Saturday, February 16, 2008

The smartest shows of all-time

MENSA, the worldwide organization for “people from every walk of life whose IQ is in the top 2 % of the population” (how democratic they are!) just announced their picks for the ten smartest television series of all-time.

Side note: Whichever MENSA nerd designed their logo must've been a big Batman fan.

I assume only a small portion of the club participated since most only “watch PBS” of course. But of those select members who do admit to watching commercial television, here is their top ten along with comments from Jim Werdell, the Chairman of MENSA.

1. M*A*S*H – It had smart repartee and was so much more than a comedy.
2. Cosmos (with Carl Sagan) – Sagan was able to communicate something extremely complicated to the layman and do it well, and that’s unusual for a scientist at his level.
3. CSI -- The way they use science to solve their programs is intriguing to viewers.
4. House – Again, it’s high level type of show; it’s the personality that makes it a winner, plus it deals with science.
5. West Wing – you had to pay attention to stay up with it. The repartee was fast and furious and you needed a fairly high level intelligence to keep up with it.
6. Boston Legal – It’s primarily because of the characters. The story lines are okay, but the characters are incredible and the writers give them great dialogue.
7. All in the Family – The show dealt with social issues before it’s time and was on the forefront of trying to show people’s feelings, beliefs and the complexities of personality, in both a serious and comedic way.
8. Frasier – The repartee was sensational; the main characters were very good. Even though they portrayed people who were likely of high intelligence, they also showed their weaknesses.
9. Mad About You – It’s a personal favorite, I loved the characters and the back and forth. It was very smart.
10. Jeopardy – It’s about the only game show that really tries to test people’s intelligence. There’s very little luck involved, and there are few game shows like that. I don’t watch it all that much honestly, but from what I’ve seen it tests more than knowledge, it tests intelligence too.

Okay. I certainly have to agree with #1 and #8. Not sure I’d put Mad About You and Boston Legal in there over The Wire or Battlestar Galactica but who am to argue with genius?

So after reading this list I thought, has anybody assembled a Top Ten of the stupidest shows in television? The problem is after Hee Haw there are so many to choose from. So I’ll throw it open to you, my dear discerning readers. What shows do you are the dumbest of all-time? Two groundrules: You can’t pick My Mother the Car because that’s too easy nor AfterMASH. It was terrible but not dumb.

I look forward with great anticipation and horror to your choices.


Ger Apeldoorn said...

The middle two years of Mad About You (when Seinfeld-writer Larry Charles joined the staff and they did story experiments) is particulary good. I particulary remember one where they went to a party, which you saw from both their perspectives and a one take episode, where they discussed their hopes for the future of their child while waiting for the door of her bedroom the first night they have to let her sleep on her own.

Bitter Animator said...

Yeah, I wouldn't agree with everything on this list. I can see the reasoning behind putting CSI in there but I would knock it off the list for then treating the audience like idiots. The characters announce everything they see over and over like we don't get it. Smart show perhaps but insulting delivery at times.

Mad About You I liked but not sure what would have it qualify as a 'smart' show.

Homicide: Life On The Street needs to be on that list for its early seasons. I can see why you'd suggest The Wire but I guess putting Homicide over it is jut a personal preference.

And while I love Battlestar Galactica and am finding it hard to wait for this next season, I'd knock it so far from smart for the same reasons I wouldn't let Lost near this list - each episode opens with 'They have a plan' when it has become abundantly clear they do not. Motivations change from seasons to seasons, mid-season and, sometimes, mid-episode just to get the writers an impact they're looking for, regardless of it making a lick of sense or not. Luckily real-world shows like The Wire don't get away with such cheats and they are better shows for it.

And, actually, while I'm on 'writing for impact', I'd be tempted to consider The Shield for that list because it can have more twists and turns in 15 minutes than most shows have in a season (or The Wire has in three - it's a great show but soooo slooooow) and it usually pulls those twists off with style. Smart show? Not sure. I think it's certainly smart writing.

And maybe the first half of Oz needs a mention for similar reasons. I have never seen so many characters juggled so well, so many stories carried out brilliantly in seasons of eight episodes and, maybe the thing that would qualify it for the list, characters represented so rounded, offering us ways to identify with the most disgusting of characters and do so in a seemingly non-judgemental way.

But then, I'm not sure what the criteria is for a smart show. I thought all nerds loved Star Trek and the X-Files and yet no sign of them on the list.

Anonymous said...

"What shows do you (think) are the dumbest of all-time?"

"What is 'The Dukes of Hazzard,' Alex?"

Anonymous said...

Anything that was written for the WB network has to qualify. There have been so many trashy shows......and none of them come to mind because I ignored them....and/or I was so repulsed by the b.s. stereo type characters that I couldn't watch the shows. If it's got a Wayans brother in the show......your in trouble if it's not In Living Color. The final few years of Happy Days were also really sad and pathetic, but I know that there are worse shows.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons that showcases all the imaginary Simpsons spinoffs, and one of them is about Chief Wiggum going to New Orleans?

"They're gradually getting away, Chief!"? Skinny Boy? The houseboat?

