I've brought up "The Big Bang Theory" a few times on this blog over the years. Some in direct ways, some in indirect ways,
One of my earlier pieces was about what was then the biggest battle on Network Television, between "Community" and "The Big Bang Theory".
That one caused some controversy at the time, especially from the rabid "Community" fans who didn't like how I dismissed that show. If anything, I actually think far less of "Community" now than I did even then. I mean, I do sorta get a little pissy at most everything Dan Harmon has a bit of a part in, but, yeah, the fact that with "Community" he couldn't just-, do a show about a group of Community College students and he had to just dive into a 100 other things every chance he had, like seriously, what the fuck?! I mean, I can respect that humor on "Rick & Morty" where it's baked into the premise that anything can happen, or even "The Sarah Silverman Program" 'cause his ideas are filtered through an insane-ass mind, and I mean that lovingly Sarah, but doing it with "Community" is just cheat-of-premise, especially there's so much humor that can be gotten, just from the base concept and he never took advantage of it. It's the same complaint I've had with J.J. Abrams, you can't just have characters stuck on a desert island, there has to be a bunch of other stupid crap? I read this as a major red flag that natural drama is something that they have trouble with-, UGH!
Sorry, I've- I've been holding that rant back for a while- Anyway. I don't want to discuss that, I want to talk about "The Big Bang Theory" as it's just been announced that it's upcoming, it's 12th will be it's last. The internet lit up with,- I don't know, the same useless complaining about how the show was never funny and (Sigh) I don't know-, I've never fully gotten the criticisms of this series. I mean, I get some of them, the misogyny claims, some of the stereotype claims, some of the other typical Chuck Lorre criticisms, only they're exemplified because, apparently nerds rule the world, for some reason, despite my objections, and apparently, I don't know, they go after it for not being funny or accurate to them...- (Shrugs)
Alright, not just nerds, but yeah, most of the criticisms- I know comedy is somewhat subjective but I don't think a lot of those criticisms are valid. I feel like a lot of them are just stuff-, annoyance at the medium; we're definitely at a time where people don't take multi-cams seriously and "The Big Bang Theory" hit right in the middle of that wave, which BTW is bullshit; multi-cams are just as good as single-cams. A lot of it is also people upset at the concept or some of the characters. I mean, I can't say I disagree entirely but the show has grown and all the characters have evolved in positive ways. Mostly, I think a lot of it is just petty though. Like, did you guys see this famous clip of the guy yelling at the show on TV?
The joke is that, Howard is unfamiliar with the situation he's about to oversee, a ping pong game to decide whether something he covets will remain in his house, and he's trying to put it into terms that he can understand. That's why it's funny. This whole show and comedy thereof is based on of a fish-out-of-water narrative. I'm not gonna pretend it's the funniest joke the show ever made, but it's a little funny, and just because there's a laugh-track doesn't mean it's not funny to begin with. (Yeah, laugh tracks are not their to help induce laughter or humor from supposedly unfunny jokes and that guy's just being an asshole.)
That said, I totally understand ending the series. It's about time. Purportedly it's because Jim Parsons was ready to move on and frankly I don't blame him. He's made enough money and his iconic legendary character of Sheldon Cooper is gonna survive for awhile. I don't think it's about time to end the show because the show's stopped being funny; it gone down in humor for the last few years, but I've never bought into the theory that a TV show can/should only last a certain amount of years. Good shows can last as long as they want and bad shows can't get off the air fast enough as far as I'm concerned.
However-, it's not that I can't imagine "The Big Bang Theory" lasting another five or six years, I actually can and think there's still some good story possibilities left, but the narratives of the show have basically all,- well, they've moved on. The difference between shows that run too long and ones that run too short to me, it's whether or not the characters have completed their change, their transformation effectively. Drama is change, how one starts to how one ends, that's the journey we watch. TV shows, and sitcoms in particular are interesting because most of the tradition of the genre and frankly most of the best series, well, the characters typically don't change much, or certainly don't change quickly, at least they shouldn't. I know there's occasionally exceptions to this, but if you suddenly change the characters very quickly on what's supposed to be a long-running series, well, then,- well, 99/100 times, you ruin the show.
