TV’s Top 10 Geeks (That We Owe Big Time)

Spanning at least six decades now Television has broadcast some exquisite geeks into our living rooms. But who are the real standard bearers? Who has left their mark in a way that will inform future geeks for generations?

Well, I decided to come up with a list of some worthy candidates.

In the name of keeping things interesting and fair, I was at first inclined to rule out any character playing the title role of their TV show. Unfortunately that cut a few too many heavyweights. So how about this: we’ll only disqualify characters from shows specifically about geeks. Apologies to fans of Torchwood, Spaced, and Big Bang Theory, your crews are left out in the cold.

So here we go in no particular order:

Grizzly Adams

Grizzly Adams

10. Grizzly Adams
This guy roamed the Smokie Mountains helping people aided by a 900 lb. Grizzly Bear and a hipster-skewering beard that may or may not have allowed him to see the future. Game over, end of story.

9. Wile E. Coyote
That he’s a gourmand, linguist, gadget hound, and mail-ordering mastermind puts him squarely in the center of Geek City. That he persisted in his struggle despite never catching a single break should make him the Mayor.

8. Commander Spock
In five hundred years time the iconic image of Cmdr. Spock will still communicate the same thing it does today: advanced intelligence trumps anything else both in and out of this world.

Mr. White (aka Heisenberg)

Mr. White (aka Heisenberg)

7. Walt White (aka Heisenberg)
This one is apparently only half true as Mr. White developed a severely split personality by the end of the first season of Breaking Bad. Still, High School Chemistry Teacher Mr. White more than delivers a monumental geek profile even if he only shows up half the time.

6. Phineas J. Whoopee
Armed with his Three-Dimensional Blackboard (or 3DBB if you’re hip), Mr. Whoopee dropped book knowledge in an off-hand way that was not only fun but always managed to save the day. Where would Tennessee Tuxedo (or us for that matter) be without him?

5. Pee-Wee Herman
The guy single-handedly created the retro chic movement. He was undeniably the first to make the 80’s cool. He broke Saturday morning taboos with the giggle and wink of a 4-year old trapped in a man’s body. Geek genius incarnate.

Bert, doing 'The Pigeon'

Bert, doing ‘The Pigeon’

4. Bert
To be sure, there’s more than a handful of geek Muppets to consider for this list. I might even argue that Jim Henson’s mind was the one true mothership connection, giving birth to the most seminal geek characters of our time. But that’s amusement for another article. For this list there’s just one, and that’s the unparallelled Bert. Bert wrote a song (and choreographed a dance for that matter) paying homage to his favorite subject: Pigeons. What did you do?

3. Kaylee
The Serenity would be forever grounded if not for the sweet, intrepid, and totally hot Kaylee from Firefly.

Sgt. Joe Friday

Sgt. Joe Friday

2. Sgt. Joe Friday
With the arrival of Joe Friday in 1952, a message was delivered to criminals the world over that their troublesome ways would no longer be tolerated. Gum-shoed and straight-jawed, Friday was not just by the book, he was the book. Crack a joke? You bet, just make sure it’s a joke about how awesome it is to obey the law. The good citizens and the victims found stern empathy in him, but the rest found only his unyielding cold hammer of justice. Would I go so far as to say that Sgt. Joe Friday was the precursor to Robocop? Yes.

1. Liz Lemon
I wouldn’t necessarily wish for my daughter to borrow too many moves from her playbook, but I will say that the sincerity behind Liz Lemon’s winning loser shtick is heartwarming to the end. Also Liz has graced us with 23 Star Wars references over the course of 30 Rock’s first 5 seasons. If you think for a second that I don’t know each them by heart, well you’re crazier than I thought.