Let's face it; nerds get a bad rap. This is especially true on television, where people with brains are often displayed as misfits who are lucky if some big lug with a few extra muscles doesn't pound them into salt. In real life, those with functioning brains and a quick wit find success, but on the small screen, many of these characters are ridiculed as nerds. However, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) has built up quite a fan club, and "The Big Bang Theory" has helped make nerdtastic programming like the following shows popular once again.
"Gilligan's Island". This classic show from the 1960s featured not just one, but two classic nerds. Gilligan (Bob Denver) was the focus of the show. He was the first mate on the ill-fated Minnow, and he was always coming up with new ways to get in The Skipper's (Alan Hale) hair. Gilligan was always well-meaning and only wanted to help the passengers and The Skipper, but he was a ne'er do well who almost always failed at his task and ended up making things worse. The Professor (Russell Johnson) was the show's other nerd. With the Minnow shipwrecked, the other passengers on the boat were counting on the Professor to come up with a way to repair the boat so they could go home again. Despite his oversized brain, he never succeeded.
"The Office". There are a number of candidates to choose from on NBC's hit show, but it would be impossible to top Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Not only does Schrute have the nerd's classic look with the concave upper body, pale skin and annoying glasses, but he also plays the role to the hilt. Schrute knows he's a nerd, so he goes out of his way to play the tough guy, the cool guy and the outdoorsman, and he manages to come up short in all these areas.
"All In The Family". One of the greatest programs in the history of television, this show featured Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker. He was undoubtedly the show's star. As big as Archie was, he needed someone to spar with, and his son-in-law Michael "Meathead" Stivic (Rob Reiner) filled that role. Archie and Meathead battled every week, and even though he barely had a high school education, Archie held his own with the college-educated Meathead-at least in his own mind. Stivic was in college throughout much of the show's run, and Archie would regularly deride him for his inability to make a living. When he finally graduated, Stivic got a job teaching college students, and he clearly lived up to the job's nerdy expectations.
"Happy Days". This show featured one of the coolest characters in the history of television in Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) and one of the biggest nerds in Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams). Potsie, of course, was one of Richie Cunningham's (Ron Howard) best friends. Potsie wanted nothing more than to woo a girl with his charms and have a full-time girlfriend. He did it by crooning, and his singing often brought ridicule.
"Saved By The Bell". This show featured some of the best-looking and hottest teenagers on the planet. The gang included Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), two young studs whom the teenage girls all loved. Despite their exalted status, they don't rebuff supernerd Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond). Screech's awkward tendencies endear him to his buddies and the hot crew of girls, but he can't ever get Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) no matter how hard he tries.
"Family Matters". You can't do a story on nerdtastic television shows and not include the legendary exploits of Nerdfather of Them All, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White). The thick glasses and the flood pants were part of Urkel's signature uniform. His squeaky voice and his annoying laugh further sold his nerd image. Like Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy in "The Nutty Professor" movies, Urkel had a cool alter-ego in Stefan Urquelle who could do all the things that Urkel only dreamed of doing.