This goes for any show, whether it's a good or bad change. It's easy to pinpoint jump the shark-like moments that are negative changes, but even when it's positive changes, inevitable changes, it can be a drastic downfall in quality. "The Big Bang Theory" is a really good example of this; it's a show about a bunch of committed bachelors who all eventually evolved and get married or are into longterm committed relationships.
What? It is! Strip the show of everything else, that's what you got. Okay, not committed bachelors, just single characters. Really, it's not different than "Friends" or "How I Met Your Mother" or "Sex and the City" or "Girls" most any other show that's about, dating essentially. It just so happens that the characters involved are mostly geniuses and have struggles with the modern dating world, or in Penny's case, struggles with, being surrounded by nerdy geniuses and having to enter that modern dating world. They're all fish out of their own waters The thing is, these characters really kinda, well-, they finished their arcs already. The three main pairings have gotten married, and the fourth one's in a better position to be in relationships than he's ever been, that's entering the 12th season, and they've already make a prequel series, "Young Sheldon", which-, is also a really good show. (Seriously, I like it quite a bit; most things I've seen about child geniuses usually take place after the child's- well, not necessarily grown up, but starting living in the adult world, but we haven't seen too many shows about being a child struggling with childhood while being a genius; the only thing I can think of that did that well was the Jodie Foster film, "Little Man Tate", and that's a damn good movie, and I like seeing it done with a comedic slant, and you still got the fish-out-of-water comedic premise that made "The Big Bang Theory" work, and it works for that show) So, yeah, there's not much left to tell, at least unless they want to have the characters go through more radical changes, but that alone could take years to develop and make believable, and that's if the show doesn't jump the shark by doing that, which it very easily could, assuming it hasn't already, and-eh, yeah, Sheldon getting married...- that's- I mean, there's potential for comedy there, seeing him turn into a loving husband, but-eh, considering where we started with him, I think that's enough change, dramatically.
It's funny, that's how I think of the show, because the thing with "The Big Bang Theory" that really makes it impressive is that it really didn't start out well. It didn't start out badly, but- well, it didn't have a good first impression. It was the joke concept from the beginning. It's got a terrible pun title, it's about a bunch of nerdy-geek characters, and typically the audience is generally polarized enough when there's one of those in a sitcom, and the show was awkward in the beginning. With one character in particular who was unusually peculiar and quirky in a lot of what we would consider some abnormally annoying ways. There was a theory out there that originally claimed that the Sheldon character was autistic and that the entire show was about the struggles of taking care of an autistic person. As somebody who does actually take care of their younger autistic brother, I found this theory, credible and plausible to be honest, there's a high-maintenance factor that's both hilarious and often cringe-worthy with Sheldon. Lorre has discredited that theory since and I don't think anybody buys into it now, but there is a funny thing that happened with the series. Not that it got good, it always had it's moments, even in it's earliest episodes when you were still fleshing out the characters. but eventually you got used to the world and situation. I call it the "Rules of the Universe" theory, which I'm sure I stole from some professor, but you got used to the situation the characters were in and you accepted it, and the show started to go from, okay to, really one of the best shows on TV.
I mean, the situation itself is nothing unusual, it's the outgoing single girl living with the conservative single guys and they're two worlds colliding. It's "Ball of Fire" basically, only far less ridiculous, but the way they went about it was new and once you figured that out, you let the screwball comdy come. Honestly, the more classical I realize the show is, the more I'm amazed people do get upset at it. Any other sitcom I can think of that's lasted this long are regarded as important and influential classics of television. "M*A*S*H", "Cheers", "Frasier", "Friends", there aren't really too many that hit the ten season mark, much less twelve, and none of those shows anybody would take totally seriously that they're bad, despite some dated aspects to their characters and humor. I don't know why "The Big Bang Theory"'s any different for some people. "Modern Family"'s inching up to that line too, and I've had much more negative criticisms of that series than I ever have "The Big Bang Theory". Not that "Modern Family" isn't funny, it is, but there hasn't been as much character development and change on that series, overall anyway. "The Big Bang Theory" has definitely had that.
