After a long day crunching numbers and reviewing balance sheets, you come home, ready to immerse yourself in a different world. Thoughts of work fade away as you turn on the TV. You kick off your shoes, slump into the couch, and hit the play button, only to find that the world of finance isn’t as far removed from your favorite shows as you thought.
Many of TV’s most memorable characters work in finance, from the cutthroat, power-hungry professionals of Succession, to the quirky, eccentric employees of The Office.
In this article, we’ll be using data from Google Trends to rank America’s favorite finance pros by average monthly search volume over the last 5 years. The most popular characters of these 14 are present in thousands of searches every month, highlighting TV’s growing infatuation with the financial field. Join us as we explore the crossover between finance and your favorite shows.
14. Clarke Hayden – The Good Wife (20 searches/month)
In last place in our affections, with a relatively low 20 Google searches a month (2019-2023) is accountant and lawyer Clarke Hayden (played by Nathan Lane) who debuted in Season 4 of The Good Wife. The penny-pinching character was tasked with digging the Lockhart/Gardner firm out of a $60 million debt. Theater legend Lane was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his guest role as the dedicated Hayden, adding even more star power to “network television’s last great drama.”
13. Keith Bishop – The Office [UK] (110 searches/month)
To fans of the American version of The Office, the overweight, slow-talking Keith Bishop (Ewen MacIntosh) is easily recognizable as the original British analog of Kevin Malone. “Big Keith” is known for his quiet demeanor, which only builds anticipation for his next hilariously monotone remark. One such line is the revelation that Keith, who sees his work as a mere “stopgap” until he joins a band, finds his work as an accountant “mindless and easy.” May we all glide through our financial careers as easygoing and unruffled as Keith.
Watch Keith audition to be a Datarails brand ambassador here!
12. Barney Varmn – Parks and Recreation (140 searches/month)
With his formal attire, rimless glasses, and propensity for ill-timed finance puns, John Balma’s Barney Varmn is the epitome of a stereotypical accountant. But Barney is more than just a number cruncher, he is also a tireless recruiter–continually trying to recruit Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt to his firm–and a dedicated teacher–delivering long lectures on the intricacies and virtues of QuickBooks Pro. Given his selflessness, humor, and accounting prowess, there’s no doubt as to why Barney is one of the Parks and Rec faithful’s most beloved recurring characters.
11. Linda Ferguson –Orange is the New Black (170 searches/month)
Beth Dover’s Linda Ferguson proved to audiences that accountants can be villains too. In season 4, she premiered as the fiscally-savvy but morally compromised VP of Purchasing for the private prison company MCC. Ferguson puts efficiency and profit above all else, raising important questions about the ethics of the U.S.’s private prison system. Dover herself says that playing the character was a learning experience, remarking to TV Insider: “I didn’t know about the prison system and the privatization of prisons. I learned how it very much is a money business. It’s about the bottom line and that can be tragic for the human beings that are in the prisons. [Playing Linda Ferguson has] definitely impacted how I feel about it.”
10. Norm Peterson – Cheers (1,600 searches/month)
It might be hard to believe that TV’s most famous barfly–who racked up TV’s most infamous unpaid tab–is actually a finance professional, but Norm Peterson did indeed begin his Cheers run as an accountant. Predictably, though, his stint as a finance pro didn’t last long. Norm eventually transitioned into house painting as well as beer tasting, which suited his abilities particularly well. For portraying one of the most iconic characters on one of the most iconic TV shows of all time, George Wendt was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series six consecutive times at the Primetime Emmys. While Norm’s financial career might have been short-lived, his impact on pop culture is still immense: despite his first appearance coming two decades before the debut of any other character on this list, Norm still cracks the top ten of searches each month forty years after first airing.
Watch Norm audition to be a Datarails brand ambassador here!
9. Karl Muller – Succession (1,600 searches/month)
Finally, some occupational diversity! So far our list has been entirely occupied by characters who work as traditional accountants, but now we break into the C-Suite with Waystar Royco’s Chief Financial Officer Karl Muller, portrayed by David Rasche. While he was always a series regular, the recent uptick in Karl’s popularity is certainly due to his appearances in the ultra-viral final season. As the HBO series drew to a close, Succession saw record viewership numbers: the final episode was the most-watched in the show’s history, topping out at 2.9 million live viewers.
8. Nicole Mossbacher – The White Lotus (1,900 searches/month)
It seems like HBO simply can’t get away from the world of finance. At number eight on our list is Nicole Mossbacher, another accomplished HBO CFO and ensemble cast member of the incredibly popular series The White Lotus. Connie Britton, previously known for Friday Night Lights and Nashville, plays Nicole as a workaholic executive who’s more comfortable in the boardroom than at a luxury resort with her family. Unfortunately for the finance purists among you, The White Lotus is focused on satirizing Mossbacher as the stereotypical high-performing suburban mother, rather than unpacking the intricacies of Nicole’s CFO role at the search engine “Poof.”
7. Oscar Martinez – The Office [US] (2,900 searches/month)
With this entry, we begin our look at the finance department of the most ubiquitous workplace comedy show of the last two decades. The dependable, quiet, and unproblematic Oscar Martinez (played by actor Oscar Nunez) is a conventional accountant in the otherwise unconventional Dunder Mifflin offices. Indeed, when compared to the other eccentric characters in the American Office, Oscar may come off as a little dull. But you have to give credit where it’s due: Oscar’s ability to complete his work in the midst of all the intricate pranks, unnecessary meetings, and ludicrous conversations is nothing short of admirable.