Well. The creators of K-Ville clearly looked to Chief Wiggum, PI for inspiration and plot development.

mark.r said...

For dumbest, I gotta go with "Deal or No Deal."

Anonymous said...

Lost is a very concentrated show and is always pulling in a direction. Of course each season has a different theme - it's a broad mythology.
There are always very important details in each episode, and those that don't bother to catch them - or don't know that they should be looking for them or even remembering them - fail to 'catch on' to the show.

Right now, Lost is at a point where those that follow the story and remember what happenedpreviously in the series will get the most enjoyment out of the show. Meanwhile, people that sit back and expect an hour of someone telling them what the island is week after week will be, well, dissappointed. Reveals in Lost are subtle and plentiful. If someone doesn't know what Dharma is by now, it's not the show's fault.

I find no need to bash on a story that doesn't insult it's viewerbase's attention span.
I understand why people think that Lost makes no sense and that the writers have no idea what is going on. However, all that means is that Lost isn't your kind of show. Stick to something lighter that keeps it's interesting characters and plot intact, like Battlestar Galactica - another great show.
Lost, however, is more deep in regards to it's mythology, it's much broader, has quite unique characters, and the mystery reveals are very subtle and can be hard to catch.

I actually disliked the show the first time I saw season 2. I had no idea what was going on - go figure. "This makes no sense", "That's contrived", and "What the heck is going on?" were the 3 most common things I used to say to the screen.

But I wouldn't let Lost and other shows of it's caliber on that list for the same reason I don't care if Joe Satriani never wins a Grammy -- they don't need it! *spit*

Pseudonym said...

The dumbest shows of all time? Damn, that's hard. There are a lot of British reality shows to choose from.

Anonymous said...

Bad about Jerry Springer, Alf, Bosom Buddies, Jerry Springer, Cop Rock, Teletubbies, Supertrain, Jerry Springer, Manimal, Mr. Ed, The PTL Club, Jerry Springer, Joanie Loves Chachi, Me and the Chimp, and of course Jerry Springer.

I never understood Test Patterns -- always way too long and the story goes nowhere.



Bitter Animator said...

Emily, show those test patterns to a Lost audience and they'll make up the story themselves.

Actually there are probably websites already theorising what they might possibly mean.

blogward said...

What, no Twin Peaks or John from Cincinnatti?

Bill said...

The dumb ones have to mostly be game shows. They're often entertaining, but is there anything more mindless than watching someone play Plinko?

MrCarlson said...

Ok, Bad Shows

"She's the Sheriff"- Suzanne summers as a sheriff, whom takes over after the death of her husband. This turkey lasted 2 seasons.

Cop Rock- Steven Bochco's "Hill Street Blues" On the happy pill. 13 episodes worth of it.

Mann and Machine- Dick Wolf's take on a story about a cop who teams up with a robot.

LouOCNY said...

A few words about Jeopardy -

A couple of years ago, I had a chance to take the contestant examination in New York City. A very interesting experience on several levels! It goes like this:

When you show up at the hotel where the auditions are taking place, you are ushered into a small room with the other people who are waiting. If you have showed up a little early, you sit there and chat with the other people for a good 25 minutes/ half hour. Every so often, one of the staff pokes their head in, just to say, ''ll be a few minutes, we are still setting up!', or other such thing - more on that later! It is very interesting comparing notes with fellow Jeopardy freaks, talking about how long you have watched the show (when I was a wee lad in the 60's, I would watch the original Art Fleming version with my nana!), audition veterns giving tips, etc.

Finally, you are brought into the main conference room for the testing. There is a big video screen at the hed of the room, a guy with a laptop, and various equipment. The contestant staff introduce themselves, they explin the procedure, and they show you a video with the 'Clue Crew' to settle you down, and then they pass out the test sheets - plain piece of paper numbered 1-50 with a line next to each number.

The test is basically Jeopardy - a clue appears just s in the show, and Johnny Gilbert (NOT Alex - guess he wanted too much!)reaads off the clue. You scribble down your answer (not in the form of a question, by the way!)as fst as you can, as there is only about 30 seconds between clues! You actually can go back and change answers if you can - which I did a couple of times!

After you are done, they collect the papers for grading. After what seems like an abnormally quick time, they come back and start announcing the people who have passed the test! It is such a thrill to hear your name called! They send the rest of the people out of the room with a Jeopardy pen, and then its just the nine people who passed - out of a room of 50!

After filling out a pretty large amount of paperwork, they take a Polaroid of your face, and then proceed to the mock game.

Three at a time, we would go up to in front of the screen, and get handed GENUINE JEOPARDY SIGNALING BUTTONS! This is where you find out how it actually works - in the studio, surrounding the game board, is a white border light. When Alex is finished reading the clue, that light goes on, which indicates the buttons are released to activate. You then play part of a mock game, actually playing the game like you would on the show. I got a bit flustered for about a minute, but then found the rhythm, and starting answering - felt great! The then stop play (just s I was getting hot!), and do the interview part, asking you, besides the obvious stuff, things like what would you do with the money, etc. I am very proud that I had both of the main coordinators figuratively on the floor laughing! after you are done, they remind you that you are on the list for a year, and they generally give you about a month's notice before your taping, so you can make all your arrangements - you have to pay your way out there...BUT...if you win, and have to come back, THEN they pay your way.

