I hate The Big Bang Theory, there I said it. I’ve been told by some friends that it’s the show to watch, it has geek references, geek jokes and basically a love of all things nerdy…except it doesn’t I’ve tried to watch a handful of shows over the years, to have an open mind and perhaps surprise myself by digging it- I didn’t In fact, my initial reaction was the correct one- I hated it, still do.
So why is it one of the most watched comedies on television right now? Not sure, it seems either the zombies who watch CBS and all of its repetitive crime shows are of the zombie persuasion and wouldn’t know a good joke if it were in the laps or perhaps even series creator/producer Chuck Lorre signed a deal with the devil; I like to believe that last one since Lorre also is responsible for the even-worse “Two and a Half Men,” which is offensive on every level, the least of which is the alleged comedy, but that’s for another rant….I’m not making fun of those people that do dig it, I’m merely pointing out the makers of this and why the show is as phoney as a $3 bill.
Having grown up on copious amounts of classic television, good and bad, I know my way around a great sitcom and Big Bang is not it- it’s basically nerd/geek blackface; it’s full of unfunny jokes, inauthentic speak and exaggerated stereotypes. The stories are from the usual sit-com tropes sure, yet nothing original is done or said. The jokes are lazy, obvious, over-sold, under-baked, low-brow, low-frequency and bogus. The characters never feel like real people with “funny” problems or funny people with real problems; just hack actors waiting to deliver their trite lines. The character of Sheldon should be an easy sell; he’s a genius in his field of study, yet treats everyone around him like dirty hobos knowing he’s smarter than everyone in the room, except there’s no room for comedy when that happens. He instead comes off as an asshole, borderline Sociopath. An irritating know-it-all that no one wants to root for or be around… You can’t do that with comedy, IF he was funny he could get away with murder but since he’s not, the “jokes” fall flat and sucks the humor right out. That’s the problem with most network television today- they wrote from PLOT, not character, which is dull as hell; isn’t that right, “Law & Order?”
Sheldon: I’d have a diet coke.
Penny: Please order a cocktail. I need to practice bartending.
Sheldon: Fine, I’ll have a Virgin Cuba Libre
Penny: That’s rum and Coke, without the rum?
Penny: So coke!
Sheldon: And will you make it diet, please?
*cue Laugh track!
Why is that funny?
Or they will throw in some science techno jargon to make Sheldon a real card…
(A sick Sheldon on phone with Leonard)
Leonard: Take rest, and drink plenty of fluids.
Sheldon: What else would I drink?? Gases?? Solids?? Ionized Plasma??!
To be fair, the above is probably just a matter of taste- ME having some! *rim shot!
Except my problem with this show goes deeper, after watching several episodes I noticed a fatal flaw. Recall all the classic sitcoms and a formula will emerge; not so much a formula as the required ingredients in sitcom DNA. The series is a bust right down to its mechanical structure. It violates nearly every rule established for a quality show and the rules it does adhere to, it abuses them.
Below are the best examples of said template on how to use great stock characters, the huge difference is the following series ran with them. Gave the characters nuance and foibles. Not only stock characters, but real, well-rounded people we got to know. They weren’t always right or even good, but always human and always, always funny!
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” -every show has the main kid, the well balanced one- usually told from this character’s POV, they tend to balance out the wackiness created by the others; Mary Richards was the sane one who balanced everyone else out. Dorothy from “The Golden Girls” and Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” did the same on their respective series.
“Cheers” -the dumb one, Ernie “Coach” Pantuso, was mostly a dim-bulb, but once in a while he would say something very sensible and wise. Occasionally they will exhibit more wisdom and sanity than anyone else. Rose from “The Golden Girls often did the same; a real putz, with stupid stories and nearly insane form of naivety but would surprise everyone with her wisdom and tough competitive streak. Diane Chambers was a great character because she was high-strung, pretentious, so completely self-analyzing that she was often unaware of her surroundings and was ripe for a great insult. Despite being the best educated, she was at times, the dumbest, an huge irony indeed.
“The Andy Griffith Show”, the buffoon- Sometimes these are separated into two different characters or combined with the dummy, in the case of Barney Fife from he was three. Another great angel to write a character from as they could grind him in the dirt and humiliate him anyway possible, but often would have the audience feel his pain and empathize with him. Andy would go to great lengths to protect Barney’s feelings from being hurt. Barney was easy to relate to, but easier to laugh at. Ted Baxter was another great example, slightly more destructive than Fife with his rampaging ego as a TV weatherman. Always good for a laugh, but occasionally would surprise everyone with his courage.
“Everybody Loves Raymond” is a perfect example of a modern series with classic ingredients. Ray’s wife was the sane one, usually, while her in-laws were definitely a mix bag of buffoons and dummies and all the other archetypes. Husband Ray was somewhere in the middle and often exhibited all these traits.
“Sanford & Son” – Son Lamont was the steady, usually the rational mind while his father Fred was the schemer, the conniving and constantly played mind games with his son to keep him home. Both characters filled most of the stock character roles/archetypes. The strong supporting cast filled out everything else- especially friend Grady Wilson as the dumb one and sister-in-law Esther Anderson as Fred’s nemesis. Despite the quarreling between father and son, they loved each other deeply and would do anything for each other when called for.
