7 TV Characters With Cool Mental Abilities Due to Extraordinary Reasons

House M.D., Monk, Perception, Alphas, The Finder, Franklin & Bash, Endgame

Most TV dramas feature main characters or teams that are very skilled in their area of occupation. That is really a no-brainer, because who would watch incompetent police officers or doctors, unless for comedic value? Personally, I like it when the cops or doctors are very sharp, and the criminals or patients are equally sharp, because that creates interesting dialogue and action.

Recently it occurred to me, after watching the new show Perception, that the main character is not the first on TV to have special abilities that are linked to an illness or disability. In fact, there seems to be an increase in these types of characters on TV lately. It is my hope that this apparent mini-trend is due to and will promote a greater understanding and acceptance of illnesses and disabilities in people.

Dr. Daniel Pierce – Perception


This new TV show features a main character who is a brilliant neuroscientist and professor, but also is a paranoid schizophrenic. He is called on by the FBI to help with difficult cases due to his extraordinary abilities. He suffers from hallucinations and delusions, which sometimes make it difficult for him to know what is real and what isn’t.

But, his illness also gives him a unique perspective on human behavior and how the mind itself works. He enjoys doing crossword puzzles and anagrams, and uses his strong puzzle solving abilities to aid in his crime solving skills.

Walter Sherman – The Finder

Walter Sherman - The Finder

Walter is a veteran of the war in Iraq, where he received a traumatic brain injury in the line of duty. He was extremely skilled at finding IEDs (improvised explosive devices). He is still haunted by the people that died the day he was injured.

As a result of his injury, he is quirky and unpredictable. But, his skills at finding just about anything are unparalleled. His approach is unusual, and once he starts working on a case, he is unable to stop until he locates whatever it is he is looking for. Watching him solve a case highlights just how out of the box his thinking is.

Arkady Balagan – Endgame

This Canadian TV series ran for only one season, although there is a possibility for the show’s revival. The story revolves around a former World Chess Champion, who witnessed the murder of his fiancée outside their hotel and because of the trauma subsequently developed agoraphobia. He is unable to leave the hotel because of this.

Since he is unable to leave the hotel, he needs to find a way to earn money within that constraint. The perfect solution for him presented itself in the form of consulting on crimes as long as he can do it remotely. His finely honed problem solving skills and strategy expertise allow him to be highly successful.

Adrian Monk – Monk

Adrian Monk - Monk

Everyone’s favorite obsessive-compulsive detective, Monk was not always afflicted with that illness. He was a very successful detective with the police department, until his wife was murdered. The trauma from that incident caused him to have a mental breakdown, resulting in the development of a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One of the hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is extreme attention to detail. This is actually a very useful ability when it comes to being a detective, and is part of what makes Monk so successful as a private consultant to the police department.

Pindar Singh – Franklin and Bash

Jared Franklin and Pindar Singh - Franklin & Bash

Pindar is one of the supporting characters on this show. He works as a researcher for Jared and Peter. He is brilliant, and in fact has a photographic memory, but was mentally traumatized while in college due to a crush on the girl his roommate was seeing. He ended up frequently checking into the infirmary in order to be out of the room when his roommate brought her back with him, and developed hypochondria as well as other neuroses.

Because he suffers from severe neuroses and anxiety, including agoraphobia, he usually does not leave their apartment. He has been recently attending therapy, and is just now tentatively beginning to expand his horizons by getting out into the world. Either way, his ability as a researcher is always very useful to Jared and Peter.

Gary Bell – Alphas

Gary Bell - Alphas

While they have not ever said, my observation of Gary leads me to believe that he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, or high functioning autism. He adheres to a strict routine, and is environmentally sensitive, as well as socially awkward, all characteristic of people with Asperger’s. It is also true that people with Asperger’s are usually highly intelligent, which describes Gary.

Now, in Gary’s case, there is not necessarily a direct correlation between his disability and his powers, since this program is about people with super powers. His special ability is that he is able to read a wide range of frequencies. Think of it this way; you and I are able to communicate with our peers via sound and light waves. Gary is able to see further in the electromagnetic spectrum than we do, so can perceive radio waves, etc. He can have difficulty, however, when the signals overwhelm him.

Dr. Gregory House – House M.D.

Gregory House - House M.D.

House had an early life of emotional abuse by his father, who turns out to not be his biological father. House was always a skilled doctor, although he had little respect for the rules and thus had a hard time finding a job. Once working at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital, his leg muscle had an infarction and died. The resulting decisions made regarding his leg have left him in constant pain and he is addicted to the painkiller Vicodin.

House maintains that his addiction aids him by allowing him to function. It is certainly true that his diagnostic skills are unparalleled. But, he has extreme difficulty maintaining stable relationships, and does not relate well to people, including his patients, whom he usually will not see in person. However, it is not clear if his anti-social tendencies are a result of the Vicodin, or just his personality.


Can you think of any other characters to add to my list? Please let me know who they are, and any other thoughts you may have in the comment section below!