My only question about the whole process is : how do they mark those papers so fast? I would bet serious money that somehow they are interviewing you before you even take the test! Just a suspicion!

It was a very interesting experience, and gave real bragging rights for year! 'hey..I'm on the list for Jeopardy!'

Doktor Frank Doe said...

Dumbest? Springer, Steve Wilkos, Maury and "Who wants to marry a millionaire?" -> The ALL TIME worst mess--from every angle--that was ever put on television.

Personally speaking I think The Simpsons and Family Guy actually destroy brain cells as do the 90 minute versions of Deal or No Deal which by the way are a full 33% commercials UP from usual 24.5%. Do these greedy Network fucks think nobody notices? Or is it just ME? If that's the case, then the greedy Network fucks were right, nobody's noticed. And STILL nobody's won the Million.

Anonymous said...

Dumbest: "Married With Children"

estiv said...

I have to disagree with at least two of the nominees I see here: Teletubbies and Married with Children. Teletubbies was the first TV show that was actually designed for one and two year old children--of course it seems simple. And MWC had dumb characters but was often very well crafted. A really stupid show is, like My Mother the Car, one that is obviously meant to be at the usual level, but is just too, well, stupid to work. Sort of like Dan Quayle. Hey, there's my nominee! The reality show known as the vice-presidency of Dan Quayle.

Anonymous said...

"Manimal" and "Viva Laughlin" would be on my list.

bcelaya said...

"The Monkees" really was a pretty dumb show, I'm reluctant to admit. Smelling success they thought they could copy the "silly" business from the Beatles movies and make a series out of it. Unfortunately, being "silly" isn't as easy as it seems

Christina said...

Gilligan's Island. I can't believe I watched every episode as a kid.

Married With Children was the dumbest long-running show I ever watched.

Anonymous said...

"Bakersfield PD"


"Mama's Family"

"Mayberry RFD"

"BJ and The Bear"

The new "Bionic Woman"

and my pick for "Too smart for it's own good" - "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" Who knew comedy was such an angst filled, serious business?

Anonymous said...

Well, let's see...

How about a quitting a top-rated ensemble show to be the headliner in a contrived stereotyped sitcom.

McLean Stevenson, welcome to "Hello Larry".

Anonymous said...

The man who wrote this sentence:

"you had to pay attention to stay up with it. The repartee was fast and furious and you needed a fairly high level intelligence to keep up with it." the top 2%? If that's true, I need my own club and THAT GUY's not getting in.

And a note for the writer: The more you use a smart word like "repartee," the dumber you sound. It's called The Asshat Paradox.

Mary Stella said...

The Monkees would never make the list of dumbest shows of all time. Too many of us were pre-teen or teenage girls and totally in love with one or all four of the Monkees.

I'll nominate Riptide, Manimal, and Man from Atlantis.

Ken, since two of your shows are on the smart list, do you and the other writers get automatic membership in Mensa? Is there a membership card or cool decoder ring?

Do Mensa members comprise an attractive demographic of viewers with lots of disposable income? If not, would network execs now want you to adjust the writing to appeal to less brilliant viewers?

Dimension Skipper said...

Well, just as any list of intelligent shows is subjective, a list of dumb ones is also. Plus there's just so much to choose from!

First, as for the intelligent list, I would disagree with a few of Mr. Werdell's choices since I never found CSI, West Wing, or Mad About You to be watchable. CSI loses points for redundancy because I often see it listed as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Either use the acronym or the full phrase, but not both.

I'm likely in the minority, but I've never liked the fast pacing of Aaron Sorkin shows. It never rang true for me that real conversations are anything resembling those on the shows and people aren't always walking in packs down hallways.

And Mad About You I just found irritating for some reason. It always seemed more of a show about nothing than Seinfeld to me.

And BTW to me Seinfeld is another way overrated show and not one I would have anywhere near a "most intelligent shows" list. A few exceptional episodes here and there reached lofty status, but overall, not a great show.

Those are just my opinions. Others may, and probably will disagree. As I say, it's all subject to personal tastes and preferences. No right or wrong.

As for stupid shows, I think you have to take into account target audiences and time slots. Game shows? Often stupid and set up to make folks look like idiots. But that's part of the fun. That being said, I can't comprehend how watching someone call out briefcase numbers (and seemingly giving it deep thought---as if it matters) is in any way entertaining.

Jeopardy is somewhat intelligent, but there's luck involved in getting categories suited to your own specialized knowledge. I just wish they'd do away with the reverse answer/question gimmick. They're just giving a bit of trivia as a clue and you have to tell what it's in reference to. I don't get having to say "Who is..." or "what was...."

I was thinking Manimal the whole time I'm reading the comments and then the last one I read mentions it!

But my own personal fave for worst show ever (either for sutpidity or sheer unwatchableness)... FEAR FACTOR. How that show stayed on as long as it did, I'll never understand. Not the least bit entertaining to me. Nor did it provide any human emotional drama. Hey, if you're stupid enough to crawl in a box full of tarantulas and snakes or eat horse rectum, that's fine, but I don't have to watch or care what happens to you.

