At the intersection of game-show geekery and puzzle nerddom is a group of very happy people: The Genius is back!
If you’re not familiar with The Genius… well, why would you be? The game show has never aired in the United States or in any English-speaking country. It originated in South Korea, where it ran for four seasons — the last of these concluding in 2015. The revived show, which debuted three weeks ago, is airing on a network based in The Netherlands. We freely admit that for most Americans, this show is on the obscure side.
But it is well worth the effort to find the subtitled episodes: The game is unlike anything else. There’s no trivia. There are no feats of physical endurance. There is only a room, and in that room are nine contestants — at least to start. In each episode, the rules of a game are announced. The rules are usually fairly simple to understand: In a recent Dutch episode, players were given cards with numbers from 1 to 3. All they had to do was find an opponent, and lay down the cards one at a time. If you lay down the higher number, you earn a point. The contestant who earns the most points wins.
Simple, right? It’s basically the children’s card game “War!” But the genius of The Genius is how even the simplest of games develop unexpected levels of depth as the contestants — an assortment of smart, successful people from the worlds of business and entertainment — try to finesse a win by thinking outside the box. Alliances are formed, plots hatched, and usually (but not always) the person who comes out on top is the one who has grasped subtleties that the others missed.
The Genius is one of those shows you want to watch with somebody else, or discuss online afterwards, so you can figure out together what on earth happened, and why so-and-so took this action instead of that action — what did that contestant notice that you, sitting at home, did not?? For fans of cerebral television, it’s exhilarating stuff.
The first three subtitled episodes of the Dutch Genius can be found here. The original South Korean episodes are harder to find, but there is a group on Reddit where links come and go — pop in there if you, like others in a small but passionate group of North Americans, fall in love with the show.