The CBS Monday night sitcom The Big Bang Theory has accomplished, in a considerably smaller way, what the original theoretical construction known as the Big Bang Theory accomplished in the worlds of science. Both theories propose a method for the creation of the universe.
The CBS sitcom is no longer working in the realm of theory, however; at least not for me. Those funny and lovable nerds and the blonde who lives next door have created a universe in which I no longer fear that great American television comedy will come to an end once The Simpsons ends its long, dazzling run as the greatest show in television history.
The Big Bang Theory, for those of you who don’t know, revolves around the lives of four brilliant scientists who are spouting complicated mathematical formulas one minute and playing Klingon Boggle the next. (Not mention having Halo nights and Wii bowling nights, and am I alone here or does Leonard’s Mii look exactly like him and I mean exactly).
Not too long ago I wrote an article about the smartest shows in TV history; add The Big Bang Theory to that list. The two lead characters, named after one of the most successful producers in American TV history, are Leonard and Sheldon. Leonard is the focus of the romantic tension element of the show as he holds a Jupiter-sized crush on the blonde satellite across the hall named Penny.
Sheldon is the focus of most of the big laughs, although I must admit to finding their sex-crazed engineer friend Howard to be just as funny. There is a fourth member to the group named Rajesh. The writers don’t seem to have really figured out what to do with Rajesh yet; most of his laughs come from the fact that he can’t talk around Penny and other girls.
I’m especially fond of the way that the writers of The Big Bang Theory refuse to take the path of least resistance. They make these guys neither smarter than everybody else in every way nor do they make them total geeks. For instance, unlike those guys in Revenge of the Nerds, these guys do have sex.
Perhaps a lot more than might be realistically understood, but not to excess. Girls do find them attractive, but unlike with, say, George Constanza, they don’t get more sex than is believable. (I always hated that about Seinfeld; George is the biggest complainer in the world, yet he had a sex life that rivaled Jerry’s. One more reason why that show was overrated).
The point is that the writers of The Big Bang Theory take great pains to resist the typical stereotypes of nerds and geeks and instead choose to do something quite remarkable in a landscape filled with shows built around jokes and gags with no relevance to reality. They have attempted to create a gang of four with a three dimensional reality to them such as we have never seen before. Up until the Big Bang Theory, nerds like these guys have either been supermen like Urkel or, most often, cardboard victims, and occasionally semi-nutjobs like the Lone Gunmen on The X-Files.
For anyone who has read my articles on television and the media, it’s no secret that I consider this decade to be the worst decade ever for television; just like I do for movies and music. Ever since Gilmore Girls ended, there have been only two shows I make an appointment to watch: The Simpsons and King of the Hill.
The rest has been a wasteland; you know TV is in trouble when Two and a Half Men is a huge hit and According to Jim has been on for eight years. And let’s not even get into (un)reality shows. My faith in American television reached the point where I accepted that once The Simpsons was gone, I would never feel the need to watch broadcast network TV ever again.
The Big Bang Theory has changed all that, at least temporarily. From the “Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock” segment to the conversations in the language of loud that Howard and his mother engage in to Sheldon’s excruciating inability to learn the simplest forms of social interaction, The Big Bang Theory makes me laugh from beginning to end.
It has been a long, long, long time since a new sitcom did such a thing. The breakout star of The Big Bang Theory is Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon. Sheldon is a genius through and through, but he is also a nutcase. He possesses no social skills, he is obsessive-compulsive, he is egoistic, and he does not suffer fools gladly or otherwise. In short, he is the perfect comic creation and Jim Parsons does him justice in a way so perfect that it really makes you wonder just what the hell goes through the so-called minds of those people who nominate actors for the Emmy and Golden Globes.
Jim Parsons should have won an Emmy by now and, since those brain damaged individuals appear set to never follow the lead of the Academy Awards and nominate an animated show alongside live action shows, The Big Bang Theory should already have won for Best Comedy. Except for The Simpsons, it leaves everything else on TV in the dust.
For a while there I was really concerned that the future of American situation comedy would follow in the footsteps of of such utter garbage as Two and a Half Men, Family Guy, and Sex in the City. The Big Bang Theory has given me hope that intelligent writing, and acting that rises to the occasion is not going to disappear off the American TV airwaves when Homer Simpson says his final D’oh!