Dimension Skipper said...

I guess using a word like "sutpidity" only highlights my own sutpidity!


On the other hand I kind of like it for being representative of the concept.

Emily Blake said...

Anything that was written for the WB network has to qualify.

WHOA. Hold on there, dude. Buffy and Angel were written for the WB, and we do not say bad things about Buffy and Angel.

Also, these people may call themselves the smartest in America but they apparently haven't mastered apostrophes.

Dimension Skipper said...

Have to agree about Buffy and Angel.

Also, it's my understanding (based on having found the list here) that it is the opinion solely of Mr. Werdell, not MENSA members in general. I suspect that such a MENSA-wide derived list would look vastly different, though of course M*A*S*H and Frasier would remain. ;-)

I don't even know that the individual comments for each show were actually written by Mr. Werdell either. They could have been spoken to an interviewer and transcribed, so any punctuation errors might not be Mr. Werdell's direct responsibility. Could be, but not necessarily so.

Besides, there's nothing which says great (measured) intelligence correlates to perfect spelling, punctuation, and grammar skills.

Norrin2 said...

"Hogan's Heroes" has to be the dumbest show ever -- the wacky adventures of P.O.W.s in a Nazi concentration camp? I mean, come on, my intelligence is pretty thick-skinned but even it is insulted by this garbage.

Jim said...

Dimension Skipper: Having to answer "What is..." is the entire raison d'etre for "Jeopardy!". When it was created, the late-'50s quiz show scandals were still fresh in the minds of people working in TV. Since what had happened there was basically that the producers were secretly giving some contestants the questions and answers, Merv Griffin and his then-wife had the idea to be up-front about the fact that they were giving contestants the answers...just not the questions.

The fact that I used raison d'etre in a blog comment in which I discuss the history of a game show is probably a good indication that I'm eligible for MENSA...but the fact that their list of the all-time smartest shows on TV didn't include "The Simpsons" means I'm not going to join. (Maybe they're bitter about the episode in which Springfield's MENSA members took over the town and failed at turning it into the utopia they'd envisioned.)

Bitter Animator said...

I couldn't see Married With Children qualifying for most stupid show. Sure, it had stupid characters, but as a portrait of men, I found to pretty insightful, all the more amazing when you consider so many of the people involved at the beginning were women. They were clearly laughing at us while giving us enough to relate to so we'd enjoy the punishment.

But, in my mind, it was more real than most sitcoms of its time.

I imagine a list of most stupid shows would be filled full of reality television. Sure, America's Next Top Model is genius, but there are others. I just had the misfortune of catching some of Snoop Dogg's Father Hood. Seems Snoop's life isn't interesting enough so they had to throw in some pretty embarassing contrived sequences of him being 'Da Boss' and getting some army dude to bring chicken wings to Germany. It was painful and I have suffered minor brain damage as a result.

But I'll also submit any wife/spouse swap show, Cops or any reality show about catching drunk people or breaking up domestics.

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember Pat Sajak's talk show?

Anonymous said...

No versions of Star Trek? No Twilight Zone? Are you sure these were Mensa members???

The dumbest sitcom of all time, now what was the show with the duffous father, the wise-cracking mother and the three kids; one slut, one nerdy brain and one adorable little one of either sex (optional character)? Oh yeah... all of them

Beth Ciotta said...

After reading this varied list of nominated 'dumb' shows (some I liked, some I didn't), I'm thinking it's all subjective. ;)

Congrats on making the 'smart' list, Ken. Twice!

Tim W. said...

Silly people. He's was being ironic. Smart people don't actually watch television.

Anonymous said...

Emily Litella said… I never understood Test Patterns … the story goes nowhere.
---I liked the original Technical Difficulties. The sequels are almost never as good. But Carlo thank you for the Lost. explication. Really. Makes sense. We’re latecomers and I notice they now have cheat sheet popups at the bottom of the screen when there’s something arcane you need to know. This is what happens when Bloomberg gets into primetime drama.

Dimension Skipper said...
I can't comprehend … watching someone call out briefcase numbers giving it deep thought---as if it matters.
---Once worked in a building that also housed the state revenue department. Riding the elevator you’d hear conversations like the following about the state lottery, “I like to play birthdays, they seem to work really well for me.” These were the people auditing our taxes.

Bill said... The dumb ones have to mostly be game shows.
---I’d go with the game/reality combo platter. In the 50s and 60s Queen for a Day hosted by Jack Bailey. (Alternate working title “You may be down on you’re luck, but at least you’re not as unfortunate at these poor slobs?”
Three women would have to tell sob stories about how they hit rock bottom. With an “applause meter," the audience would then vote for the most pathetic, who would be crowned Queen for a Day – complete with crown and red robe---to "Pomp and Circumstance." No word as to whether she was allowed to wear these all the way back to the trailer park, but the winner also received “valuable prizes” (often rectifying the source of the misery). Sort of “Extreme Home Makeover” meets "They Shoot Horses Don't They."

