Those words were hard to type, because for years I have used this show as an effective punch line. Recently a friend recommended it and whilst I do trust his opinion, I chose to ignore it on that occasion. How could I possibly watch this formulaic American sitcom that’s just another in the production line? It’s about four geeks and their hot female neighbour… we get it, comedy ensues, as does a laughter track. Then one fateful afternoon of channel changing brought me into close contact with the show that now pays its main actors one million dollars each an episode.
The first episode I watched had me laughing a few times, the second episode also provided a few laughs and the third made me take a cold shower. Let me say this, I don’t love this show by any means, but I can see its appeal. It’s well structured, with defined characters and has plenty of science gags; however most importantly, it’s a show that’s easy to digest. Don’t forget that Jim Parsons won four Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe, and to his credit he does a solid job. His physical portrayal of Sheldon is reminiscent of Mr Bean.
The sitcom formula in The Big Bang Theory does work. It mines the friction between introverts and extroverts, intellect levels and social notions to a degree that is palatable but also familiar, which is a testament to good producing and writing. It also helps that the punch lines have a higher hit rate than most American sitcoms, which is in part due to its overall confidence and a testament to its longevity. Perhaps my own ‘nerd’ tendencies mean that this show appeals to me more than another Chuck Lorre show, Two and a Half Men. A sitcom which too often left it’s comedy scaffolding uncovered, with predictable gags and a dynamic that felt slightly off, like Charlie Sheen’s tendency to wear high sock and shorts… what a ladies’ man.
Where Big Bang succeeds is in its relationship between Penny and Leonard, a classic ‘will they/won’t they’, because deep down we’re all cheering for the underdog to punch above his weight. Searching through the plots in earlier seasons, Penny and Leonard do get together but break up, however that affection is still there and very much in play. Which brings to mind a Ricky Gervais quote about The Office – “They may have tuned in for comedy… but they stay and watch it for Tim and Dawn.” The Big Bang Theory can make you laugh, but at its centre is a good heart.