Pop culture competition goes pop

By Jim Vorel

College students are expected to be a somewhat trivial lot. Those four years at the University tend to be characterized by stereotypes of cocky collegians determined to be seen as experts on a chosen topic. A casual survey of your average group of kids on the Quad is likely to turn up a few big sports fans who wake up to watch “SportsCenter” every morning, a fashion-conscious girl leafing through “Cosmopolitan,” a film-buff who can tell you why Kurosawa’s movies were better than anything you’ll see today and an innumerable host of more obscure interests. These same students may have seen popular television shows like VH1’s “The World Series of Pop Culture” and thought that they could do better than the show’s champions, who took home $250,000 for their efforts.

This week at the Illini Union, those students will get their chance to prove themselves, albeit for a considerably smaller prize. On Thursday at 9 p.m. in the Courtyard Caf‚ the Illini Union Board will be putting on its own IUB World Series of Pop Culture, testing teams of three students on every facet of pop culture spanning the last 30 years.

“I became an avid fan of the VH1 show this summer and decided it could make a great event for the student population on campus,” said Leslie Cornell, junior in Communications and creator of the event. “Many think they are quite the pop culture fiends.”

The competition, explained Cornell, is modeled almost exactly after the format of the VH1 show. Teams of three with team names and uniforms face off with other teams in different categories written specifically for University students by the Illini Union Board. These categories range from “Famous Feuds” (celebrity/artist feuds) to “A Day at the Office” (questions related to the sitcom, “The Office”) to “I’m Wired” (computers and new technology).

Each team of three selects one representative who they think is best versed in the particular category to go forward and face off against a team member from the opposite team. The losing team member is eliminated, and the first team to lose all three of its members is knocked out of the competition. This process continues until there is only one team left.

The champion of the IUB World Series of Pop Culture will win $300, which is paid for by the $15 registration fee that each team is charged to participate. Smaller awards will also be handed out for best team name and uniforms, although they are optional. Campus comedian Prashanth Venkataramanujam will host the competition.

Student fans of VH1’s “World Series of Pop Culture” are excited about the opportunity to participate in their own format of the show. Scott Shapiro, sophomore in Business, thinks a team formed by his friends could stand a good chance.

“I have a friend who is an expert in music which is my weakness,” Shapiro said. “Together we could make a pretty competitive squad. Also, when I watch the show on TV, I am able to answer right along with those guys, sometimes answering questions that they don’t know.”

Shapiro said that his field of expertise would be in movie comedies and that his team’s name would be “Serenity Now!”, a nod to his favorite television show, “Seinfeld.”

While teams have already registered for the event, Cornell and the Illini Union Board encourage spectators to come and watch the competition, as well as possibly participate.

If there are still extra spots in the possible pool of teams, the competition will accept teams that show up ready to play and pick-up teams that form on the spot. Admission as a spectator is $2.

With the grand prize at stake, teams should prepare themselves for some intense competition. Ryan McCarthy, senior in LAS whose specialty is ’90s action movies, said that he still feels confident.

“I have a reputation for knowing a lot about pop culture with my friends, so I think my chances would be pretty good,” McCarthy said.