The worst thing in the world had to be getting runner up on QD; you were nearly as miserable but got none of the prizes: “Oh I’m sorry, you came sooo close. Having been crippled in the bus accident you only needed a wheelchair, but contenstant #1, being an amputee, needed the prosthetic limb – which she will be getting, along with this…washer/dryer !

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ken, for those who think they've just about restored their self-esteme and are feeling a little too cocky about having been accepted to Mensa, there's another organization, Intertel, that only accepts the top 1%. HQ in Tulsa. Yes, Tulsa.

Anonymous said...

OK, first of all, I find it hilarious that the Mensa guy misuses "it's" in #7.

I'd also nominate HOMICIDE for a smart show, as well as MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (700+ jokes per show, with VERY wide-ranging references). I'd say CHEERS deserves at least an honorable mention for the John Donne joke in the pilot ("That's Donne." "I certainly hope so.")

Dumbest show? BENNY HILL.

Nat G said...

Stoopid shows:

Galactica 1980: AfterBattlestar
Fastlane: Because Miami Vice really needed to be sexed up and dumbed down
Baby Bob: I mean, what were they going to for season five? "Ohmigosh, a talking six year old!"
Medical Investigation: a medicine show built around the NIH doing a job that is actually the job of the CDC. Great research, guys!

And then there's that medical show, where the doctors were somehow serving for a decade in a war that lasted three years... yeah, yeah, but it was otherwise good.

Anonymous said...

Worst Ever:

"Madame's Place"
"Into the Night with Rick Dees"
"Small Wonder"

Bitter Animator said...

Nat, the MASH time discrepancy could be a result of the Tommy Westphall Universe Theory. Has Mr.L ever given us his take on that one? It includes several of his shows.

Anonymous said...

Another WB show that should have made the smart list was The Gilmore Girls. Fast dialog, incredibly funny.

Any list of the dumbest shows of all time would have to include The Newlywed Games. While many game shows are run-of-the-mill stupid, only a pandering piece of dreck like The Newlywed Game could make you despair for the future of humanity.

Anonymous said...

Who wrote the comments for the MENSA list? It reads like something a junior high student would publish in the school newspaper.

J-Money said...

How has the phrase "Blue Collar Comedy" not been used in referenced to the dumbest shows? Along with any other program that has ever been immortalized with an air freshener or a trailer hitch.

reggy said...

The most famous show is "Evolution of Dance" with 75 million play or views in youtube.

satellite image of my house

Anonymous said...

1 vs. 100 - Some of the dumbest, easiest questions beyond an introductory round or two...

Sajak's Talk Show was underrated, not overrated, re: the extensive bits and written material. (More inventive than the Late Show's "Fun Facts, etc.) The reason the show didn't ultimately make it - Sajak was trying too hard to ape Letterman, in his prime then.

Cap'n Bob said...

I thought All in the Family sucked. Welcome Back, Kotter sucked. Alice sucked. Let's Make a Deal sucked. Maury, Jerry, Rosie, Montel, and Baba Wawa suck. All televangelists suck. All the shows other people said sucked suck (except for the misbegotten soul who criticised Seinfeld). Hey, from what I hear there is no gravity--the Earth sucks.

Jenna Jamison sucks, too, but she's supposed to.

Unknown said...

Think what you may about Paul Reubens, but Peewee's Playhouse was an exceedingly bright show.

How the Gong Show escaped mention for stupidity, I'll never know. But I did love it!

My nom is Heroes. If anything and everything can be undone (or not), the entirety of the show is literally pointless.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, of course, that there are WAAAY too many stupid shows to choose from. How about the ones that are what I call aggressively stupid; it's almost like the people behind them are trying to be insulting.

Jerry Springer
Dukes of Hazzard
Married With Children
King of Queens
Everybody Loves Raymond

Canzler Tree Services said...

Really dating myself here, but does anybody else remember The Hathaways from nineteen-hundred-and-sixty-one?

The imdb outline pretty much sums it up: "Suburban couple with three chimps as 'children'".

And Jack Weston as "Dad". Brrrr.

Actually, has there ever been a decent comedy made featuring any member of the great ape family? It's like, "Who the hell needs jokes? We got a monkey in it!"

Joey H said...

I guess it's not technically a comedy but J. Fred Muggs did pretty well on the Today Show (until he got mean).

ajm said...

A few comments:

Married... With Children was a necessary inversion of The Cosby Show formula. (RIP, Ron Leavitt)

I thought Benny Hill was the greatest TV show ever when I was twelve. Wikipedia claims that the very elderly Charlie Chaplin was also a fan.

And The Monkees was pretty clever for a 1960s sitcom, with great Brill Building-era tunes. I understand both Lennon and McCartney were fans.

Hee Haw had very good regular and guest star musicians. But the comic sketches sucked.

Stupidest show ever: The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

The stupidest recent show (last 10-15 years) was Pauly Shore's sitcom.

Unknown said...

1. Hee Haw
2. Petty Coat Junction
3. My mother the Car
4. Jackass
5. TRL
6. Air Wolf
7. the one that was like Knight Rider but with a motor cycle
8. Tie: Celebrity__________
9. The Rush Limbaugh show
10. AfterMASH

sorry Ken I couldn't resist

Anonymous said...