Maybe it's that some viewers have this protective ideal regarding nerd culture and how it's portrayed. Honestly, fuck them. I'm serious, this isn't a culture that's essentially needed to be protected or presenting in an accurate or respectful. Seriously, I've heard people talk about that "Ready Player One" in comparison to things like what "Roots" does for the African-American experience. Yeah, any "culture" that thinks that deeply of themselves, that they're comparing their plight to a formerly enslaved race of people, they need to give it a break and laugh at themselves, at minimum. I don't remember Ted Danson getting told how horrible his portrayal of a lecherous former-athlete-turned-bartender was. And I also know people who say that "The Big Bang Theory" is quite an accurate portrayal of certain aspects of some characters, so...
I don't know what to make of any of that. I know I relate, or can at least empathize with parts of it, and that's more-than-enough for me, and believe me, I'm far less interested in the things they're interested in on the show than you can imagine. (They like superheroes and their science nerds! What do these women see in them? Geography nerds are way cooler than science pricks.) As I reflect on the series last days, I find that it's probably the last multi-cam of it's era that's gonna capture the cultural imagination. The genre won't die, hell, "One Day At a Time"'s reboot has proved it's just as great a medium as it's ever been and can be as powerful in quality and content as anything else, but this is probably the last time the genre gonna seriously be looked upon as an important and culturally relevant show. At least, for a little while; I'm sure something will come along soon, but it's the last time we're gonna get a show positively or negatively has truly become immersed by the public and critics and television-philes,TV-files, tube-, what's the television equivalent of cinephile? (Google search) Telephile? (Shrugs) I guess that'll work, telephiles alike are fascinated by. Positively, negatively, you don't find too many people who had no idea on the series.It's one of the biggest ratings hits still, and it's one of the biggest hits in syndication history and that's gonna remain for years. With all due respect to other good shows like "Mike & Molly" and Chuck Lorre's own other project, "Mom", they may be good themselves and have somewhat of a following,- the television landscape is just saturated right now, especially with streaming options, there's not gonna be a multi-cam that gets the ratings or cultural relevance as "The Big Bang Theory" has for a long time. Even "Young Sheldon"'s a single-cam. Let's face it, we're not getting the a multi-cam that would be considered by some reasonable as the biggest show on TV, for...- it's gonna be a little while at least.
It's hard enough even quantifying that anymore. I remember a few years ago about how "NCIS" was the number show on televisions ratings-wise, I got a lot of comments amazed because they legitimately didn't know anybody who watched it. Hell, I see that comment all the time with "The Big Bang Theory", "Who watches it?!" Well, I did for one. but, nobody watches anything anymore. You're not gonna find a series that everybody watches, even the ones you think everyone does, the biggest shows or our time, at most, maybe 0.03% of the country is watching, and that's the percent of the country who watched the "Breaking Bad" finale; I can't even find a Neilsen rating for the last big series finale I can think of "The Americans". When "Cheers" had it's series finale, over 1/3 the country sat down to watch it, nowadays, one of the supposed biggest shows on TV can barely get a 1/3 of a 1% of the country to watch. I'm sure some other shows, including I'll bet "The Big Bang Theory"'s finale will be a little bigger, (Again, finale number that was, not average episode number) but we're never gonna see populace embrace something the way we used to with television, at least television as we used to know it, capturing the imagination of the public. Even if it's, probably lasted a little long, narrative-wise at lest, this'll be the last of it's format to do it for a little while. And overall, that's a good legacy to have.