I might be dating myself some, but I have liked smart people on TV and in the movies. I remember Dexter from The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and I really liked John Doe in John Doe. I love to watch anything having to do with a smart hero.

Now, I have never been one for memorizing facts, like John Doe did. I don’t view the knowledge of trivia as a gauge to how smart someone is. IQ tests are biased toward white males from English speaking countries. Many other intelligence tests test test-taking skills or memory not intelligence. To me, an exceptionally intelligent person has a superior ability to solve problems.

That means the top sales person in your office might be the smartest guy there. The same is true for a typical company CEO. These folks spend much of their days solving problems.

A big problem with solving problems is identifying them in the first place. Many people live in a mythical world where problems do not exist, where they are negligible or where they are too big to be surmountable.

Smart people on TV are not really smart. They are just played by good actors. More importantly, smart people on TV are not written by geniuses. Show writers are often smarter than the average person around them, but they seem to carry an assortment of smart people myths around with them and they pass those myths onto their characters.

John Doe once spewed that old wives tale about men think of sex every six seconds. A really smart person would investigate where that figure comes from and question its plausibility until it was proven. I remember watching some game show where they mix up the definition of semi-annual with bi-annual. All it would take to fix the mistake was a dictionary and some time.

I worked with a couple of smart people many many years ago at The Home Depot. Kevin once remarked that the figure given by a Vice President didn’t sound right. We had all heard the comment that each lumber cart was worth an average of $200 in sales and that if we ran out of empty carts on busy days we were losing a bundle in sales.

Kevin was right. The figure was make believe. It was important to get those empty carts back inside, but it wasn’t important enough to make up the figures used to get them inside. I think Kevin is one of the smartest men I know. Today, he is a District Manager for Home Depot. I guess a lot of people there also think he is a smart person. Real smart people question everything. Especially common wisdom.

I have always liked the crime shows which involve an unorthodox investigator. I have probably seen every Quincy show at least ten times and I still like those offbeat investigators. I think that is one reason I like Veronica Mars so much. She’s not normal. She is often in trouble and she makes a lot of mistakes, but in the end, she perseveres and comes out on top.

Bones is another good show, but mostly because I like the male lead. I was a big fan of Buffy and of Angel and David Boreanaz, like Bruce Willis, can really do little wrong. Last episode, doctor whats-her-name, who portrays a very smart, beautiful woman showed us that her writers are more aware of common myths about pesticide exposure than they are aware of the view of scientist who actually study those effects.

That’s one problem with smart people on TV. Actors are much better at non-verbally playing really smart people than writers are at making them seem smart. Maybe TV writers will take a cue from wise people and portray their smart characters as mostly silent.