The Magic Show - Magic Johnson talk show where the basketball star attempts to think and speak, simultaneously

TCinLA said...

Wow, under my rule of "do not reinvent the wheel," I am left with nothing to add to the Really Stupidest list, after all these great, discerning additions. I salute people who managed to last through at least one episode of many of these to find out how bad they were.

Bitter Animator said...

"the one that was like Knight Rider but with a motor cycle"

That would be Streethawk. You should also add the Hulk Hogan boat version.

Anonymous said...

MENSA is the epitome of overrated, and dubious groups at that. And yeah, that logo isn't good enough for a basic University Design class.

Just look at what the list proves: a bunch of cliches. The "most intelligent" television shows are based on nothing more than considering a set of what is advertised and promoted as "intelligent" tv, as if people all speak "intelligently" in a certain standardized format (witty repartee etc..) is more intelligent than a complex script etc..

It just returns the silly cliches of professors not getting humor or even bothering for "low" culture.

Sorry, but more than a few of the Robert Smigel, or Adult Swim cartoons like Venture Bros. blows away those shows listed, in terms of plot, level of characterisation, script, and topical, and daring to put together something other than three-act resolutions with happy endings. And those are "cartoons". So if MENSA were really "hip" enough to discuss television, they would have thought about the changed formats over the last seven years at least, and factored it in. This is just people hoping a Noel Cowardesque Frasier or Hawkeye still exists, rather than seeing the changed contemporary world for what it is.

I suggest they go back to their tests where they seem to succeed the best.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, "Mensa" is Latin for "table," which should explain the logo.

Why they named their high-I.Q. society after furniture is anybody's guess.

I remember when I was on staff at "Jeopardy!" and whenever a contestant admitted being a member of Mensa they would unfailingly crash and burn, sometimes not even making it to the Final. It got funny after a while.


Anonymous said...

No list of smart comedies is complete without The Dick Van Dyke Show, still one of the best and brightest of them all.

And most episodes of The Odd Couple (live-audience seasons) had some spectacular one-liners in them.

Doug Walsh said...

How can a list of the smartest TV shows not include Mr. Wizard's World?

I saw him power a radio with a potato! Genius, I tell you! I owe everything I know about static electricity and hydraulic jacks to that man!

As for the dumbest show, I got to give it to The View.

Game. Set. Match.

Cully Hamner said...

"7. All in the Family – The show dealt with social issues before it’s (sic) time and was on the forefront of trying to show people’s feelings, beliefs and the complexities of personality, in both a serious and comedic way."

This is the CHAIRMAN of Mensa?! Shouldn't he know the difference between the contraction of "it is" and the possessive pronoun "its?" His every opinion is now invalidated.

Anonymous said...

I am not MENSA material. Two of my favorite shows are Deadwood and Curb.

Make me a supermodel, make me an interior decorator, make me watch another BRAVO show rank somewhere in the dumbest pile.

Mensa people are probably too smart to pay for HBO. They are paying their Mensa dues.

Anonymous said...

For the first 3 years or so, Married... with Children was a very well-written show. Yes, it did become extremely stupid by the end of its run.

I don't know how Twin Peaks could be left off of this list. And I'll second The Odd Couple.

The dumbest show I've ever seen is Dusty's Trail, Sherwood Schwartz's syndicated do-over of Gilligan's Island.

Anonymous said...

Have Gun, Will Travel would be on the smartest list if anyone under 50 remembered it (or would check out the DVDs). Also surprised South Park hasn't rated a mention yet.

Dumbest: I tried to watch Smallville. Gave it a couple of years, actually. Even wrote a spec for it with my writing partner. He still watches every week and complains about it. I gave up long ago. And Grey's Anatomy only works as unintentional comedy now.

Ricky said...

Home Improvement always bugged me. It was a successful show, but I always felt it was too formulaic, and I had a hard time watching it.

Anonymous said...

smart shows are a matter of taste. i won't give anybody crap over what they like in a smart show.

dumb shows are bone deep.


after that the queue starts.

Anonymous said...


Also, I'm surprised to see there are no mensa members commenting that they're mensa members, as it's the case every time mensa comes up in an internet discussion.

Anonymous said...

Dumbest TV in recent memory:
That 5 hour mini-series.
Roger Clemens answers questions from Congressman Waxman.
Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Power put to wise use.

Anonymous said...

Dumbest show ever? AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS. I enjoy eatching dudes get whacked in the nuts as much as the next guy, but a solid hour of it is a bit much.

Rob said...

How about the smartest dumb show (or smartest dumb show):

CSI: Miami -- That show is the most watchable piece of excrement ever lensed, especially in HD.

A classmate of mine, Andrew Kreisberg, used to drool over Mad About You and now writes for Boston Legal. He must have been smarter than I gave him credit for.

ravaj said...

"Actually, has there ever been a decent comedy made featuring any member of the great ape family? It's like, "Who the hell needs jokes? We got a monkey in it!""

maybe not a series, but my favourite episode of sgt. bilko involved a monkey being accidentally inducted into the army!

also, is there a difference between stupid and pathetic, i.e., ridiculous premise vs. what people will say and do just to be on tv?

