The Big Bang Theory - Theory

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A look into the popular TV show and all the hype that surrounds it.

Submitted: July 01, 2014

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Submitted: July 01, 2014

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The Big Bang Theory – Theory

 

When sitcoms start, everyone seems to expect a certain level of quality. Throughout the years, they have definitely shown us that there is some kind of formula to follow if one wants to be successful. The Big Bang Theory is definitely a good idea. Four socially awkward yet clever men try and find love whilst enjoying their lives as comic book loving, equation solving, Stan Lee bumming, test tube hugging nerds. It’s a very simple idea which has grown a fan base larger than life. Yet despite this, The Big Bang Theory is one of those shows which I find incredibly difficult to enjoy. I have tried hard to see the appeal, yet there’s something which continuously annoys me every time I try and watch it. So without further ado, let’s dive into this concoction of brains, awkwardness and personality defects to see what went wrong. By the way, please understand that I know there are people who enjoy this show so this comes as merely my own opinion rather than a harsh truth.

Characters

Characters drive the sitcom. Without them, there is nothing. Typically you would have an array of different personalities riffing off each other in the hope that the comedy finds itself. In Friends, there was the high maintenance one, the hippy one, the funny one, the pretty one, the stupid one and the geeky one. Each was so different and so well defined that the laughs came as natural as ever. They were based off stereotypes yes but there was much more to them. They were funny, they had a heart and they managed to put across some serious emotion when the time called for it. The Big Bang Theory works off a different principle. We have four socially awkward characters who enjoy the same things, speak the same lingo and work in the same place. So to make each one stand out, the creators had to get a bit well . . . creative. There’s Leonard, who seems to be the most normal of the bunch.  He understands modern behaviour and has come to terms with the fact that he is a bit of a nerd. I guess you could say that Leonard is probably the most likeable due to his capability of realising the embarrassing issues within the group. He’s quick to settle a situation and to walk out when things get heated. When dealing with his friends, he meets them on the same level yet doesn’t usually conform to their petty squabbles. He injects a bit of human reasoning and logic to balance the whole nerd on nerd array. In terms of characters he is probably the most relatable one. Then there’s Howard who is also socially awkward yet is more confident and more outspoken. His purpose in the show is to give an insanely over the top Jewish stereotype a modern make over. He and his mother are the epitome of all dated Jewish stereotypes ranging from the whiney voice to the jokes about money. Apart from that, he’s fairly bland. Howard is usually the one who delivers the punchline yet he’s just as clueless and oblivious to the real world as the rest. And then there’s Raj, probably the most boring character of the bunch. In most sitcoms there is always one character who isn’t as interesting as the rest but Raj is so poorly defined with nothing more than an Indian accent and a lack of confidence to characterise him. It almost seems like the creators ran out of ideas, none more evident than the decision for Raj to remain silent when talking to women. He almost always takes a backseat to whatever is happening within the story. He comments on issues and occasionally is the main focus but for the most part he is so pushed aside that I wonder whether his character is actually even necessary. And finally, there’s the character who everyone talks about. Sheldon. When the show first started, Sheldon was the main attraction from day one. Why? Because he is nothing like a traditional sitcom character. He is so awkward, so selfish, so ignorant, so stubborn, so incapable of understanding any kind of human behaviour that it set him aside from anything we’ve seen before. But I never found this entertaining. If anything, it was annoying. When you create a character who is incapable of providing any rational understanding of humans then how can that character be relatable? We all have a friend who is difficult to get along with but we have the ability to reach them on a certain level. Sheldon doesn’t have a level because he is beyond anything anyone is used to. Even his friends seem to disregard his presence and fail to appreciate his way of life. There have been numerous arguments suggesting that the character is autistic, mainly because it’s not that he refuses to understand humans, it’s because he flat out doesn’t understand them at all. He applies logic and honesty where it’s not needed and rarely takes the time to show emotion because, quite evidently, he doesn’t know how to. But I fail to see how this makes a strong character. For the face of the series, Sheldon isn’t well-defined or even three dimensional. He’s merely a robot.

