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11 of the most inept TV heroes of all time

By / 01.02.11

Inept TV Heroes

webhamster, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/webhamster/2585303237/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Flickr</a>



Let’s face it: television is far from a great breeding ground for intelligence. For every smart, sophisticated and erudite TV character, there are at least a dozen dumb, stupid and drooling buffoons created to annoy them. This is for good reason -– as laughing at fictional imbeciles is much more fun than watching a TV character adeptly maneuvering through life. Of all the stupid TV characters ever to appear on the boob tube, here are the 11 most inept.

Photo credit: webhamster, Flickr

11 Michael Scott

Michael Scott, of NBC’s The Office, is an idiot savant of sorts. As the regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, Michael has proven himself time and again to be incredibly adept at selling paper. Ask him to do any other task, however – whether it be hosting a sexual harassment seminar or corporate outing – and he’ll quickly make things awkwardly uncomfortable for everyone in the office. Some of Michael’s dumbest moments include driving a car into a lake because a GPS told him to “turn now” and almost “faking suicide” by jumping off of the roof onto a bounce house.

10 Homer Simpson

Homer once used a pickaxe to “install” speed holes into his car. He’s also sold his soul to the devil for a donut, used the Stonecutter’s Hallowed Secret Parchment as a napkin and expected a computer to dispense Tab cola when you pressed the “tab” key. Watch any singular episode of The Simpsons, and you will undoubtedly witness Homer doing something incredibly stupid. When it comes to measuring Homer’s IQ, he probably sums it up best when he sings, “I am so smart. I am so smart. S-M-R-T.”

9 Goofy

Disney has been the home to a number of inept characters over the years. Goofy is perhaps the most iconic of them all. What with his giant feet, simpleton stance and trademark “Gawrsh” response, it should come as no surprise that Goofy is incredibly clumsy. Such a fact would be enough deter anybody with half a brain to opt out of such activities as horseback riding, skiing and hunting. Not the case with Goofy – who happily put himself into dangerous situations, ignorantly blind to the possibility that he might get hurt.

8 Mr. Bean

Mr. Bean might be likened to a real-life human version of Disney’s Goofy. He routinely makes trouble for himself and others by attempting to engage in the simplest of tasks. Add in his foolishly childish thought process, and activities such as jumping off a diving board and reading a book in the library quickly spiral out of control. If you were reading a rare book, would it occur to you to trace one of the pictures? And if you got ink on the page, would you try to erase it with an eraser? And when that didn’t work, would you use white out? Such is the ridiculously incompetent thought process of Mr. Bean.

7 Mr. Magoo

As with most characters on this list, Mr. Magoo is grossly unaware of his significant inadequacies. However, while intelligence may be debatable, eyesight is not. Much like an alcoholic, Mr. Magoo refuses to admit he has a problem. As a result of his poor eyesight, Magoo is constantly getting himself into sticky situations – for example, beating up a lion or inadvertently walking along a tightrope. And yet, somehow Mr. Magoo always manages to come out of each scenario unscathed.

6 Shaggy and Scooby Doo

If you’re out to solve mysteries, fear should not be the major driving force behind your actions. Despite this, Shaggy and Scooby Doo continued to tag along with the braver and smarter individuals of Mystery, Inc. for the better part of the last half-century. Throughout the years, the “shrewd” tactics of these two scaredy cats typically involved running away from danger and dressing up in outlandish costumes to avoid being caught by whichever masked villain they were “trying to catch” for the week. Of course, Freddie, Daphne and Velma knew just how ridiculously moronic these two liabilities were, and could easily get the pair to do whatever they wanted – all for the price of one Scooby Snack.

5 Officer Barbrady

How would you feel if the only police officer in your town was an illiterate (“illegitimate,” in his own words) imbecile who could hardly tie his own shoes, let alone fight crime? Such is the case with South Park’s Officer Barbrady. Whether he’s confronting cows, Manbearpig or a man molesting chickens, you can bet that Officer Barbrady will screw it up somehow.

4 Zapp Brannigan

How do you win an intergalactic space war? According to Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan, by sending wave after wave of your own men into battle. Or, by commanding your spaceships to “line up and fly directly at the enemy death cannons, clogging them with wreckage!” He has trouble pronouncing a number of common words, including champagne, bravo and guacamole. He is also painfully unaware of his inabilities to seduce and date women – with a much-bragged-about pity sex encounter from Leela being one of his only actual conquests. However, unlike others on this list, Zapp does show a brief spark of intelligence by consciously conceding that he has a learning disability – “sexlexia.”

3 Maxwell Smart

The genre of spoof doesn’t get much smarter than the classic 1960s television show Get Smart. However, as it turns out, a lot of this intelligence spawns from the sheer stupidity of secret Agent 86 – Maxwell Smart. Billed as a satire of the spy genre, Smart was perpetually mucking up counter-intelligence missions for the secret organization CONTROL. Before ultimately saving the day and taking down KAOS – either by dumb luck or the saving graces of Agent 99 – Smart would inevitably find a reason to utter his famous catchphrase, “Sorry about that.”

2 Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget is an obvious amalgam of Mr. Maxwell Smart and The Pink Panther’s Inpsector Clouseau. And yet, despite having one incredibly strong advantage over these other idiots – a body stuffed to the brim with useful body modifications (spring shoes, helicopter hat, etc.) – Inspector Gadget manages to be just as incompetent. Whether mistaking innocent bystanders for enemies or blowing up Chief Quimby every week with his self-destruct messages, Inspector Gadget was perpetually ignorant to his sheer ineptitude. And when you have a little girl and a dog trailing around after you and solving your cases, you know it’s time to admit you have “special needs.”

1 The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges were pretty much the buffoons that got the whole idea of inept heroes started. For an impressive five decades, these loveable morons would prove to be entirely too inept to accomplish even the simplest task. Whether they needed four minutes and a pair of scissors to remove Curly’s sweater or a wrecking crew to clean up after them following a bungled carpentry job, the stooges always managed to get hurt in the process. Despite their low IQs, The Three Stooges are still widely regarded as one of the most hilarious and endearing comedy teams of all time. And though much of their initial work was made for movies, the constant repeats on television have easily made the TV heroes.


TAGSArbitrary RankingsEntertainmentfeaturedHomer SimpsonInspector GadgetListsMaxwell SmartMichael ScottMost inept TV charactersMr. MagooOfficer BarbadyScooby DooSouth ParkStupidest TV charactersThe Three StoogesZapp Brannigan
About Jeff Wysaski... Jeff Wysaski is a freelance humor writer based out of Los Angeles. He has written for such esteemed online sites as Manolith, COED Magazine and Pleated Jeans. When not behind his laptop, Jeff can probably be found at a comedy show, eating a sandwich or practicing his latest ribbon dancing routine.

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