The Top 25 Smartest TV Characters
Who says TV's for dummies?
From mind-melding Vulcan's with unparalleled logic, to desert island castaways capable of building anything under the sun with only bamboo sticks and coconuts, TV smarties have been gracing our television screens, showering us with their brilliance for a long, long time. And while some may be nerdy and others may be evil, their genius is undeniable.
But which of these brainiacs really is the sharpest tool in the shed? That's what we're aiming to find out today, kids.
With the assistance of my world-renowned mad scientist research team and the utilization of the extensive DVD collection that's been sucking my life dry of all meaning and exercise since the days of yore, I've gotten down to the nitty-gritty of this grueling question once and for all. So sit back, relax, and prepared to be awed by The Top 25 Smartest TV Characters of all time.
25.) The Brain
Voiced by Maurice LaMarche in Pinky and the Brain
A mix between Orson Welles, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Don Quixote, this adorable little genius, whose intelligence has been significantly raised due to Acme Labs experiments, is hellbent on taking over the world by any means necessary.
To do this, Brain (whose name is an acronym for "Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus"), with the assistance of his dimwitted friend, Pinky, develops complex plans for global domination through politics, cultural references, and a cornucopia of his own brilliant inventions.
24.) The Professor
Played by Russell Johnson in Gilligan's Island
With a list of degrees from numerous schools (including USC, UCLA, SMU, and TCU) The Professor wasn't only the most sane castaway on Gilligan's Island, but he was also the only one to display a lick of usefulness. With only the aid of coconuts and bamboo, The Professor managed to conjure up one heck of a lot of inventions, including battery chargers, a lie detector, and a sewing machine.
Granted, he apparently wasn't clever enough to devise a raft to get he and the other castaways the hell off that infernal island, but, hey, that's why he only makes it to 24 on the list.
23.) Gus Fring
Played by Giancarlo Esposito in Breaking Bad
While little is known about his past, Gus Fring, from AMC's hit series Breaking Bad, was clearly one smart cookie. Other than being one of the most prominent and successful methamphetamine distributors in the southwestern United States, he also owned and operated several legit businesses, including a chain of fast food restaurants and an industrial laundry facility. He was extremely meticulous and methodical in his evil doings and always remained one step ahead of the DEA and other drug kingpins who were out to get him.
And while in the end he may have met his match with the up-and-coming criminal mastermind, Walter White, Gus still deserves his due respect for being one of the smoothest evil genius's to ever blast onto television.
22.) Professor Farnsworth
Voiced by Billy West in Futurama
He may be a deranged senile old codger who does more harm than good with his genius, but nevertheless, by constructing such mind-boggling inventions as the Smell-O-Scope and a plethora of doomsday devices, a genius is most certainly what he is.
Played by Frankie Muniz in Malcolm in the Middle
Being the middle child of a highly dysfunctional family, things were bad enough for poor Malcolm as it was. Added to this, though, he also happened to be alienated from the rest of his peers due to the fact that he just happened to be a brilliant child prodigy as well (thus causing him to be put in special classes for gifted children, who are mocked by the other students who call them "Krelboynes"), The last we saw of Malcolm he was earning his way through Harvard by mopping floors.
20.) Dr. Cal Lightman
Played by Tim Roth in Lie to Me
Dr. Cal Lightman from the short lived TV series Lie to Me was a highly intelligent psychologist with an expertise in body language -- predominantly microexpressions (based on the real-life scientific discoveries of American psychologist Paul Ekman) -- and founder of The Lightman Group, a private company that operates as an independent contractor to assist investigations of local and federal law enforcement through applied psychology.
19.) The Doctor
Played by William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith in Dr. Who
As if being a Time Lord wasn't enough, The Doctor uses his extensive expertise in various fields of science, technology and history while outsmarting a cornucopia of monsters, gods, demigods, and demons of all kinds while he travels through time and space. Being a Time Lord though, The Doctor also has the unique ability to magically regenerate his body whenever he's near death. This is an ability especially useful in keeping Dr. Who as longest-running science fiction television show in the world
18.) Lex Luthor
Played by Michael Rosenbaum in Smallville
From comic books, to movies, to TV, Lex Luthor has always been one of the most notoriously brilliant archnemesis, criminal masterminds in superhero history. With the addition of his extensive wealth and power, Lex is the embodiment of the classic TV villain intent on using his brilliance for evil.