Relationships

So what’s a good sitcom without good relationships? I’ve purposefully missed going into the supporting characters because we’ll touch base with them now. Penny and Leonard are on and off throughout the whole series. In terms of how compatible they are, it’s evident they are the complete opposite to one another. He’s a brainiac, interested in science while she’s a wannabe actress interested in fashion. Despite this, out of all the relationships, Penny and Leonard seem to have the best chemistry. It’s odd then that while they are together, there’s little time spent actually evolving their relationship. More time seems to be spent moving on from each other instead of working on their problems and fixing them. Going back to Friends, Ross and Rachael’s relationship was worth caring about because they encountered so many problems but still managed to work through them. Even when they weren’t together, you could still sense the feeling between them was still strong even if they were with other people. And when they do reconcile with each other, you can tell they worked hard for a big payoff.  With Penny and Leonard, they move on from each other so fast that we quickly forget the romantic bond they once had. Whether they’re together or not it barely changes them as people as they seem on and off with each other more times than I can count. Penny in particular is keen to have sex with him at any given moment without caring too much about the consequences.  This decision to make their relationship fairly open and relaxed, cancels out any surprise or sadness when they start up again or finish with each other. The connection becomes lost.  

With Howard and Bernadette, there’s again little time spent actually evolving their relationship. One minute they’re dating, the next minute they’re married. There doesn’t seem to be much transition between the two phases. There’s definitely a bond between them though, but it never reaches the heights of Penny and Leonard’s chemistry. Probably because Bernadette is again a very bland character. She wants Howard to be more of a man but in terms of actual personality, it’s a range of dippy comments and owning the title of being the middle one in the group of girls. The marriage itself is blossoming though. They rarely encounter problems and immensely enjoy each other’s company yet it doesn’t seem natural. There was little build up to the marriage so we struggle to connect with them on any emotional level as we clearly haven’t spent enough time with them. The relationship is barely defined so any problems they may encounter aren’t weighty enough for us to really care about.  

Which brings me onto the oddest relationship of them all. Sheldon and Amy’s. What do you do when you have a socially awkward character that’s incapable of human contact? Give him a compatible partner of course! Amy is best defined by thinking of Sheldon in a wig. She’s just like him in every way yet craves a bit more in terms of companionship. This isn’t to say that she’s any more interesting though. Her and Sheldon’s conversations are like two iphones using Siri. There’s no passion, emotion or even a coherent respect for one another. He’s too selfish to care and she’s too insecure to leave. Their relationship seems to be nothing more than a contract of what’s logically expected. Which is fine because there’s clearly no one else for them. Does this provide a bond though? When characters have no chemistry then how can we believe that a relationship actually exists? I understand that the behaviour is meant to exaggerate their sheer ignorance of real relationships yet it’s so bloated and ridiculous that we can’t even meet them on a human level. Which brings me onto my main problem with the show.

Comedy

As I said before, the Big Bang Theory was a good idea for a sitcom. Characters and relationships are fine by themselves yet the comedy has to really stand out. Which unfortunately is better said then done when it comes to the writing. Don’t get me wrong, the show has jokes. Lots and lots and lots of jokes but they’re probably not the jokes you’d expect. In the Big Bang Theory there’s a basic setup which is repeated throughout. Someone asks a sensible question – nerd replies in complex language – person looks confused – canned laughter follows. It’s astounding just how often this occurs. This is not to say that there aren’t any more jokes in the show but for most of the episodes, there’s a lot of this setup. Which is why I don’t class the show as funny. From how it’s written we’re not laughing at the jokes; we’re laughing at the situation. These characters are too socially awkward, too clever, too distant from reality that we don’t understand them at all. And this is funny because we know we’re better off. We don’t want to be like them. The humour tries to come from this far too often. Even with the canned laughter it feels too forced and obvious. There’s a video on youtube which shows a scene without the canned laughter which I highly recommend. From the long periods of silence and lack of prompting we see the main flaw. It depends too much on the background laughter. If we’re not led to believe we should be laughing then the true colours begin to show. Bland, bloated and completely unnatural.  In terms of the jokes that actually have a punchline; they are so basic and thin that we already know where each setup is leading. It’s almost like saying I’m lactose intolerant before going out to dinner with a celebrity. We all know what’s going to happen and we’d be surprised if it didn’t. The show uses the same obvious trick for most of the series. Needless to say, it grows incredibly tiresome after several episodes.

Conclusion

I can see why people like this show. It’s easy to watch, it’s modern and it’s always on the television. Despite this, I can’t understand the appeal. Apart from being repetitive and bland, the show is so distant from any reality we perceive. The characters are cartoonish, the relationships are laughable and the comedy jumps between painfully obvious to awkwardly confusing. From a social point of view, I can’t honestly say I am familiar with anything that’s on offer. A sitcom should thrive on meeting its audience on some form of relatable level so its characters and situations can be understood and most importantly enjoyed! The Big Bang Theory in this sense unfortunately fails. It’s not the worst show in the world but it definitely has its flaws. I hope in future seasons we see a more focussed approach which doesn’t rely on cheap laughs and predictable setups. From writing this, you can clearly tell I’m nit- picking though I hope there’s some of you out there who agree. 


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