Michael Jones said...

I'm surprised that "Numbers" hasn't been mentioned as an intelligent show by anyone. I never found "Mad about You" amusing (except for Stephen Wright).
There's so much crap mentioned, but I'll put in a vote for American Idol as dumb. Only the blogs about it are intelligent!

Anonymous said...

are smarts shows clever or are they shows that surprise u and make u think?...

i am utterly SHOCKED that i'm the first to mention "the simple life" as bad... i guess you think its hot!

as far as good... i think deadwood was a show that engaged my brain a lot... as well as dexter... battlestar really is tapering off... which is such a pity... but really i cant think of any shows that mess with your head enough...

howie said...

Olbermann took a shot at the list last night because of the inclusion of "Mad About You".

I don't know if I would have put it in the top ten, but I would have ranked it pretty high. I tend to enjoy the "talky" programs.

It's a show that dropped off quite a bit the last couple of years of its run, but was still fairly enjoyable even then.

My problem with CSI is that it's such a formula show; I'm not convince that throwing out a bunch of scientific phrases makes the show "smart".

Tom Beck said...

The Simpsons had a lot of stupid TV parodies: Knight Boat, Admiral Baby, Police Cops.

30 Rock is one of the smartest shows ever, and Sports Night was also pretty smart. QED (a very short-lived program) was about a very smart guy, and Lovejoy (British import) was also about some very sharp people. Banacek, too. (Dare I mention Columbo?)

As for the late Theodore Sturgeon once pointed out, 90% of everything is crap. Far too many to mention.

Barking Up Trees said...

c'mon, ken, don't rag on boston legal... who knew bill shatner could make such a comedic comeback; james spader is awesome... ?
meanwhile mash got a little tired and maudlin at the end; although u did call it w/"curiosity k.o.'ed the feline"; but i'd add it got wayyy too cute w/the byplay: "oh surly surgeon", etc...
and *frasier* really jumped the shark with frasier talking to god from niles' hospital room...
p.s., tough to come up w/10 shows u don't watch anyhow...

Barking Up Trees said...

p.s., real men can't abide helen hunt...

Anonymous said...

Married... with Children was both one of the smartest TV shows of all time (first five years) and one of the dumbest (last five years). Ditto for M*A*S*H, and what's interesting is that both shows ran 11 seasons and each had a transitional 6th season that straddled the gulf between their former brilliance and the mediocrity that was to dog them to the TV graveyard.

Ron Leavitt and Michale Moye

Anonymous said...

Married... with Children was both one of the smartest TV shows of all time (first five years) and one of the dumbest (last five years). Ditto for M*A*S*H, and what's interesting is that both shows ran 11 seasons and each had a transitional 6th season that straddled the gulf between their former brilliance and the mediocrity that was to dog them to the TV graveyard.

Ron Leavitt and Michale Moye

Rob said...

I once had a professor who said that the best shows were the ones that were so well written that if you turned it off in the middle of the show, you'd be dying to pick it up the next day.

He was a cool guy. Showed us the Seinfeld "Master of My Domain" episode the day after it aired because he thought it was so well done. (At the time, most of us didn't have cable and our antenna reception was so poor in Boston, it was tough to see much of anything)

Smartest shows:

House in its first season because it showed the beauty and tragedy of being the smartest guy in the room.

Frasier, because even at its goofiest and most sentimental, it always felt smart. It was probably one of the best cast sitcoms ever, as well.

M*A*S*H, for its Groucho Marx wordplay and its ability to provide drama and humor in the mix and one of the few shows funny enough to make you ignore the laugh track. The last season or two was hit or miss, though.

The Wire -- This show requires that you watch and pay attention, and it assumes the audience is smart enough to catch on without the type of exposition that makes most early episodes of a series unwatchable in retrospect.

Homicide -- A little more conventional than The Wire, but far better than the vastly overrated NYPD Blue because it captured a truer feel of the city and because it realized that cops have a sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

How 'bout we keep it challenging: just shows on today and in the order I thought of them:

1. Smallville - After seven seasons of "Clark saves a supporting character in the nick of time," can you argue?
2. Heroes - If lotto were this predictable, I'd be a billionaire.
3. Don't Forget the Lyrics - There's a reason I forgot.
4. Deal Or No Deal - Just open the damn case! I don't care why "21" is special to you.
5. Editorials disguised as news - You just thought of at least three examples as you were reading this.
6. CSI (all of them) - How does it take them 40 minutes of carpet fiber exposition to figure out it was the sinister guy from Act 1?
7. Dirt - love FX for out of the box shows, but the character with the hat alone is enough for this list.
8. Grey's Anatomy - After all these seasons it's pretty much down to: "who hasn't slept together yet?"
9./10. Chuck/Reaper - For being the same show.

Honorable mentions: Friday Night Lights (for only the football inaccuracies), Prison Break, and Moment of Truth, aka turbo on the handbasket to hell.

Anonymous said...

