The Only Way Is Essex recently aired its first live episode, to a reception that was mixed at best. The experimental broadcast got me thinking about the phenomenon that is reality TV, and the "stars" it spawns.
I'll freely admit, I'm a sucker for the spoiled bitchiness of Made In Chelsea and the gutter-mouthed, drunken antics of the Geordie Shore cast. But who would ever in a million years aspire to be anything like any of these people? Seriously; they're lazy, entitled, and often downright malicious. (Francis Boulle is a huge exception. I frickin' love that guy.)
Kim Kardashian is perhaps the biggest reality star on the planet, whose self-perpetuating celebrity is both the most fascinating thing about her and also her biggest source of criticism. "She's only famous for being famous," her detractors are only too happy to point out.
However, a new offshoot of reality TV might be about to buck that trend. Start-Ups: Silicon Valley is a Bravo docu-soap following the trials and tribulations faced by a gang of young entrepreneurs in America's technology capital. Produced and packaged with the same gloss and glamour as The Hills, some of its cast members are already well known in their industry. This includes journalist Hermione Way, who cheerfully gives the show its tagline in the trailer: "geeks are definitely the new rock stars."
And you know what? She might just be onto something. Once derogatory terms like "nerd" and "geek" have become celebratory in recent years. Even science fiction, the geekiest of genre terrain, has more mainstream appeal than ever - Prometheus was one of the most talked about films of 2012, and the entire nation is on tenterhooks ahead of this year's Doctor Who Christmas special. While sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory still rely on dweeby stereotypes for cheap laughs, I remain optimistic that new programmes like Start-Ups and Objective-Sea (a Survivor-style game show for app developers) will motivate younger audiences to aspire to something other than a career as a glamour model or club promoter when they grow up.
In that spirit, here are some hand-picked inspirational guys and girls from the worlds of entertainment, science and technology - all of whom might be deemed nerds, and are all the more loveable for it.