17.) River Tam
Played by Summer Glau in Firefly
A child prodigy with outstanding athletic capabilities and a mind capable of immediately understanding the most complex subjects and scenarios, River was sent to a government learning facility known only as "The Academy" (which is said to be for the teaching of gifted children, but in actuality is designed for the molding of perfect assassins) at the age of fourteen. Due to the experiments conducted on her by The Academy, River admittedly has a few problems here and there, but with a brain that big and a face that hot, who really cares?
16.) Temperance "Bones" Brennan
Played by Emily Deschanel in Bones
An anthropologist, forensic anthropologist, kinesiologist, trained in three types of martial arts, and a bestselling author, who has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 18 weeks, Bones, like most TV genius's, is an extremely rational and straightforward character, with limited social skills. And while it has never been explicitly stated in the shows plot, her character is said to be based on a person with Asperger syndrome.
15.) Lisa Simpson
Voiced by Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons
There was a brief scare in the late 90's when Lisa found out about a dreaded "Simpson gene" which had the potential to cause her to turn very dumb and Homer-esque, but, luckily, it's found out later that this gene only affects the male side of the family -- lucky for her. Because with a broad knowledge of many different fields and an IQ of 159, Lisa Simpson is one of the select, gifted few accepted into the Springfield chapter of Mensa... right up there with Professor Fink himself!
14.) Adrian Monk
Played by Tony Shalhoub in Monk
You know, science has already shown that there's a strong correlation between having a high intelligence and having obsessive compulsive disorder, so it's not really surprising that some of the most brilliant minds on this list are inflicted with this double-edged sword of a disease. None more so afflicted than this meticulously organized germaphobe detective.
13.) Dexter Morgan
Played by Michael C. Hall in Dexter
Part-time forensic blood spatter analyst, part-time vigilante serial killer with a warped code of ethics, it's debatable how good of a role model Dexter Morgan really is. That being said, his brilliance is unquestionable. Whether solving cases for the Miami-Metro Police Department or butchering evildoers in his spare time, with a keen analytical mind and meticulously laid out plans, Dex is superb at whatever job he puts his mind to.
12.) Patrick Jane
Played by Simon Baker in The Mentalist
Raised from childhood by his con-artist father to be a fake psychic medium, The Mentalists Patrick Jane has had many years of training to master his skills in observation, deduction, and knowledge of social engineering. After leaving that career, he decides to utilize his powers for good as a consulting member of the CBI (Californian Bureau of Investigation) crime fighting unit.
11.) Stewie Griffin
Voiced by Seth MacFarlane in Family Guy
At only one-year old, Stewie can speak fluently (in an English accent, no less) and has already mastered physics and mechanical engineering, having built such mind-bending inventions as time machines, teleportation devices, mind reading devices, robots, and weapons of all sorts (most of which influenced by his desire for world domination and his matricidal tendencies).
If only it weren't for his inability to use the toilet by himself, he would have made it higher on the list.
10.) Angus MacGyver
Played by Richard Dean Anderson in MacGyver
Preferring non-violent conflict resolution over the nasty world of guns and other deadly weaponry, this secret agent with an education in science (and one glorious head of hair) was the most clever and resourceful problem solver ever to make his way onto television screens. With only common household items, a Swiss Army knife, and a little bit of duct tape, MacGyver could foil the evil plans of any villain to cross his path.
9.) Dr. Gaius Baltar
Played by James Callis in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica
Possessing both an unmatched intelligence and a manipulative charm that could make even a toaster fall in love, Gaius Balter had the ability to outsmart everyone around him while miraculously saving himself from the most sticky of situations. Among his many accomplishments he has served as one of the greatest scientists of the Twelve Colonies, later as the president of New Caprica, and finally as a holy leader to a group of (mostly female) followers.
Sure, he unintentionally brought about the near-annihilation of the human species too, but, hey; no one's perfect.
