Monday, February 25, 2008

Organization For Geniuses Ranks Mad About You 9th Smartest TV Show Of All-Time

Another bit of fun news from last week: Mensa Picks The Top 10 Smartest TV Shows Of All-Time. Here's the list from the group that's supposedly the world's most brilliant, along with Mensa Chairman Jim Werdell's comments:

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 its 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.

Either the Mensa folks don't watch a lot of tv or Mensa isn't all it's cracked up to be. Some of these shows I can see- Frasier was smart, All In the Family was smart, and I'll take their word on M.A.S.H. But Boston Legal? CSI? Mad About You? Seriously, Mad About You? It wasn't very funny, it wasn't very witty and as an observation on human nature it pales in comparison to Seinfeld, which happens not to be on the list- Nor is the Simpsons, despite at least 10 good years of very intelligent programming. And no South Park and no Arrested Development.

Also missing from the list? One of my personal all-time favorites, The Prisoner, whose finale ranks as one of the all-time thought-provoking existential pieces ever to be on tv. I'm also surprised to not to see any sci-fi on the list, no Star Trek of any incarnation, no Battlestar Galactica, and no X-Files.

If this was a halfway decent list, I'd be happy House had made it, but I'm not sure what to think as it's grouped with dramas like CSI and The West Wing. Maybe House belongs on the list, but not so much for the medical mysteries as for the incredably deep philosophical subtext. But what about the shows that have thrived on HBO? The Sopranos, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, and one of my forgotten favorites, Carnivale.

I'm more then reminded of the Simpsons episode They Saved Lisa's Brain, when the Springfield chapter of Mensa takes charge of the town, yet can't seem to run it successfully.


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