One thing that cracks me up about Smallville is that EVERY scene between Lex and his father is the exact same scene. I think they just come in one day at the start of the season with several changes of clothes and shoot them all at once.

Brian said...

I don't know if you can count shows that seem to know about their "stupidity", so in many regards, I can discount "Married with Children". Morally questionable? Yes. Filled with low humor? Yes. While there is NO comparison between the two, this can be said of many of Shakespeare's comedies, but it can't be regarded as stupid. This was a show that had a George Wyner playing a producer who said something to the effect, "Mr. Bundy, after all the years of producing shows, we've learned absolutely nothing. In fact, you may learn more watching the shows than we do makin' 'em!"

As far as dumb shows are concerned, (he said, affecting his best Eustace Tilley pose)

(Monocle On)
1. I Married Dora - For those of you who were fond of "It's Garry Shandling's Show", there was an episode that had him marry his maid to help her stay in the country. Wisely, they also made fun of this idea, since it was and is a big cliche'. "I Married Dora" was indeed a show about a man marrying his maid, however, like "Green Card", they fell in love. OK, so this is a cliche'. "Green Card" was a good movie, but the characters in IMD had bad lines which were spoken verrrry slowly, almost as if everyone had to learn their lines phonetically. One of the only shows that I know of that broke character to say that they had been cancelled.

2. The Neighbors - This was a game show, hosted by Regis Philbin. It pitted three housewives against each other. They would answer questions about their neighbor's activities. One category was "Who Spread the Rumor" and one of the questions was "If ____ talked in her sleep, the name she would say would be 'Raoul, Raoul". Two of the women would then tell a story and if you bluffed successfully, you'd get points. At the age of 11, I wrote the network about this show. Not long afterwards, TV Guide published the article entitled, "Malice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and not long after that, the show left the air.

You're welcome.

3. Mr. Smith - I must confess, I never watched this show, but as other posts have mentioned, TV is rarely improved by monkeys. "Lancelot Link" is an exception. However, this show, I couldn't bring myself to watch a show about a cercopithecan political advisor.

4. "What's It All About, World". This was called a "...horror of right-wing imbecility" by Harlan Ellison. The Good Life Network showed it for a time and it was amazingly unfunny. You can look this up on and read what I wrote about it, but the dumbest moment was reached when Dean Jones introduced a medley of songs by saying that he appreciated folk-rock because of it's heavy gospel influence (!) but, we'd like to introduce the younger folks to the songs of Noel Coward. Just as George Carlin said that beer led to heroin, the Byrds would NEVER have been a group without songs like "The Stately Homes of England" embedding themselves in Jim (Roger) McGuinn's consciousness.

5. "Today's FBI" - I liked "Mannix". I even had the great pleasure of meeting Mike Connors, when I was a teller at his bank, but my brother and I would watch this show every week, because we used to count the well-worn phrases that would whistle by, up to and including, "You can't blame a girl for trying".

Special mention goes to:

a. "Baby I'm Back" - Demond Wilson starred as a man who left his wife and kids, because his gambling contacts moved. His wife, played by Denise Nicholas, has him declared dead and remarries a morally upright military man. Wellll, guess who shows up as the family moves into their new home, but the "dead" ex-husband.

Being African-American, I couldn't begin to tell you how egregious this show was to me. A running (like a sore) gag was how stiff and sexless the light-skinned fellow was and the darker fellow was a louse but he had that good lovin' . I wonder if this was the show that made Wilson take the cloth.

b. That's My Mama - Clifton Davis starred as a barber who lived with his Mama (Theresa Merritt). Teddy Wilson, who seemed to be competing with T.K. Carter for the Most Demeaning Role Award, played a wisecracking postman, who was forever trying to promote a song called "Swamp Woman". I wonder if this was the show that made Davis take the cloth.

(Monocle handed to back to butler for polishing. Thank you; that will be all, T. K.)

QUESTION FOR MR. LEVINE: On page four of this post, I mentioned a TV Guide article. Some years ago, there was an article in TV Guide that was a series of memos dictated by Rebecca and other characters of "Cheers". I don't recall seeing a writing credit; did you help write this article? It was very funny.

Слінк Ядранко said...

Good call on The Wire and BSG. Seems lacking in anything from Joss though! And Northern Exposure would have to make my list.

By Ken Levine said...


I don't remember the memos. Sadly, I do remember some of those shows you mentioned.

Unknown said...

The dumbest smart show
or rather the smartest dumb show ever had to be

drumroll please:

Max Headroom

Brian Phillips said...

For those who keep the occasional TV Guide, the article I mentioned is from the MAY 27-JUNE 2, 1989 issue and the article may be titled, "Rebecca Starts a Cheers Free-For-All. See Who Wins"

Anonymous said...

Some of the all-time goofy shows were good - I watched them, but I don' t think they could make it on TV today.
1. Green Acres (Mr. Haney and Arnold the pig)
2. Gomer Pyle (shazam!)
3. My Favorite Martian
4. Lost in Space (Dr. Smith)
5. Get Smart (a classic, so many great characters - Harry Hoo, Heimie, Da Craw, Agent 13, Stocker, Larrabie)