When Tyrion Lannister makes a scathing remark, House diagnoses a patient, Ross and Rachel argue about being on the break, and Kramer bursts through the door, is it possible you’re actually getting smarter? Television fans today have more opportunities than ever before to watch the shows of their choice – whether they’re catching the latest programs or using streaming video to binge-watch nostalgic classics.

To explore how watching TV shows affects intelligence (or how intelligence affects the TV shows people view), we analyzed the show preferences of current and former students at popular universities across the country – and compared them with schools’ median SAT scores. Put down your books and turn on your screens – here’s what the results revealed.

Top 10 Shows by State


It turns out that some television shows are truly timeless. When it comes to current and former college students’ top TV pick, “House M.D.” dominates the country – except in California, where they prefer “Archer.”

Second place goes to “The Simpsons” across almost the entire West, except for Washington, California, and Montana. Bart and the gang are also popular in the East. But a swath of the Midwest – Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois – is partial to “Seinfeld.”

“Game of Thrones” and “Arrested Development” dominate the third-place list, along with “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons.” Which other shows made the top 10? “Breaking Bad,” “Friends,” “Firefly,” “South Park,” “Dexter,” “Sherlock,” “The Sopranos,” and “House of Cards.”

Top 20 Shows Overall


Humor reigns on the top 20 list of classic television favorites. While “House M.D.” and “The Simpsons” couldn’t be more different, they both rank at the top of the list for current and former students’ 20 favorite shows. Adult cartoons “South Park” and “Archer” also place in the top half of the list. Dramas dominate the bottom tier, with the educational miniseries “Planet Earth” coming in dead last – despite its No. 2 IMBD ranking.

Top Shows and SAT Scores


Long-running, nostalgic favorites like “Friends” and “Seinfeld” are popular among those who attend or attended schools with higher average SAT scores, as are grown-up cartoons “South Park” and “The Simpsons.” British series “Sherlock” and “Top Gear” are also popular among high scorers, and while “Planet Earth” may not be a top choice for unwinding, high-achieving individuals like it.

On the other hand, those who appreciate dramas – such as “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos,” and “Band of Brothers” – go or went to schools whose students scored lower on SATs. Do the complicated storylines and serious themes take up too much brain space? Or can we chalk up the results to the fact that humor really does make you smarter?

Top Shows and SATs: Math vs. Critical Reading


Fans of TV classics “Last Week Tonight,” “Sherlock,” “South Park,” and “Planet Earth” have a tendency to have scored higher on the math section of the SATs. Should we chalk it up to good genes? Not likely. As recent research shows, math skills are due more to hard work and strong study skills than to any inherent ability.

On the critical reading section of the SATs, “House M.D.” fans came out on top, followed by those who like “Planet Earth,” “Last Week Tonight,” and “Arrested Development.” An educational series, a talk and satirical news show, a sitcom … it appears those with strong language skills have varied taste when it comes to TV.

SAT Scores of Comedy and Drama Lovers


It’s the ultimate showdown in smarts: We compared the average SAT scores of fans of TV dramas and comedies to see who tends to score higher or lower than average. Interestingly, 75 percent of comedy lovers achieve above-average scores – but only 36 percent of drama fans can say the same.

Why? Perhaps a good laugh serves to loosen up nervous test takers. Or maybe the studies that closely link a sense of humor and and intelligence are right on the money. However, the results don’t hold true across the board. People who enjoy the comedies “Arrested Development” and “Archer” actually averaged SAT scores on the low side. And fans of the dramas “House of Cards,” “Firefly,” “Planet Earth,” and “Sherlock” tended to achieve higher than typical scores.

Top Shows at High and Low-Scoring Schools


Setting aside “House M.D.” since it was the most-liked show for nearly all universities, we took a look at how SAT scores correlated with current and former students’ favorite shows. Overall, those who watch “Arrested Development” and “Seinfeld” attend or attended schools whose students scored higher than those who tune in to “The Simpsons.”

