Memo to Hollywood TV producers:

                    (have I got a prime-time idea for you!)

                                         High-tech high jinks as our repair guys visit homes

                                         around the big city to fix wayward PCs.

By: Brad Stone


C OREY PETERSON AND GABRIEL CERVANTES WEAR matching uniforms—black pants, black shoes, white short-sleeved shirts and black clip-on ties. Peterson sports Versace sunglasses; Cervantes rarely removes his Oakleys. Each morning, they don SPECIAL AGENT badges and tote around the San Francisco Bay Area in identical black-and-white Volkswagen Beetles, which bear the unmistakable orange insignia of their employer: the Geek Squad. For a combined five years, the two agents have visited their customers’ homes on daily missions of technological mercy. Together, their tired, knowing eyes have seen too many unconfigured wireless networks, crashed hard drives and spyware-infested PCs. They are a wonky Simone and Sipowicz skilled in the art of network protocols, open-source software—and finding little furry animals that work their way into equipment . Too long these agents have gone unappreciated. I propose we give them and the 2,500 other Geek Squad agents their own prime-time show. What drama, what high jinks! “Geek Squad” could be a reality-based classic for our

high-tech times.

To research my pitch, I tagged along for an afternoon with Peterson and Cer-vantes. Their daily adventures open a window on our conflicted relationship with our gadgets. Typical tech-support customers have no idea why their computers have suddenly gone on the fritz, and their emotional state is usually distraught. (There will be lots of crying jags on this show.) Relief doesn’t come cheap when customers call 800-GEEKS~UAD. For example, a home visit for configuring a broadband connection costs $159; cleaning out spvware, $129. It’s a sweet business: the Geek Squad adds a few million annually to the bottom line of Best Buy, which bought the decade-old company in 2002 from a young Minneapolis computer programmer named Robert Stephens. “We’re like Dragnet.’ We show up at people’s homes and help7 says Stephens, warming to the idea of a police procedural . “We’re also like ‘Ghosthusters.’ And there’s a pseudo-government feel to it, like Men in Black’.”

Our writing team will have limitless material from agents like Cervantes and Peterson, ripped right from real-life high-tech nightmares. There’s the classic tale of the computer that didn’t work because they found a rat carcass inside. (OK, no mouse jokes.) There’s also the customer whose crashed Web site led him to fume at Cervantes and Peterson, “I’m losing $50,000 every hour I’m not online !“ And there’s the woman who claimed her computer kept devouring her CDs. When they cracked open her PC, dozens of discs were piled inside. She had fed them, one after another, into the crack over the CD-ROM drive.

Sometimes, my two Geek Squad stars tell me, the tension during a customer visit is downright palpable. A few months ago, Cervantes says, he visited a woman whose hard drive was completely blank—not even an operating system installed. When he asked if anyone else had access to the PC, she burst into tears and explained that her ex-husband had recently “borrowed” it . He had apparently wiped the hard drive clean.

Geek Squad customers often express their gratitude in touching ways . Last month, an 84-year-old woman baked Peterson a cake, with his name on it in frosting. During our afternoon drive, a former cop named Chuck—a repeat customer with a very pesky virus on his PC—was so appreciative, he taught the guys a few self-defense maneuvers. Probably useful if they ever run into that guy who’s unhappy they fixed his cx’s hard drive.

“Geek Squad,” I’m certain, will have legs, since society’s tech troubles are only getting worse . Today, all gadgets seem to “interconnect, or at least “interface,” with the internet . I foresee an entire episode on some poor soul’s refrigerator that’s lost its ability to display the temperature in Copenhagen . “As long as there’s innovation,” says Stelphens~, “there’s going to be new kinds of chaos’ And lots more episodes for “Geek Squad.” Hollywood, please, my agent awaits your calls.



                                                                        NEWSWEEK Magazine

                                                                                  February 20, 2006. (Pg. E6)

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