With the premiere of the riotously funny Silicon Valley, SideReel's editorial team got to thinking about our favorite TV nerds. Being of that disposition ourselves, we had a lot of very well-informed opinions, backed up by rigorously researched and tested evidence. But in the end, we had to pick just eight—and so we did. Think we missed yours? Sound off in the comments.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey S1E4: A Sky Full of Ghosts
Like everyone else in the world, the editorial team members are big fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson. Following in his mentor Carl Sagan's footsteps, he's bringing complex scientific concepts to the masses through storytelling, analogies, and mind-blowing graphics. The show isn't without controversy, but it's fascinating, and when Tyson makes physics personal, we can't help but want to be swept along for the ride.
The Big Bang Theory S2E13: The Friendship Algorithm
The best part of The Big Bang Theory has always been Jim Parsons' portrayal of Sheldon Cooper: the brilliant, jittery, physicist who's also one of the most off-kilter straight men ever to be seen on TV. Throughout its long run, we've gotten plenty of great Sheldon episodes, but this one from midway through season two is the first time it really all coalesces. As the episode title implies, he creates an scientific process for making friends—with predictably zany results.
We'd be remiss if we didn't include the Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick on this list. He'd already done more for today's nerdkind than almost anyone else, and then Comedy Central went and gave him his own nightly game show. As host, he gets comedians to riff on everything from the day's internet headlines, to emojii, Star Wars fan art, and Craigslist cosplay personals. It's on late (it starts, as Hardwick always announces, at 11:59 and 59 seconds), but it's making waves among TODAY'S YOUTH (and those of us on the cusp of olds-hood), and it's a good way to get in your daily recommended dose of belly laughs.
Breaking Bad S1E1: Pilot
Over the course of Breaking Bad's run, Walter White came to stand for many, many things, but rewatching the pilot is a good reminder that before he was The One Who Knocks, Heisenberg, meth kingpin of the American Southwest, and the best anti-hero, um, EVER, he was just a high school chemistry teacher; a nerd, if you will. He made science cool for Jesse Pinkman (for a little while at least), and he definitely lived the motto safety first when it came to cooking. What a role model!
The X-Files S2E22: F. Emasculata
If ever the divide between geek and nerd was on display, it was in the personas of Mulder and Scully. Mulder was the geek, Scully was the nerd. She had a rigorous scientific background (don't forget, she was a medical doctor!) and always came equipped with a gun and a hefty dose of skepticism—or at least she did before the show went off the deep end. In "F. Emasculata", her training is in full display as she tackles an unstoppable plague sweeping through a prison's population.
The Late Show with David Letterman S21E31: February 27, 2014
We didn't have to pick this particular episode of Letterman, but the inclusion of the "Stupid Human Tricks" segment didn't hurt. A pioneer in the world of late night comedy, Letterman will be sorely missed when he steps down at the end of his current contract (Spring 2015). He brought a curiousity not present prior to his reign that's now a staple of late night shows. From "Will it Float?" to "Know Your Current Events" to the aforementioned "Stupid Human Tricks", there was always a burning desire to know something behind those fashionable spectacles. Whoever takes over the Late Show throne will have to match that.
Firefly S1E9: Ariel
Thousands of gallons of digital ink have been metaphorically spilled discussing the merits and cancelation of this modern classic series, so please don't begrudge us adding a few more words. Simon Tam, like his sister, River, was a prodigy, the Doogie Howser of his time, even. Thankfully, he only used his unmatched scientific skills for good (or at least what passed for good in the ambiguous world of Firefly), and in "Ariel" we get to see the demons with which he wrestles, and just how much he'd have been able to accomplish if he'd been willing to play the game rather than going rogue.
Futurama S5E10: The Farnsworth Parabox
Good news! The last fantastic nerd on our list is Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, citizen of Earth circa the year 3000. He's tenured at Mars University, is a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize, and he's definitely unparalleled at using his abilities to create insane things, like, for instance, a box containing another universe—in which his doppelganger has created a box which contains our universe. It hurts our brains, but that's why Farnsworth is in a league of his own.