi-ness is all
about being passionate,” Levi said. “There are food nerds and car
nerds and ...”
There are also lots
of computer-comic-videogame nerds .... something that got easier as
all of those things improved. Today, Levi spends lots of time playing
“Call of Duty” and “Destiny” and “Borderline” and such.
“They're just bigger and brighter and more immersive .... With
'Mario,' it was all just moving in the foreground, all very linear.”
Comics and movies
also improved, brightening a mobile childhood, as his dad's job kept
moving. Levi was born in Louisiana and finished high school in
Ventura County, Cal., with many stops along the way; that:
-- Shaped his
actor-ly personality. “I had to be an outgoing kid, moving around
-- Deepened his
interest in comics and videogames. “You can take them with you when
-- Saw him
auditioning for plays and musicals, “maybe the nerdiest thing I've
And the most
successful. Levi has gone on to do a little music – singing “I
See the Light” (from “Tangled”) at the 2011 Oscars, starring in
Broadway's 2013 “First Date” -- and a lot of acting.
There were four
seasons for the ABC comedy “Less Than Perfect,” five for the NBC
light adventure “Chuck.” He was Fandral in the second Thor film
and this fall he has “Heroes Reborn.” That's NBC's “Heroes”
reboot; it may be ideal for a generation in which nerds are cool and
geekdom is a bar game.
-- “Geeks Who
Drink,” 11 p.m. Thursdays, Syfy, repeating at 1 a.m.
-- Opener, July 16,
also at 8 a.m. July 18, 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. July 19, 5 a.m. July 20, 6
a.m. July 22.