6. Angela Martin – The Office [US] (4,400 searches/month)
Calling Angela “hard to work with” would be an extreme understatement. She is the ultimate caricature of the uptight accountant: Angela (portrayed by actress Angela Kinsey) is quick to lodge an HR complaint, throws biting insults towards those who offend her old-fashioned sensibilities, and–naturally–owns several cats. She rules the Party Planning Committee with an iron fist, making sure no banner, balloon, or pastry is too unseemly for the office environment. We’ve all had a coworker who is notably reluctant to take the blame for a mistake, and Angela takes this to the extreme. When trying to apologize on behalf of the company, Angela plainly stated: “our official position is apologetic.”
5. Ben Wyatt – Parks and Recreation (8,100 searches/month)
Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt starts off the top 5 of our most popular finance professionals. Wyatt’s first career choice was probably unlike any finance coworker you’ve ever had: he was elected mayor of Partridge, Minnesota at the age of 18, and was impeached in two months. Years later, Wyatt has a strong track record of digging cities out of bankruptcy, and comes to Pawnee, Indiana as a state auditor. He works alongside the ever-positive Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to balance Pawnee’s budget and, by season 3, earns a permanent position as assistant city manager. Real-world accountants would appreciate his relationship with coworker Chris Traeger (played by Rob Lowe), and their self-assigned nicknames “Butch Count-sidy” and the “Sum-dance kid.”
4. David Wallace – The Office [US] (9,900 searches/month)
The Office continues to assert its cultural dominance with its third entry on the list, Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace. Portrayed by real-life financial manager Andy Buckley, Wallace is a competent executive who does his best to establish a strong working relationship with eccentric regional manager Michael Scott. Despite his strong track record as a CFO, we did wonder why he ranked so highly in Google searches despite logging far less screen time than the rest of the Office characters on this list. The answer can be found in interviews with co-lead and producer John Krasinski. The Jim Halpert actor has expressed his love for the author David Foster Wallace, going as far as to say that performing staged readings of Wallace’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men is what gave him the inspiration to pursue acting.
Watch David Wallace audition to be a Datarails brand ambassador here!
3. Kevin Malone – The Office [US] (9,900 searches/month)
And now we reach our fourth and final character from the American Office, the one and only Kevin Malone. Kevin shares a lot of the same traits as Keith Bishop (#13) from the British Office, as he is slow-talking and usually oblivious, but responsible for some of the best moments in the entire show. Unfortunately, being hilarious doesn’t automatically make you a good accountant: in the last episode, it is revealed that Kevin was fired for balancing accounts with a made-up number called “Keleven.” Despite his minimal accounting prowess, we do know that Kevin makes incredible chili. In fact, the most-memed moment of the entire show may be Kevin spilling an entire pot of his “famous” chili all over the floor of the office. While Kevin is certainly the least effective worker in the accounting department, trailing incredibly far behind Oscar and Angela, his fans can hang their hats on his position as the most popular accountant at Dunder Mifflin.
Watch Kevin audition to be a Datarails brand ambassador here!
2. Marty Byrde – Ozark (12,100 searches/month)
Criminal accounting has played a major role in some of the most compelling TV shows of the last few decades. Incredibly popular shows like Ozark and Breaking Bad ask what happens when an average person is forced into a life of crime, and how they cover their tracks. Actor-director Jason Bateman has received numerous awards and nominations for his starring role as former financial advisor Marty Byrde, who begins laundering money for the cartel in the Ozark mountains. Marty proves himself to be an incredibly competent money manager, getting himself and his family out of difficult situations while staying one step ahead of the FBI and the cartel. The struggle of this relatable character in a highly unrelatable situation captivated Netflix subscribers for four seasons, taking the top spot in Nielson’s rankings with 2.6 billion viewing minutes the week its finale aired. While real-world financial advisors may not see Marty’s exploits as entirely realistic, there is no denying the popularity of this once-average finance professional from suburban Chicago.
1. Skyler White – Breaking Bad (40,500 searches/month)
With a greater search volume than the rest of the top 5 combined, Skyler White is far and away the most popular finance TV character. Her skills as an accountant come into play later in the series, when she begins laundering her husband Walt’s drug money through a local car wash. Skyler was an incredible contrast to Walt, as she only used her financial prowess as a way to keep their family safe. As Walt spiraled further down into the criminal underworld, Skyler never failed to stand against his immoral dealings. While Skyler’s accounting throughout the show may seem unbelievable, a recent financial failure proves that real life is closer to fiction than we would like to admit. An article from Business Insider notes the parallels between a scene when Skyler tries to act incompetent in front of an IRS investigator, and the actual accounting methods of the bankrupt crypto-giant FTX. Due in no small part to Anna Gunn’s performance as Skyler, Breaking Bad is consistently ranked as one of the great, if not the greatest, TV shows of all time. Gunn has been lauded for her work as Skyler, and earned two consecutive Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
There is an interesting point to be made about the highest-visibility finance professionals being criminals (or incompetent), but as the old adage says: any publicity is good publicity. Google results illustrate the extreme popularity of characters like Skyler White and Marty Byrde and, who knows, they might help inspire the next generation of accountants, financial analysts, and CFOs!