Nerd culture, which includes anything from gaming to cosplay, sci fi to tech, is no longer a niche society relegated to the adult version of the bleachers at a high school dance. Working in tech, professing one’s love for Star Wars, and bucking the latest fashion trends to dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable has thankfully, in many ways, become the norm. Without nerds, we would still be sharing landlines with the rest of our family and making bad restaurant decisions without the help of 427 strangers reviewing the new sushi place on Yelp.
The outpouring of love on social media over the recent death of Stephen Hawking is just one indication that mainstream culture is finally starting to celebrate the brilliant, the forward thinking, and yes, the nerdy.
While TV shows have been featuring ‘nerd’ characters for years, they often came in the Steve Urkel package, ie. the annoying, know-it-all, nosy neighbor who is merely around for the laughs. Thankfully, TV is finally catching on to the reality that ‘nerd’ is no longer a derogatory term, with the culture featuring aspects that most people, not just the brilliantly gifted, can relate to. Of course, there are still a lot of super-smart nerds on TV, but there are also just regular folk to love video games. We see you. We hear you. We are you.
Here are eight shows that celebrate how great it is to be a nerd.
In praise of some of the greatest nerds on TV
Silicon ValleyHeading into its fifth season later this month on HBO, Silicon Valley stars Canadian comedian Thomas Middleditch as Richard Hendricks, a socially awkward tech geek who has produced one of the greatest apps in years. Featuring a band of misfit nerds, the series shows the ups and downs of trying to make it in the tech world. There are so many downs. What’s great about Middleditch’s Richard is that it’s not his nerdiness that gets in the way of his company’s success. Instead, it’s his very relatable inner struggles as he strives to not only do right, but to be right. That, plus tons of hoodies, constant ribbing between friends, and one episode that featured the longest and greatest penis joke of all time, is why we love Silicon Valley.
Watch Seasons 1 to 3 of Silicon Valley now on CraveTV. Season 5 premieres Sunday, March 25 on HBO Canada.HBO Canada
The Big Bang TheoryAre there any nerds in history more famous than Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard? After 11 seasons of the unstoppable Big Bang Theory, we think not. The series began with the four friends being almost too nerdy to function, with Raj spending multiple seasons unable to physically speak to women, but thankfully they have found their groove and, in some cases, even partners. The scientist can get the hot neighbor across the hall, the guy who can’t talk to women can eventually date the opposite sex, and if you study hard enough, you may even have a texting relationship with your favourite celebrity scientist (RIP Stephen Hawking). CTV
Young SheldonAfter 11 seasons, you’d think we’d be tired of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, but seeing the theoretical physicist (portrayed here by Iain Armitage) as a child growing up in Texas just gives us another reason to love the guy. On the outside, Young Sheldon looks like a show about a boy genius growing up misunderstood in the 1980s; while that’s true, it’s also a story of a young person being misunderstood by all those around him. That’s a tale many viewers can relate to, regardless of whether they started high school before starting puberty. Seeing Sheldon find ‘his people,’ in this case other nerds, is something anyone can relate to, whether they’re a nerd, a jock, a princess, a delinquent or a basket case. John Hughes was on to something.CTV
Doctor WhoWhen it comes to fandoms, few are as devoted as followers of Doctor Who. The British sci fi series has been on the air since 1963 and made time travel and extraterrestrial beings two of the most debated and most popular topics in nerd culture. Thanks to the series’ early adoption of reincarnation, in this case allowing a new person to take on the body of the Time Lord, the twelfth Doctor Who is being played by a woman for the first time. Nerd shows – take note. Women. Like. Sci. Fi. Why is this still so surprising?
Watch Seasons 1 to 10 of Doctor Who now on CraveTV.Space
Star Trek DiscoverySpeaking of women loving sci fi, for the first time ever, the new Star Trek: Discovery series broke ground by casting a woman of colour as the lead. Starring Sonequa Martin-Green, the new show is a precursor to the original Star Trek series, the holy grail of nerd-dom. In its new iteration, fans from all backgrounds can finally see themselves reflected on screen, with the show also featuring the first openly gay character in the Star Trek franchise. What’s the opposite of a Vulcan Death Grip? A Vulcan Death Hug? That’s what we want to give to Star Trek: Discovery.
Season 1 is available now on CraveTV.Space
Orphan BlackFull disclosure: I’m a proud member of the Clone Club and only understand about one quarter of the science that takes place in Orphan Black. But that doesn’t matter. The series stars Tatiana Maslany--as Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, Rachel and more--acting as a handful of characters who are all clones of one another. Even with clone Sarah as the obvious badass, Cosima, the microbiologist and brainiac of the group, is the character many fans love the most. It’s cool being the one who figures out why there are a bunch of people walking around with your face and DNA.
Seasons 1 to 5 are available now on CraveTV.Space
KilljoysA show about bounty hunters may not sound groundbreaking, but a show about bounty hunters who work in the planetary system known as the Quad is pretty cool. It also means that the three lead Reclamation Apprehension Coalition members are constantly on the hunt for beings from various tribes, worlds and planets. The perfect combination of comedy, sci-fi and action movies; we dare anyone, nerd or not, to resist the charisma of Killjoys.
Seasons 1 and 2 are available now on CraveTV.Space
WestworldNerds can be sinister, and in the case of Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Robert Ford, they can be people that order murders. Oh yeah, bet you didn’t expect to see that at Comic Con. Westworld is an amusement park created by very smart people for very rich people to treat robots who look (and think) like people like objects. As a warning to all those who head into the future with lots of brain power and not enough heart, the robots take over and they’re not happy. It’s a good lesson to remember before you start yelling at your Amazon Echo because you had a bad day.HBO Canada