However, University of Michigan – where “The Simpsons” rules – claims top spot for SAT scores. “Arrested Development” fans from University of Virginia come in second, and “Seinfeld” lovers at University of Illinois and University of Maryland sit at third and fourth.

Lowest SAT scores go to “Arrested Development” fans from Rutgers University, followed by “The Simpsons” aficionados from West Dakota University and South Dakota University, and then “Game of Thrones” fans from University of Rhode Island.

Screen-Time Smarts

While well-meaning adults over the years may have told you to turn off that TV and use your brain, that advice wasn’t necessarily warranted. Current and former students from top universities across the country enjoy watching TV – from nostalgic programs of yesteryear to today’s latest favorites. And based on our results, it’s not hurting their intelligence at all.

The next time you need a break, don’t feel guilty picking up the remote and putting on your favorite show. Want to really boost your brainpower? Consider a comedy, British series, or adult cartoon.


We compared state flagship universities’ median SAT scores (from the Institute of Education Sciences for freshmen entering in 2014) with the the number of people who attended the university and “liked” a particular show on Facebook. We limited the shows by focusing on those with at least 10,000 fan votes and a rating of 8.8 or above on IMDB. We then pulled the number of people who liked these shows on Facebook and claimed to attend or previously attended one of the flagship universities.

When comparing SAT scores with the liked television shows, we looked at the average rank of the show in relation to the other shows for the school. We then looked at the average median SAT score when a school liked a show more than average.


Fair Use

DIRECTV grants permission to journalists and other media outlets to use the images and information on this page (for noncommercial purposes only). When doing so, credit the authors by providing a link to this page. The findings of our survey are not scientific and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of AT&T or DIRECTV.

image After an exciting first season, Sing It On is back for a brand new second season chock full of all the drama and vocal inspiration viewers have come to expect. The eight-episode docu-series is the real life Pitch Perfect—it follows four collegiate a cappella teams as they vie for a spot in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) in New York City.

This year the stakes are even higher for the four teams featured on Sing It On, and for good reason: two teams hail from the same school, while two teams are top contenders from the same region! Viewers will meet the Hexachords and S#arp Attitude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Faux Paz (University of Maryland) and Off The Beat (University of Pennsylvania).

UPenn alumnus John Legend serves as an executive producer of the show, and as a former member of UPenn’s Counterparts, which made it to the ICCA Finals in 1997, his passion for a cappella is evident: “The excitement surrounding collegiate a cappella is close to my heart as it was the start of my career as a recording artist, and I know first-hand the dedication and teamwork it takes to be successful,” he said. “Pop’s Sing It On strikes all the right chords by capturing the heat of competition, passionate musical performances and the enduring friendships found in the a cappella community.”

The teams will also face unique challenges along the way. For the sassy all-female group S#arp Attitude, that means finding a replacement beat boxer for the one they lost to their rivals the Hexachords, while reigning regional champions Faux Paz struggle to find female voices to flesh out their mixed group.

Regardless of the challenges each team faces, their music propels them forward and audiences will be wowed by their powerful performances and incredible talent. Make sure to catch the Season 2 premiere of Sing It On on Wednesday, July 27 at 9/8c on POP TV (Ch. 1185 (HD) & 185 (SD)), and set your DVR for new episodes every week on Wednesdays at 8/7c beginning August 3.  

Would You Rather...?

Would you rather give up Internet access forever – or cut off a finger? Lose your mobile connectivity permanently – or give away your dog? Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that making choices like these can feel downright impossible.

To find out just how far people would go to stay connected, we posed these dilemmas and more to over 2,000 people in the U.S. Keep reading to see the startling truths we uncovered about difficult decisions in the digital age.