“Seinfeld” had all those in play with Jerry acting as the normal one, yet exhibiting all of the above traits at one time or another. Kramer and George were of varying degrees of buffoons and dumb and Elaine filled in the rest of the blanks. They all worked in tandem, without one, the group would be ruined and not nearly as funny. Despite their near mental psychosis, the gang was funny. Their selfishness was horrifying yet occasionally relatable and the show gets points for having the guts to not always go for the safe, obvious joke and would relish any moment to make fools out of the characters to sell a joke, but never went cheap and stepped out of character at the expense of a joke. Even though the characters were all ciphers, the show wrote comedy from the characters, not PLOT.
“Three’s Company”- for all the critical drubbings it took; it had the classic formula down pat. Jack was the crazy/buffoon, Chrissy was the dummy, and Janet was the normal one that balanced out the others. The Ropers were a mixture of all of the ingredients with neighbor Larry Dallas filling in the blanks, but mostly was a skirt-chaser. Landlord Ralph Furley was definitely THE buffoon. This was farce taken to the extreme and done with hilarious results.
“All in the Family”- the single best sitcom ever produced, had the stock recipe down to perfection along with its provocative writing and flawless acting you didn’t really notice; the dumb character was wife Edith, the loud-mouthed bigot (or buffoon) was Archie. The Loud-mouth arrogant youngster was son-in-law Mike and the mostly normal character, daughter Gloria who balanced the other three out when she wasn’t doing her own freak out. ALL stock characters, but taken a little further than expected. What could have easily have been cliché is ignored for truth and a good joke- the execution was so mechanically and creatively sound we never noticed the formula. The humor and topics rose above the premise and created something bigger, it become the first water-cooler show that would have tongues wagging the following day. Full of passion, guts and humanity, the series never sacrificed character for a cheap joke and it never sacrificed a joke for fake emotions. When it was dramatic it deserved it and when it was funny, it earned it. Instead, we got variations and nuances from each every character; they had their moments to shine and would surprise the viewers with some personality revealed. Sometimes Edith was the wisest character on the show. Although Archie was a bigot with distasteful opinions, he’d often surprise everyone with his generosity and humanity. He and Mike fought like cats and dogs, they would band together in times of crisis. Mike, the crusading Liberal was often wrong and Gloria could at times be as dense as her mother. Archie Bunker with all his flaws was an inherently good man, who worked hard all his life and was only saying what society and his father had taught him, he was just confused and the changes were too fast for him. The audience over the years grew to like him, cheered him on, laughed and cried with him and at him… only through the love of his family does he occasionally see the error of his ways and at least, soften his opinions. That’s real, that’s relateable and that’s excellent writing! That’s what good comedy does, delivers the laughs, but gives us something of the characters to relate to- real human moments with some unexpected bits thrown in. The nuance, the human foibles that makes us who we are; this is why we laugh at those shows decades after they’ve left the air.
“The Big Bang Theory” has NONE of that! It will enter syndication and leave undisturbed or talked about, and dull as a silent fart. When you break it down the series is paper thin and terribly lacking in good, well-constructed, memorable jokes. Having watched two episodes two days ago, I cannot recall a single one-liner or funny aside. It’s also enourmously fake and inauthentic… the following proves to me this show is full of crap!
Sheldon: “Saturn 3 and Deep Space 9 are on tonight. What shall we watch?”
Raj: “Deep Space 9. It’s better than Saturn 3 anyway…”
Sheldon: “Since when is Deep Space 9 better than Saturn 3?”
BULLSHIT! IF Sheldon was a big nerd as he is suppose to be, IF he is as smart as he says he is, then he would know what a terrible movie “Saturn 3” is and would never say its’ better than “Star Trek: Deep Space 9,” but per usual, the people watching this show yuck it up because it sounded nerdy, the laugh track kicked in therefore it’s funny…. right?!
In the same episode the same two debate which is worse, “Star Trek 5” or “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” Sheldon thinks TMP fails, but again, this is not a true geek talking… this is a fake nerd speaking words writen by posers and idiots who hate nerds but think it’s funny to make fun of them… Epic Fail. Every Trekkie knows TMP is a beautiful, accomplished film with plenty of admirers and fans… fake tv nerds are not among them…
Perhaps I’m asking too much by comparing gold to tin foil, but it’s a legitimate gripe and a serious problem for nearly every 3 camera sitcom/live studio audience on the air today. There are no pauses in the humor for real moments; it’s an endless assembly line of soulless mechanical writing that lacks humanity and truth. The show has stock characters, but refuses to anything with them; they merely sit around, spout their stupid lines and let the laugh track do the heavy lifting. It’s not just the humor that doesn’t work, but the inside structure, the building blocks to what makes a series solid and a test of time are not there in “The Big Bang Theory”.
