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MIT Alum Makes ...Geek... TV Debut

By Hanhan Wang

Dressed in a flamboyant Hawaiian shirt and tacky bow tie, Ankur Mehta ’04 may not be every girl’s dream right now, but the TV show “Beauty and the Geek 2” will test his potential for finding his inner hunk.

Mehta made his debut on the show’s premiere last Thursday, participating in a competition to win $250,000 as eight “beauties” and eight “geeks,” team up to teach each other some lessons in dating.

At the end of last summer, the WB recruited heavily from MIT, a school reputed to have plenty of geeks to spare. Ankur, an alumnus from East Campus, heard about the auditions through ec-discuss, an e-mail discussion list for East Campus residents. He purchased a bright purple tuxedo, made a duct tape bow tie, and arrived at the audition with a couple of friends. The producers loved him, and he was cast into the world of reality television.

On the show, the geeks and beauties form teams of couples and compete in a series of challenges together for the prize. During a trivia contest on the first show, Jennipher, a camp counselor who was Ankur’s partner, couldn’t identify a picture of John Kerry. Later, she disapproved of Ankur’s unibrow, chasing him with tweezers. Ankur said that many of the girls were actually as ditzy as they appeared and that his eyebrows were never plucked.

“I’m not a fan of dumb girls. I had no interest in any of the girls,” he said.

In the month of taping, the contestants were confined to a giant mansion with fully catered meals, pool tables, and hot tub. Ankur said that there was always a casting person around the mansion.

Otherwise, Ankur said that he acted naturally while in the mansion, although he was portrayed as an arrogant intellectual from MIT. Ankur says, “It’s not arrogance if it’s actually true. Actually, I was playing it up a bit.”

“The screenwriters have a general script about how they want an episode to play out,” Mehta said. He said that the writers interviewed the cast to make sure the cast’s actions roughly matched their plans for the plot. Also, editing took away some of Ankur’s outrageous comments, and he said that in the television premier he noticed that quite a few of the audioclips were sliced.

The other male contestants on the show include Tyson, a Caltech graduate who stunned the beauties by solving a Rubik’s cube behind his back and also seemed open to improving his social skills. There is also Chris, who was portrayed as a self-absorbed jerk with a biting and sarcastic sense of humor. “The guys were portrayed reasonably well. They weren’t spectacularly dorky,” Ankur said.

Many students who watched the first episode in 10-250 commented that the show furthered a lots of stereotypes about the typical MIT geek, but that the show approached them humorously, seemingly poking fun at the generalizations. On the show’s official message board, several threads came from girl geeks who demanded their own version of the show. When asked whether female nerds would draw an audience, Ankur said, “The vast majority of the TV viewing population wouldn’t like that.”