Reality Check: A little flash, a little science for the 'Nerds' contestants

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"King of the Nerds this week asked 'What's nerdier/more fun than a science fair?'

Watching this bunch of chemists, gamers and fantasy writers, the answer was cheerfully obvious: nothing.

The teams on Season two of TBS' Thursday night geekfest had to incorporate that scholastic classic, the volcano, in a presentation both fact-based and showy.

Contestant Mary Kate Smith immediately waxed nostalgic about their corporate sponsor for this one ("Radio Shack, that's where I bought my first soldering iron !")

Katie Correll, a Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center masters student, was all revved up and declared, "This is special effects, so this is what I do."

She's right, despite attitude from Titans of Rigel teammate Kayla LaFrance. The latter was angry there seems to be too much flash and too little science, but a panel of guest judges including Bill Nye the Science Guy named their team, Titans of Rigel, the winner.

Elsewhere in reality TV ...

• Not for the first time has Syfy's "Face Off" pursued the design of dragons, but here the artists were charged with branching out from the usual fire-breathing variety.

That was good news for Tyler Green, one of four contestants with degrees from the Tom Savini Special Make-Up Effects program at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen.

Mr. Green chose to cross a vulture with the reptilian nature of an ice-breathing dragon. The effect was creepy and cool, and the judges panel went nuts over it.

Not so fortunate was another Savini grad, Tess Laeh. From the very start, Ms. Laeh had problems sculpting the face of her feathery, quilled dragon. The result was lopsided and painted an unpleasant shade of Barney purple, and her head was on the chopping block.

Yet another designer missed the mark by an even broader margin, so Ms. Laeh survived to sculpt another day.

• It would be inaccurate to refer to some of the 11 teams for CBS's upcoming "The Amazing Race" all-star edition as "fan favorites." Sisters Natalie and Nadiya Anderson screeching "Twinnies" or the mother/son teams of Margie O'Donnell and Luke Adams getting into a fight with another team (arguing in both spoken word and American Sign Language) did not make for fond memories.

But compete they will, spanning the globe over four continents, nine countries and 35,000 miles. Just when viewers think they've seen it all, look for a twist that will keep one of the all-stars from even reaching the starting line.

Teams are: Cousins Leo Temory and Jamal Zadran, the "Afghanimals"; reality stars Brendon Villegas and Rachel Reilly, now newlyweds; country singers Jennifer Wayne and Caroline Cutbirth; cowboys and brothers Jet and Cord McCoy; father/son cancer survivors David and Connor O'Leary; and Harlem Globetrotters Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nate "Big Easy" Lofton.

Also racing the world with host Phil Keoghan are engaged couple John Eck and Jessica Hoel, who infamously became the only "TAR" team to ever be eliminated while in possession of an Express Pass; Ms. O'Donnell and Mr. Adams; the Anderson sisters; YouTube hosts Joey Graceffa and Meghan Camarena; and "Team Kentucky," William "Bopper" Minton and Mark Jackson.

"The Amazing Race" kicks off its 24th cycle Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.

• Google has jumped into the "American Idol" game.

Fox's venerable voice competition also is pairing with Facebook to allow voters unprecedented ways of voting once the weekly live shows begin Feb. 26. Choices are: Google search, online at, via the AI app, text message and toll-free phone calling. In addition, fans will be able to engage in online conversation, and their voting choices -- including rankings and geographic trends -- will be available on screen.

• ABC's "Extreme Weight Loss" will hold an open casting call Feb. 22 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Rock Bottom Brewery at the Waterfront. The show is visiting 13 cities searching for season five candidates.

Interested participants are encouraged to pre-register at More information also can be found on Twitter @EWL_Casting.

Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.

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