Beauty and the Geek Modernizes for a Comeback

Pairing ultra-attractive participants with brainy but socially inept counterparts, Beauty and the Geek first hit screens in the U.S. in 2005. The format, sold by Banijay Rights, went on to travel across numerous markets in Europe, Latin America and beyond.

Last year, the show made a high-profile comeback in Australia, following recent revivals in Italy and Germany, all produced by labels within the Banijay footprint. The latest return is in the U.K. with discovery+. The most recent Australian version has been sold widely, with Banijay Rights landing deals across Europe, Asia, India and the Middle East.

“Like so many of our formats, the show was supersized in Australia, making it bigger and more colorful, with high production values,” says Lucas Green, global head of content operations at Banijay. “They added a new layer of warmth and heart to the show, which made audiences in Australia fall in love with the format all over again. A reinvention of this scale invigorates the format internationally and gets the market’s attention. We are very much focused on this up-to-date iteration, and Beauty and the Geek is the latest in a steady stream of hits from our catalog that are being creatively rebooted and coming back strongly for new audiences.”

When Beauty and the Geek was successful the first time around, the public perception of what constituted a “geek” and what made a “beauty” was different from what it is today, Green adds. “When returning to Italy, the format was immediately expanded with casting that went beyond old stereotypes.

“Looking at the show through a modern lens, the perception of beauty and geekery has changed,” he continues. “With the rise of social media and tech, geeks have become modern cult heroes, and this show champions what makes these characters unique and special. There is an inner geek in all of us, and this show brings it out. There’s a lot of love out there for geeks, and rightly so!”

Likewise, the perception of beauty has changed. “When Beauty and the Geek was created almost 20 years ago, the casting was more homogenous, whereas the contemporary definition of beauty is (thankfully) more inclusive and diverse, shining a light on all types of people,” Green says. “There is always more to the beauties than meets the eye, and the modernization of this format celebrates beauty in its full spectrum.”

He adds that producers have been mindful of the mental and physical welfare of all participants. “Beauty and the Geek should always feel like a warm and uplifting format; never cruel and never poking fun,” says Green. “So, it was important that all our cast felt comfortable and supported, even though they were taking part in a culture-clash experiment. Participant welfare is a top priority in all Banijay’s production bibles and producer guidelines.”

There are successful versions of the revived show up and running in Italy, Germany and Australia, with the U.K. to come soon. These new versions have been “cleverly evolved,” according to Green, with tweaks around the edges but staying true to the simple premise of the show. The core of the series—exploring whether opposites attract—remains intact. “This is as compelling as any classic fairy-tale narrative,” Green says. “Beauty and the Geek is a relationship show rather than dating. It lends itself well to a long story arc, as the relationships grow, change, mature and develop. Sometimes, it is about friendship as much as romance.

“We see great makeovers where the geeks really come into their own and show their inner diamond,” he continues. “That’s always a great moment with the big makeover reveal, and we see the geeks change in the eyes of the beauties.”

By seeking to answer a simple yet universal question—Will opposites attract?—the show has struck a chord with audiences because it comes across as having a real purpose. “The resounding answer is often yes, opposites can attract, and that is fun, life-affirming, joyful and uplifting for the viewers,” says Green.

He adds that when Banijay was looking at this format as a potential piece of IP to bring back to the screens, it was very inspired by the global popularity of The Big Bang Theory, “which, if you look at the core cast, is really a scripted version of Beauty and the Geek,” Green adds. “Right in front of our own eyes, in our own catalog, we discovered an unscripted version of an incredibly popular show. Geeks are finally having their moment in the sun.”

Green likens Beauty and the Geek to an unscripted rom-com. “It’s heartwarming entertainment to see the clash of cultures and people educate each other and the world about their loveable differences. This show has so much potential; it is lighthearted, warm and funny, but with romance at its heart. Because Beauty and the Geek is so relatable, the potential to draw a big audience is huge. Whether you’re passionate about Comic-Con, decoding and gaming or Instagram, fashion and make-up, there is something for everyone.”

The Beauty and the Geek format will continue to modernize and expand the definition of what people think a “beauty” and a “geek” should be, Green promises, “giving producers the chance to make the show more progressive in their own markets.

“We’ll be targeting a slightly younger 16-to-34 audience that hasn’t had the pleasure of enjoying the show in the past. The key to reboots is to make subtle tonal revisions without feeling you need to tear up the rule book. Keeping it simple is sometimes the hardest bit to get right.”