Who is the least stupid person on television?

I’m not talking about the character that possesses the sheer raw intellectual brilliance and genius level capabilities. Instead, I’m talking about the character who most manages to avoid the head smackingly stupid, completely irrational and utterly boneheaded behaviors that only end up making their life worse.

This means:

[li]When overhearing half of the conversation of a phone call from the other room, instead of assuming that something nefarious is going on and clumsily trying to expose the other party, they make a reasoned set of assumptions about what they do and do not know about the situation and then set out to figure out the best move. This may involve talking to other characters as if they were adults instead of overly sensitive, childish prima donnas.[/li][li] When in moments of danger, instead of rushing in and running around an abandoned warehouse with a loaded gun, they take reasonable precautions to protect their safety and the safety of those around them and utilize existing resources to maximize the chance of the bad guy getting caught.[/li][li] When a blatantly obvious tactic is available to them, instead of blithely ignoring it and putting the entire fate of the world in jeopardy before narrowly saving they day, they calmly and sensibly take the low-drama approach and fix the situation before anyone even knows what’s wrong.[/li][li] When discovering and exploring an alien world/time travel into the future/a more advanced part of your own planet, rather than recklessly behave like an utter boor and needlessly offend others with your social faux pas, you pay attention to the inventions that would have the most practical impact back on your home soil and figure out how you can maximize the amount of learning you can do in your time there.[/li][li] When they have a relationship issue with their significant other, instead of relying on increasingly desperate attempts to fix it and passive aggressive conversations with other friends but not the SO, they establish clear and effective lines of communication, based on trust and work through their issues as best they can.[/li][/ul]

Who is the person most like this on television?

edit: And for those who say that a person like this would take all the interest out of television, it would only take the interest out for lazy writers who rely on stupid behavior as a crutch. A person who is less stupid can be put into equally as compelling situations but ones that require more nuance and more deft interpersonal skills to solve.

Oh, a character? I was coming in to say Rachel Maddow.

I’m pretty sure that she would qualify, in any case.

Mal Reynolds on Firefly.

He learned Rule #1 at an early age: When you’re about to release a bad guy, and he launches into a monologue about how once he’s released he’s going to hunt you down and kill you, think twice about releasing him. Instead, leave him tied up and kick him into your spaceship’s engine.

Rule #2: If a person who tried to kill you once before is suddenly willing to do a fair trade so long as you meet in an abandoned quarry, it’s a trap. Bring a sniper.

Rule $3: If you have to fight Jayne Cobb, a good option is to sucker punch him with a pipe wrench.

Michael Westen has a fair call. Hm. Michael Westen and the rest of the Burn Notice crew vs the crew of the Serenity.

… Even odds. Westen’s got Sam Axe.


How often has Rachel Maddow travelled in time or run into an abandoned warehouse with a gun?

Yeah, Mal was the first person I thought of when I finished reading the OP.

I was going to go with Stephen Fry.

Except Mal’s not-dumb in a lot of ways, but he’s an idiot in lots of other ways. Like, all his angst with Inara would be over if he could just bring himself to say, “I love you”.

So Mal avoids dumb action hero cliches but he walks straight into dumb rom com cliches.

Mal wasn’t even the smartest guy on Firefly. Zoe was smarter than Mal.

Jack Bauer. He basically has to clean up all the dumb shit the other characters do, but he is about on top of his game as one can get, given the ridiculous scenarios he finds himself on.

Some “father knows best”-type parental figure, I would think.

Obviously, the one whose writers read TV Tropes and keep it in mind when they write. “Burn Notice” is a good nominee on those grounds. It’s almost like it’s being narrated by a troper, at time, and Bruce Campbell’s presence always implies smarts on somebody’s part.

I say:
Dr. Cornel West
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Howard Fineman
Eugene Robinson
Chris Matthews
Joe Scarborough


You even quoted the post…

Well if we’re going non-fictional people, which is not what I think the OP had in mind, I nominate Dylan Ratigan. Guy REALLY knows his stuff on the finance and economics end. I remember a recent show where a conservative economist attempted to evade a point by saying it was too complex, Ratigan was right there on them, explaining it briefly and concisely and bringing the economist right back to the point. I can’t think of another commentator, including Rachel Maddow, who could so readily pistol-whip an economist on a technical point.

George Burns. He was always on top of everything that happened.

MacGuyver didn’t do a lot of time-hopping, but he seemed to solve problems in practical, if improvisational and occasionally implausible, ways.

Jack O’Neill, on the other hand, was kind of a dumbass.
Spock had a stupid moment or two along the way. I don’t recall Gilligan’s Island’s Professor ever having one.

Emily Hartley

Cordelia Chase in season 3 of Angel isn’t the smartest ever, but she’s certainly smart for the venue.

Ooops. Fictional, well, I’d have to say the cast characters of Eureka…pretty damn smart town.