It’s only fitting that Syfy is rolling out its first-ever block of late-night programming on the heels of this year’s Comic-Con. Now that a significant portion of the network’s core demographic — over 100,000 people, not including all the unofficial attendees who didn’t score badges — are back in front of their television sets, now seems like the ideal time to market a game show bluntly called Geeks Who Drink.
Geeks Who Drink is actually only half of Syfy’s new effort; after Geeks airs tomorrow night at 11, there’s the debut episode of sci-fi roundup show Reactor, with comedian and Professor Blastoff co-host David Huntsberger. As a current events show, however, Reactor will be filmed in front of a live studio audience; consequently, only a handful of pre-taped segments — pleasant-enough parodies of blockbusters Jurassic World and Mad Max — were available for advance viewing.
Geeks Who Drink, meanwhile, is a straightforward game show, souped up with nerdy-but-not-too-nerdy questions and the namesake “Hey, we’re on basic cable!” consumption of alcohol. It was adapted from a nationally franchised pub quiz, and its set takes the extremely literal form of a bar, complete with a studio audience shown regularly partaking along with the guests.
Chuck alum Zachary Levi presides over the competition, which splits the contestants into two pun-tastic groups of three (highlight: “Monty Python and the Holy Ale”; lowlight: “Lost Island Iced Teas”) presided over by celebrity team captains of varying, well, celebrity. Oddly, the pilot episode features guests who are probably less of a draw than upcoming attractions — nothing against NCIS: LA’s Eric Christian Olsen or Hart of Dixie‘s Scott Porter, but one imagines Retta, Andy Daly, or Felicia freakin’ Day might bring in better premiere ratings.
As it stands, Olsen, Porter, and a fully hammed-up Levi do a perfectly decent job of ushering four mere mortals — each of them with their own geek credentials, like participating in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired martial arts obsession or having seen X-Men six times — through the motions of a game show. Challenges include “Batman or Superman,” “GI Joe or Real American Hero,” and “Heroine Addiction,” with questions that are simultaneously specific enough to be vaguely nerdy and broad enough not to alienate potential layperson viewers. Think “Who used to own the Daily Planet?,” not “Name the three Batman series that influenced the plot of Dark Knight Rises.”
Given the increasingly overcrowded state of the late night landscape, Geeks Who Drink isn’t must-see TV. But it’s an interesting entry into a genre of television that’s seen an enormous amount of turnover and experimentation in the last few years, from network giants passing the baton (Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert) to postmodern parodies (The Eric Andre Show, Comedy Bang! Bang!) to more niche offerings from less traditional outlets. Comedy Central’s interactive free-for-all @midnight falls into this category, and it’s clearly what Syfy is aiming for here.
Geeks might be trying a little too hard for generic appeal to fully succeed (on top of the softball questions, there’s an entirely unnecessary, not to mention off-theme, segment that amounts to “look, Jello!”). As an experiment on Syfy’s part, though, it testifies to the ever-expanding, ever-diversifying state of post-primetime TV in the streaming era, which will inevitable produce as many misses as hits.