There was a point during the second episode of Fangasm where I was ready to stop watching. My sense of fairness did allow me to sit through the entire episode, yet my feeling at the end was still largely one of having been suckered. What happened to the good show I saw the week before? The one that had some signs of the reality-show aesthetic I generally detest but mostly presented a positive attitude regarding geeks and fandom that defied the usual stereotypes.
What set me off was a sequence in the first half of the show, where the cast was tasked with creating viral videos to promote Stan Lee's Comikaze. Most of the cast took this job seriously and took advantage of the assignment to showcase their abilities. For instance, Paul - a film buff and aspiring director - takes charge of the filming and editing of the project while Dani - a make-up artist by trade - used her skills to turn Paul into a humorous but credible Cthulhu. This, to me, is the essence of geekery - passion and talent joined together to express one's true self. To paraphrase a line from Doctor Who, geeks are serious about what they do but not necessarily the way they do it.
Alas, there is no such seriousness of purpose or method for Sal or Andrew. They are the two cast members who made a bunch of stuff up, rushed it to completion and then took the day off to go hang out at the comic book store while the rest of the cast was hard at work on their videos. Coincidentally, Andrew and Sal are also the two members of the cast who most physically resemble stereotypical nerds. They are also the two cast members who, over the course of the episode, did the most to encourage the stereotype of the immature man-child who can't function in normal society and I thought some of their shenanigans - such as hiding in the backyard so nobody would yell at them for skipping work - were clearly staged.
I wasn't expecting anyone on the cast to respond when I voiced these thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, much less having a conversation with Dani, Molly and Mike! Between the three of them, I was persuaded that there were no reality-show hijinks and that I should give the show another chance.
On a second viewing, I saw more of the things I liked about the first episode that escaped me during my nerd rage over Sal and Andrew's grade-school antics. I caught something I had missed the first time when the cast goes clubbing and all of the guys except Mike voice their concerns about feeling out of place in a noisy night-club. That is honest. That is something I can relate to, being the sort of guy who - while not afraid of talking to strange women - prefers to do it in venues where one can have an actual conversation without 80 decibels of dub-step in the background.
This indirectly leads to the final segment of the show where model/cosplayer Adrianne Curry takes Paul and Sal out to get some field experience in talking to women in bars. Despite my wondering just how willing Adraianne Curry would be to play dating coach for relative strangers (now there's an idea for a reality show - Adrianne Curry - Geek Matchmaker!), Paul comes off as a sympathetic figure and the sequence works. Sal and his attempts to romance Dani are less sympathetic but ultimately come off as being the result of inexperience rather than malice.
My biggest criticism of the show thus far is that some of the cast seem to get much more screen time than others. This is always a tricky balancing act on any ensemble piece, but fashion-designer Kristin barely seemed to be in this episode at all! Hopefully things will be more equitable in Episode 3.