Humanity, nuance, originality, surprise-none of that is on display in Instead, its surface, crappy writing. A pack of writers sit around a table eating their pizza trying to beat a deadline writing whatever comes to mind forgoing logic, quality of the jokes and taste. There’s no depth, no interesting quirks, Sheldon only exists to serve as a “comic” foil to his roommate Leonard, who serves to only cower and kiss his ass. If Sheldon was a bully with sociopath tendencies, which he has, then Leonard is a scared, wimpy, wispy weakling who’s afraid of his own shadow. The characters are annoying jerks- neither are unlikable in a funny way, but both are unlikable in an unlikable way.
His friends are equally horrible.
Leonard is supposed to be smart and possibly smarter than Sheldon, but his kvetching Jew shtick is beyond pathetic- there are some occasional signs of competition with this as Sheldon’s narcissism comes out whenever his intellect is challenged- again, not very funny. Leonard’s self-esteem is so low and his nerdiness so over-powering that it’s enormously hard to swallow that neighbor Penny would show an interest in him, but of course she does…but she is dumb of course, god forbid they write a beautiful girl in the Lorre universe that’s also smart. The romance between her and Leonard is phony, why a girl that hot would show the slightest interest in a cream puff like that is still a mystery even Colombo couldn’t solve.
Would it not be more interesting and funny if Penny were as smart as the guys….?
The girl that Sheldon does have an interest can’t look like a real woman- sorry, Mayim Bialik is not easy on the eyes…but of course since she’s smart, a borderline genius, she has to look like an Ape dressed up as Bette Midler. Keep those clichés coming; we can’t have realistic people and identifiable human traits on display.
Howard is whatever he is, a punching bag for Leonard when Sheldon gets pissed off. Rajesh is Indian and that’s why he’s funny…I guess? Those two serve no purpose other than to reinforce old racial stereotypes and to fill the sitcom quota for “Dumb guy” and get a condescending look from Sheldon from time to time with the laugh tracking kick into over drive. Which itself is not a terrible thing, IF something was done, inject some personality, HUMOR, do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, but the laugh track ticks on every five seconds laughing off every trite stupid joke and nonsense one-liner. If that weren’t enough, it’s the geek pandering; throw some Nimoy references around (a funny way to show off Sheldon’s sociopath tendencies), have the gang dress up like a comic book characters- oh how funny!!…and best of all- lets revive the old fashioned stereotype of guys who like science also like Star Trek/Star Wars!
I love both of those and I HATE science and it goes back and forth between those two distinct personality types mixing them up liberally showing the audience they have no clue- This is why the show is a fraud-it may not matter to most watching but the lack of edification is annoying. The show has no idea what the difference is between a Geek and Nerd and it shows.
Splitting hairs perhaps, but there is a huge quantifiable difference. A geek is someone who lives a reasonably normal, healthy life, but “geeks-out” over whatever they like, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, movies in general…and that’s basically it…they go on about their lives, have a family and are usually socially sound, date are and fun people to be around. They usually have other interests, a job and are not afraid of expanding their horizons.
Nerds are near mental cases. They live for whatever they are obsessed with and suck it dry. Nitpick and dissect it to death. They tend to be those basement-dwellers, unkempt mouth-breathers that live for only one or two things. If they have a job, it’s usually some dead-end retail madness. They are usually mean-spirited, self-centered jerks with zero interest in anything in life outside of their sphere of influence, emotionally regressive and social retards. They like only what they like, they don’t engage well in conversations if it’s not about them or their interests; they will keep it always about them and how it impacts their lives are generally jerky people that do not participate much in the game of human existence with very limited horizons. World of Warcraft seems to attract this type.
I realize they have to mix and match to make these freaks palatable and give them some mass appeal, but it’s insulting to my intelligence, again, it would not be a deal break, IF this damn thing was funny, but it’s not… the nerd/geek thing is the gimmick, the hook, the point of the show, but it seems, at least for me, to end right there… too bad…they don’t show the normal side of these guys, the mundane with the absurd, it’s JUST the absurd. We don’t laugh at the characters because they are funny, we are suppose to laugh at them because they are awkward, goofy and weird. If this show wanted to go for the nerd/geek jugular, it could and really have fun it. There’s plenty of material- take aim at the basement-dwellers and the tubby unhygienic crowd. Humiliate these freaks like crazy, but give them some humanity first and make one of the gang a normal person or twist it up and make Penny a nerd and the guy next door is the normal guy looking in or just have the main character the normal guy with nerdy friends and he keeps them balanced as they all learn from each other. Don’t just make it one long gimmick of assembly line and unfunny jokes.
*cue laugh track!
This show would have fit right in during the 1980’s/early 90’s sitcom renaissance sandwiched between “Family Matters” and “Step-by-Step,” with “Webster” coming up the rear- three horrible shows with all the same problems; lack of great characters, lack of solid joke building and the rudimentary concept of humor.
The worst part is that Jim Parsons has won the Emmy twice for his portrayal as Sheldon. and if that doesn’t make you sick enough here’s some disgusting trivia- Andy Griffith, Jackie Gleason and Redd Foxx never won an Emmy.
Penny: Umm, I guess the jokes only funny in Nebraska.
Sheldon: No, from the given data, all you can say is that this joke is not funny here…