The Internet vs. Chocolate, Eyesight, or Love

Internet vs Chocolate, Eyesight or Love

What would it take for someone to give up the Internet? The overwhelming majority of survey respondents wouldn’t hesitate to swear off chocolate to retain Internet access. A significant number would even make physical sacrifices: 4 in 10 would relinquish sight in one eye, and 3 in 10 would cut off a finger. What’s hardest to give up? Over 8 in 10 would find it hard to live without human interaction or love – and three-quarters wouldn’t quit their dream job.  

Cut Off the Internet – or Your Finger?

Cut Off the Internet – or Your Finger

Based on survey results, 3 in 10 people would sooner take a hacksaw to one of their fingers than give up the Internet. Who’s most likely to make that choice? Men are more inclined than women to choose the Internet – but even so, over 1 in 5 women would amputate a pinky to stay online. Additionally, people in the Northeast are most willing to sacrifice a digit, while Southerners are slightly more reluctant.

The Internet vs. a Human Life

A matter of life and death…

The Internet vs a Human Life

Would you give up the Internet forever to save a stranger’s life? More than half of our survey respondents (55%) would not. Among the most willing to sacrifice the Web to save a stranger? Women, older people, and those who have been married at some point. On the other hand, men, younger people, and singles are least likely to give up the Internet to ensure a stranger’s survival.

Would you rather …
Have high-speed Internet in your home or running water?

Almost 20% of the people we surveyed value having an Internet connection in their homes more than having running water. (Who needs to wash dishes or flush toilets when you have the world at your fingertips?)

Give Up the Internet to Do a Good Deed?

Give Up the Internet to Do a Good Deed

We’ve covered the negatives – so what positive occurrences might people find worth sacrificing the Internet? Almost 4 in 10 would forever forgo surfing the Web to cure cancer, over 2 in 10 would do so to end world hunger, nearly 2 in 10 would to live forever, and around 1 in 10 would to save a dying friend. The shocker? More than 1 in 8 respondents were resolute – they wouldn’t give up the Internet for anything.

Mobile Connectivity vs. Your Significant Other

Mobile Connectivity vs Your Significant Other

It turns out love trumps technology – at least for most people. Our survey shows that over 84% of people would sacrifice mobile connectivity (i.e., smartphones and tablets) rather than dump their significant other or closest loved one. However, age makes a difference: Almost 18% of people aged 18 to 20 would choose their smartphone, but only 3% of people aged 50 to 59 would do the same.

Mobile Connectivity vs. Your Dog

Mobile Connectivity vs Your Dog

When it comes to trusty sidekicks, which matters most: staying connected on the go or your dog? If forced to make a tough choice, almost 3 in 10 people would rather part ways with their pup than mobile connectivity. Women were slightly more faithful to “man’s best friend” than men. Only 25% of women would kick Fido to the curb, compared with 33% of men.

A Week Offline vs. a Root Canal

A Week Offline vs. a Root Canal

It’s clear that most people love the Internet. However, our survey reveals that the majority of people would be willing to take a temporary break from it to avoid physical discomfort. Almost 85% would rather spend a week offline than have a root canal. Older people were even more eager to dodge the endodontist.

And the Survey Says … We Love the Internet

The technology dilemmas we posed sparked some very surprising results. Most people love the Internet more than they love chocolate – and almost a third of people love it so much they’d give up a finger to stay connected. Saving a human life is a higher priority, but still fewer than half of people would give up the Web to do so.

People love mobile Internet too. Nearly 2 in 10 people would give up their significant other to stay connected on the go – and almost 3 in 10 would ditch their dog for their mobile connectivity.

The best part about all this? While the dilemmas are interesting to consider, you can keep your Internet access and mobile connectivity without giving up a thing. Flex your 10 fingers, eat your chocolate, pat your dog – plus enjoy surfing the Web as much as you want. Talk about having it all!


We conducted a survey of 2,099 U.S. residents between Mar. 15 and Mar. 21, 2016.  Respondents came from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.


We grant permission to share all the images on this page freely. When doing so, please credit the authors by providing a link to this page so your readers can learn more about this project and the methodology.

Keep Calm, Your Internet’s On.

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