Hey gang, Josh here. I’ve been debating with myself on whether or not to address The Big Bang Theory as an overrated show. Bev did an incredible job of skewering the show so I decided to piggy back off of her post. My hesitation to write about this show stems from the knowledge that my wife is a fan of the show and she already thinks I’m enough of a comedy elitist. I have friends that swear this is one of the funniest shows on TV. Anytime I tell a group of people that Big Bang is awful, I have to go through a 20 minute argument about what makes a show good. I’m going to present my argument rationally and more importantly, while staying sober. I’ll also try to act as a bit of an anger translator for Bev at the same time.
Let me start by saying that I get this show. I really do. I understand it and could even understand why people like it. It’s got a tried and true comedy formula. Setup. Payoff. Queue laugh track. Repeat. Easy. It’s worked well in the past and it works now.
Chuck Lorre is a smart guy and he knows what he’s selling. He’s a TV smack dealer and he’s got a set strategy. 1. Keep it simple. 2. Stick with a core group of very similar characters with one outlier that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the group. 3. Don’t take any drastic risks or change things. That could upset that balance and as a result, upset the audience. Every episode gets wrapped up nicely in thirty minutes or if they’re feeling really frisky, you get a To Be Continued. Big Bang Theory is an easy show that you don’t have to invest in mentally or emotionally. If you miss it one week, it’s no big deal. It’ll be there when you get back next week and nothing will have changed. It’s simple. I’m not saying anyone that watches it is simple. Big Bang is just a safe show on an ultra safe network. Unfortunately, safe usually equals success on network TV while innovative get you cancelled.
Bev Issue 1: The laugh track. The laugh track really gets to me too. We all grew up with it. Almost any primetime comedy from the 50’s until the late 90’s came pre-installed with the laugh track. That or the live studio audience that gets told to laugh outrageously, even on take fifteen of every scene. The laugh track works though. Nobody wants to not be in on a joke. If a group of people thinks something is hilarious, goddammit, chances are you’re going to laugh right along with them. And that’s how Hitler came to power. Don’t think the canned laughter makes a difference? Go to Youtube and watch Big Bang with the laugh track edited out. The problem with the canned laugh is that it breeds comedy laziness.
Why try anything new and innovative when you’ve got all the laughs you need without trying? Are all shows with laugh tracks terrible? Of course not. Married with Children and Wings are two shows I grew up watching that can still make me laugh a bit even if I’ve seen every episode 10 times. But TV has been around a while and things can and should evolve. When a show depends on a laugh track to place its punchline, it’s forcing the laugh.
Beverly Issue 2: Bev is completely correct in saying that a hot blond like Kaley Cuoco will likely never hang out with a group of four completely nerdy guys. There’s a really good chance that they would be neighbors for years and never say a word to each other. They have nothing in common and wouldn’t know how to relate to each other. But the reason this part of the show pisses me off is that it’s just the reverse instance of the same TV concept that’s always been used. Rather than having five exceedingly attractive people and a dumpy nerd, Lorre threw together five dumpy nerds and one exceedingly attractive chick. Watch out TV land! Suddenly the tables have turned!
It’s lazy and unoriginal. But it’s safe. We’d all love to live in a world where there’s a beautiful girl (or guy) that always wants to talk to us. Maybe some day we’ll have a chance with her. We want to have a nerdy guy that’s smart but is socially awkward there to make us feel better about ourselves. And that brings us to the biggest annoyance of all.
Bev Issue 3: The Stereotypes. This is usually where I hear people defend the show the most. The most common argument is that Big Bang makes it cool to be a nerd. And I call horseshit on that. It oversimplifies everything and isolates nerds even more. The characters on the Big Bang Theory are like a Midwestern housewife’s idea of what nerds should be. “These guys are nerds so they only like Star Trek, video games, and comic books. This girl is pretty so she doesn’t like any of that stuff.”
“These are nerds so they are smart but only book smart so it’s okay to like them because I’m cooler than them and they’re sexually non-threatening. ” “That’s a hot blond girl so she’s pretty dumb so it’s okay to like her because I’m smarter than her and I would totally have sex with her.” The show makes these smart guys as incompetent as they possibly can when it comes to day to day life. As a result, their intelligence is basically useless and you laugh at how they can’t get a girl or figure out how to cook. Isn’t this just sort of making fun of nerds again?
How can I care about these characters when they’re nothing more than a few easily predictable characteristics? Why bother getting to know their names when you can call them the nerdy one who is kinda normal, the really quirky nerdy one, the nerdy one that always hits on girls, and the foreign nerdy one? People aren’t that simple. Life isn’t that simple. Nerds love sports. All guys play video games. Hot girls read comics sometimes. (rarely) I want a reason to be interested in what these people do. I want to know exactly why Sheldon is so poorly adjusted to real life and most likely a future serial killer. Did he have a rapey uncle? Has Howard ever been accused of sexual assault? That dude is walking a tight rope and maybe he crossed the line once. If Raj can only talk to girls when he’s drunk, he’d be an alcoholic like me. I want to see that charming drunk asshole hit rock bottom and get laid all the way down. That I would watch. Let’s dive into our characters so I can find a way to like these people!
I think Beverly summed up the rest quite efficiently so I guess I should wrap up my rant.
Big Bang Theory is an easy comedy to watch and it’s one of the most popular shows on TV. You put your group through a small problem that’s easily managed, solve it 23 minutes or so and reset. Nothing has changed and your characters are the same people they were when you started watching. It doesn’t try to do more than that. The acting is solid but there’s nothing there. It follows the formula every week and executes it really, really well. I just think that the show grows stale quickly and I have no interest in seeing it again. Like Beverly said, it wallows in mediocrity. There’s no evolution or motivation given to the characters to grow. Maybe I’m completely wrong since most of the shows I love don’t make it past 2 or 3 seasons and are cancelled because of low ratings. Maybe I’m just an asshole that’s too jaded to appreciate things for what they are. Life is hard. When people get home from their soul crushing jobs, a lot of them just want something simple that doesn’t require too much thinking. I just think we owe it to ourselves to want to see new shows that present something different and challenge us to step out of our comfort zones. Or let’s say fuck it and give Big Bang another Emmy.