8.) Benjamin Linus
Played by Michael Emerson in LOST
Perhaps one of the greatest and most manipulative liars in TV history, Ben was as smart and cunning as he was mysterious.
On the weird and mystical island on LOST Ben had everyone around him wrapped around his little finger; each walking right into his plans with every step they took (and he ALWAYS had a plan). Even when at a disadvantage, Ben managed to always get what he wanted, while coming out on top.
7.) Gregory House
Played by Hugh Laurie in House
While he may be one testy curmudgeon with an ego the size of the Sears Tower, there's no questioning the intellect of this unorthodox, misanthropic, Vicodin-loving doctor. No matter what disease is thrown at him, no matter how impossibly incurable it seems, House (usually) manages to save the day.
... If only he'd smile more.
6.) Steve Urkel
Played by Jaleel White in Family Matters
Originally set to appear only once in the hit sitcom Family Matters, this beloved epitome of nerdyness went on to become the most memorable and well-known star of the show.
Like most TV nerds, Steve was a genius when it came to all things science. His most stunning scientific achievement being his invention of a device capable of transforming his DNA (using a serum known as "cool juice") from the nerdy gene he was born with to the cool gene he was lacking; thus changing his appearance and personality to a charismatic alter ego named Stefan Urquelle.
Let's see Hawking do that.
5.) Doogie Howser
Played by Neil Patrick Harris in Doogie Howser, M.D.
Possessing a genius intellect and an eidetic memory, Doogie Howser was a child prodigy who earned a perfect score on the SAT at the age of six, completed high school in nine weeks at the age of nine, graduated from Princeton University at age 10, and finished medical school at age 14, when he then went on to become the youngest licensed doctor in the country. Seventeen years later, he played a pivotal role in Harold and Kumars infamous journey to a White Castle.
4.) Walter White
Played by Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
When we first met Mr. White, he was a shy, soft-spoken, mild-mannered family man, disillusioned with his job and struggling to put food on the table for his wife, disabled son, and baby on the way. After discovering he has an inoperable case of lung cancer, though, this overqualified high school chemistry teacher finally decides to get his ass in gear, becoming one of the most wanted and powerful methamphetamine manufacturers in the country.
Since then, we've seen Walter put that big brain of his into action by using his expertise in chemistry to not only cook meth and teach bored high school students, but also to combat some of the most vicious drug dealers in the land while building an ever-growing empire from the ground up.
3.) Sheldon Cooper
Played by Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory
Through the use of consultants from the actual scientific community and the regular incorporation of real scientific findings in their dialogue, The Big Bang Theory is one of the few TV shows that actually puts the real life genius of scientists in the spotlight. And while Leonard, Raj, and Howard are all brilliant, it's the shows breakthrough character, theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper, who takes the cake when it comes to unrivaled brainpower.
Devoid of all empathy for others, with a B.S., M.S., M.A., a Ph.D, an eidetic memory, an IQ of 187, and a strict logical mind, Sheldon has a rational, analytical way of thinking that's matched only by the smartest of sci-fi androids and the most logical of Star Trek Vulcans.
2.) Mr. Spock
Played by Leonard Nimoy in the Star Trek franchise
Speaking of Star Trek Vulcans...
Mr. Spock is the incomparable king of serious, no-nonsense logical thinking. Part-human, part-vulcan, with a mind as sharp as his ears, this science fiction favorite is a master of reason over feeling. As far as living creatures go, Spock tops the list of fictions brainiacs.
Played by Brent Spiner in Star Trek: The Next Generation
While Spock may be the reigning king of logical thinking as far as living creatures go, he could never match wits with a super powerful computer with the capacity of storing the accumulated knowledge of all man- and alien-kind in his memory banks. A knowledge which includes a mastery in science, combat, painting, music, literature, and even Spocks patent Vulcan nerve pinch.
This android predecessor to that beloved Vulcan is sci-fi's answer to Pinocchio; a walking, talking, sentient robot whose biggest desire is to be like, and understand, the humans who created him. And while Spock continuously attempted to avoid this behavior, deeming the desire as absolutely illogical, it's nevertheless part of what makes Data so special. Because it's through his endeavor to be human that we see Data's thirst for knowledge shine the brightest.