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with Chris Wolvie
So You Think You Know.... (Insert Subject Here)?
September 28

Welcome to the fountain of knowledge where the unwashed masses are here to challenge the purified masters of trivia as they vie for valuable prizes...but ONLY if they can...

AIR DATES: November 7, 2001 to October 7, 2002
CREATOR: Mark Cronin & James Rowley
HOST: J. Keith van Straaten (Season 1); Blaine Capatch (Season 2)
PACKAGER: Comedy Central
WATCH IT HERE: DailyMotion


So "Win Ben Stein's Money" was an unexpectedly HUGE hit for Comedy Central. So, naturally, CC tried to make the lightning strike twice. They...didn't do that well. The re-vamp of "Make Me Laugh"? Not all that laughable. "Vs."? I'll get to later. "Don't Forget Your Toothbrush"? Mark Curry should've stayed at the Apollo. "The Gong Show with Dave Attel"? About as good as ANY "Gong Show" without Chuck Barris hosting. "Let's Bowl"?!? *shiver!!* But one show that had legs but nothing to run on was "Beat the Geeks". Here, young bucks who THINK they know a lot about movies, TV and music face off against those who have PROVEN they know a lot about 'em. We're talking a movie buff who made commentaries for 80s and 90s films, the winner of TV Land's "Ultimate Fan Search" and a producer of music reissues! These were the Rutter, Jennings and Watson of pop culture! Shame them knowing practically everything got old after a while...and that CC decided a "geekier" host was needed (it wasn't, nor was the overhaul of the first round) or it might've lasted longer.

Three contestants face off against four "Geeks": Marc Edward Heuck ("Movie Geek"), Paul Goebel ("TV Geek"), Andy Zax ("Music Geek", though he would be substituted with Michael Jolly or Michael Farmer sometimes) and a "Special Guest Geek" who would usually just stay for the week and was a specialist on a specific topic like "Star Trek", "Star Wars", comic books, Michael Jackson, etc.

In Season 1, the contestants would be asked eight toss-up questions, two in each of the Geeks' categories. The first four questions were worth 5 points apiece while the second set of four were worth 10 points apiece. There was no penalty for a wrong answer. The two contestants with the most points would advance to Round 2; in case of a tie, a numerical question was asked and whoever got closest without going over would advance.

In Season 2, the Geeks themselves got involved. The host would ask the contestants a question on one of the Geeks' categories. Whoever buzzes in with the right answer gets 10 points and then must battle the same Geek in a follow-up. If the contestant is right or the Geek is wrong, the contestant gets 10 more points. If the contestant is wrong or the Geek is right, the contestant LOSES 5 points. Again, top two advance.

ROUNDS 2 & 3
The contestants now face the Geeks one-on-one in order to get the Geeks' medals. Each contestant (starting with the one with more points or the winner of a toss-up question is tied in Round 2, trailer or toss-up winner in Round 3) picks a Geek to challenge. The contestant and the Geek are then asked question. First the contestant is asked a relatively easy question and then - should the contestant get it right - the Geek is give an "impossibly difficult" question in the same area. If the Geek does not get the question right, they must surrender their medal and the contestant gets 20 points in Round 2 or 40 in Round 3. If the Special Guest Geek is defeated, the contestant earns 10 extra points in Season 1, 20 extra in Season 2. If the Geek gets the question right, another pair of questions are asked. If both Geek and contestant get the questions right, they go to a "Geek-Off". The contestant has 15 seconds to list as many items under a specific category and then the Geek has 15 seconds to list MORE items under a similar category. If the Geek can't surpass the contestant's amount, they lose the challenge and their medal. If, during the initial questions, the contestant answers wrong and the Geek answers THAT question right, the challenge ends.

Once a Geek loses their medal, they cannot be challenged again during the rounds.

Starting with the trailing contestant, the host rattles off a list of titles or names and the contestant must answer whether the title refers to movies, music or TV. Each one answered correctly earns 10 points. The contestant's round ends when a) they answer incorrectly, b) they give no answer in two seconds or c) they answer all on the list (15 in Season 1, 16 in Season 2). If that contestant ends the round in the lead, the other contestant goes through their own list with the same rules. If that contestant surpasses their opponent's score, they win the game. If they fail to surpass it, their opponent wins. A numeric tiebreaker solves ties.

The champion chooses one Geek (even one that was defeated before) to face one-on-one for a prize package worth over $5000 and BASED on the Geek's specialty. A category is presented to both champ and Geek. The champ then chooses a question of either 1, 2 or 3 points in value. The more points, the harder the question. If they answer the question correctly, they earn the points. Then the Geek is given a choice...but they cannot choose a less-difficult question than the contestant, even if they get it wrong (if the champ goes for a 2-point question, the Geek MUST choose either 2- or 3-point question). If the Geek gets the question right, they get the points. This goes back and forth until one of them - champ or Geek - gets to 7 points. The first to do that wins. If the champ wins, they get the prize package and a special medal symbolizing that they beat the Geeks.

The "arena", as the set was called, looked pretty cool to say the least. The four Geeks standing on their high podiums in their flowing and shiny robes, glaring down at the "wannabes" who were - in more ways than one - "beneath" really added to the majesty and pageantry of the proceedings.

The Geeks KNEW their stuff! Whereas the contestants only spewed out a few words to answer each of their questions, the Geeks would go into a detailed answer at least ten seconds long. They just LOVED showing up the contestants.

J. Keith Van Straaten was not that bad a host, really. He looked like Leonard Hofstadter while Johnny Galecki was waiting for roles after "Vanilla Sky" and "Bookies". He may not have been all that exciting but he had the subdued look of a geek.

Entering Season 2, Comedy Central decided that van Straaten wasn't "geeky" enough and traded him for Blaine Capatch...who, to me, looked TOO much the part. He was loud, he was slow and his attempts at humor were forgettable at best.

And having the Season 2 rules for Round 1 changed around didn't help matters, either. I've said it time and again: work out the rules during QA and then LEAVE THEM ALONE! Keep drastically changing the rules around and NO one will stick around!

While the Geeks DID know their stuff, it started to wear a little thin as it went along. It was almost like they went out of their way to show how smart they were. A little demoralizing, to say the least. Now I get that was the POINT,...but there's a point where I started to think, "All RIGHT! You're the bee's knees! Stop rubbing it in!!"


It's a shame that a) Capatch had to make it TOO "geeky" and b) they changed the rules, else it probably would have had a longer run. Also, for a show on Comedy Central, it wasn't really all that funny, despite comedians hosting it. If this had been on syndication or some other cable network (like USA or Spike), it ALSO probably would have lasted longer. I think this set-up can work again, though don't ask me where.

NEXT TIME: Nudists vs. porn stars...astronomers vs. astrologers...PETA members vs. hunters...and many more...

Chris Wolvie would've gladly been the "WWE Geek"...had he known how to audition. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at