Top 5: TV Nerds

All this talk about Urkel on Monday got me thinking: He’s arguably one of the most recognizable nerds that TV has ever produced. Jaleel White will always hear “Hey, Urkel!” when he’s walking down the street. That is, of course, if he’s not recognized as the sultry (can men be sultry?) Stefan Urquelle. But, is Urkel one of the best nerds on TV? Maybe. BUT is he one of my favorites? I don’t know. Let’s break it down.

Sarah’s Top 5 TV Nerds*

1) Abed Nadir (played by Danny Pudi on Community)
It’s no surprise that a character from Community gets my number one slot. It is the best show ever, after all. Also, Abed is not only a nerd, but he manages to be cool, lovable and someone that many, many, many viewers can connect with. His dealings with loneliness and isolation because of his differences are something that fans can relate to (just read Dan Harmon’s AMA on Reddit. Abed changes lives, people), and it makes him not only one of TV’s best nerds, but one of TV’s best characters. Period. (And I’ll keep hoping that, maybe one day, Danny Pudi will finally get the Emmy he deserves for playing this role).

2) Topher Brink (played by Fran Kranz on Dollhouse)
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dollhouse, watch it already it’s a short-lived FOX series about a corporation that turned people into blank slates (“Actives”) that could then be implanted with personalities and lent to the highest bidder (for instance, a man pays the Dollhouse once a year to put his dead wife’s personality on an active so he can spend time with “her” on their anniversary). Topher is one of the Dollhouse employees, and he runs the morally questionable tech that makes it all possible. Topher’s levels of intelligence and ego combined with his playful spirit make him an insanely enjoyable nerd to watch in action. But, Topher becomes much more than comic relief as he deals with serious moral dilemmas later in the series. Topher warms and breaks your heart in the way only a truly awesome nerd can, and it has a lot to do with Fran Kranz’s wonderful, wonderful acting. Seriously, though, find and watch Dollhouse. It’s only two seasons, and almost all of the episodes are fantastic.

3) The Geeks – Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber and Bill Haverchuck (played by John Francis Daley, Samm Levine and Martin Star on Freaks and Geeks)
So, yes, they’re technically “geeks” according to the show title, but that’s just because it rhymes with freaks. They’re nerds to the core, and if they aren’t just the best darn group of nerds you’ll ever meet. They play D&D, they obsess over the latest movies and video games, they play with amateur chemistry sets, they dress up for conventions. But, more importantly, they really care about each other. These are nerds with hearts. They have each other’s backs in a fight, they keep Sam’s sister from getting in trouble, they [more detailed SPOILERS would be needed to list anything else]. Freaks and Geeks is another short-lived TV show with fantastic writing and characters (and actors, and directors, and producers) that for some reason didn’t make it back in 2000, but you should watch it. People might be drawn to the show now because it’s created by Judd Apatow and Paul Fieg and stars young Jason Segel, Seth Rogen and James Franco, but they keep watching because of geeks like Sam, Neal and Bill. (Who, by the way, are all grown up now and made a fabulous appearance on Yo Gabba Gabba … a real treat to those young parents who watched Freaks and Geeks 12 years ago.)

4) Ben Wyatt (played by Adam Scott on Parks and Recreation)
I was going to write up a whole thing about the awesomeness of Ben Wyatt: how he answers normal questions with detailed, nerdy answers; how he writes Star Trek fan fiction; how much he loves Leslie. Then I realized that all I really needed to explain why he’s one of TV’s best nerds is this:

5) Phil Myman and Lem Hewitt (played by Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett on Better Off Ted)
And, the fifth and final nerds: Phil and Lem of Better Off Ted. Yes, we’ve got another character set from a show that was cancelled before its prime. I mean, have y’all even heard of Better Off Ted? I feel like it appeared in a silo, and I only watched it very recently on Netflix. I’m not very proud of myself for that, because it’s an absolutely hilarious show, and at the center of that hilarity? Phil and Lem. They’re the lab technicians at Veridian Dynamics, an (evil) corporation that develops all the new things to make your life more convenient (and poisonous, dangerous and environmentally-unfriendly). Jonathan Slavin, Malcolm Barrett and the writers do a wonderful job of giving life to Phil and Lem. To watch Phil and Lem is to know Phil and Lem. They are well-rounded, fleshed-out characters, and you can just feel the long history and strong friendship between them. I believe that one of the reasons Better Off Ted didn’t succeed is because ABC did such a horrible job of promoting Phil and Lem, the show’s funniest, best characters. Don’t believe me? Watch this promo or this one. Oh man, now I’ve gone and unsold the show to you. But, really, if you need a good laugh, watch it on Netflix.

Honorable mention: The Mythbusters – Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (Mythbusters), Liz Lemon (30 Rock), Steve Kenarban (Malcolm in the Middle), Dwight Schrute (The Office), Buster Bluth (Arrested Development), Brick Heck (The Middle), Gale Boetticher (Breaking Bad…oh, did I just stab your heart with that one?), Simon Bellamy (Misfits), Steve Smith (American Dad) and Urkel.
* Note: For some of you, it may seem as if this list is clearly lacking a key character or two of the Whedonverse (I’m talking to you, Chelsea and Paul), but I haven’t seen all the great nerd shows. Please, bear with me. Oh, and the boys of Big Bang Theory were left out intentionally.**

** It just hit me that there are no women in the top five. I thought about including Liz Lemon, but after making a list of all the TV nerds I like, I made the top 5 based on which ones gave me the most “feels.” It’s not a perfect system, but it ended up being all men. I guess we need more female nerd characters!

EDIT: I was alerted on Facebook that I left out a very, very, very awesome and important nerd: Maurice Moss (The IT Crowd). Portrayed by so-talented-it-makes-you-hurt-with-awe Richard Ayoade, he is the British nerd to end all British nerds. I apologize for the huge oversight. 

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2 Comments on “Top 5: TV Nerds”

  1. brittany r. says:

    Brick should’ve been top 5 =( (but i like this post nonetheless)


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