It’s the second of our new weekly feature, What We’re Watching Wednesday. Our launch peice last week on The Big Bang Theory sparked some debate around the office, and we thought it only fair to show two sides to the story. This week, Charlie tells us how he absolutely did not learn to love The Big Bang Theory.
A lot of people seem to like The Big Bang Theory, it’s one of the more popular TV comedies of recent times. Some of my colleagues here are fans of the show, and one of them has just written their own blog piece about it. It’s this that has finally nudged me into writing this counterpoint piece – put simply, I HATE The Big Bang Theory. It’s not that the show is terminally unfunny, there is the occasional good joke. It’s not even as flat-out offensively awful as the even more bafflingly popular Two and a Half Men (which like The Big Bang Theory was also created by Chuck Lorre, who seems to be the Michael Bay of TV). But the things I dislike about the show are so bad that I’ve wound up disliking it more than shows which are objectively worse. So what is it that drives me mad?
1. Studio audience laughter
There’s nothing wrong with audience laughter on a TV show, many great shows have it. But The Big Bang Theory appears to be filmed in front of a bunch of hyenas on laughing gas. Almost every line is greeted with some sort of laugh, not even Seinfeld at its peak was laugh-worthy after every line. The effect is to take you out of the show you’re watching and it just becomes grating after a while. The Big Bang Theory is like the episode of The Simpsons where Mr Burns takes over all the TV stations in Springfield and we get a brief snippet of a sitcom show he’s in:
‘Smithers I’m home!’
2. Annoying characters
Again, a comedy can sometimes have characters doing dislikeable things or even being dislikeable people while still being funny and enjoyable to watch – step forward George Costanza and pretty much all of the characters in Arrested Development. But it takes a lot of writing skill to do this. Instead what we have with The Big Bang Theory is a cast of thoroughly hideous characters – Leonard is weak and whiny, Penny is mean, Raj is irritatingly arrogant, Wolowitz is horribly sleazy (his relationship and marriage to Bernadette strains credulity even by TV show standards; no sane woman would spend more than five minutes with someone like this). And then there’s the show’s most famous character, Sheldon Cooper. Jim Parsons is a good comedic actor and I can’t really fault his performance but Sheldon is a complete and utter dick, and it amazes me how he seems to be the most popular character. There’s some debate as to whether Sheldon is meant to be autistic or has Asperger’s Syndrome , but I don’t ever recall personality traits like constantly belittling the people around you being mentioned as features of autism or Asperger’s. Even the supporting characters on the show seem infected by this tendency to be unpleasant, and the end result is something that feels constantly mean-spirited. Not in a pleasingly cynical Seinfeld or Arrested Development way, but in a just plain nasty Family Guy way.
3. Laughing at geeks, not with them
This is maybe the thing I hate most about the show, though it’s hardest to verbalise why. It might just be an overly defensive thing on my part but seeing nerdy/geeky people mocked in TV and film has always been a bugbear, not because it’s bad in itself but because it’s often done so lazily and insultingly, and nothing is interesting is done with it. Watching The Big Bang Theory sometimes feels like we’ve barely moved on from the days of Saved by the Bell (a terrible show for those of you still recalling it with rose-tinted glasses) with its occasional ‘sad geek’ characters in coke-bottle glasses and as figures of fun. All the lazy tropes of geeky characters – weedy, unable to function in society, terrible with women, mummy’s boys – are present and correct. Not to mention the writing which often just wants laughs from the fact they’ve referenced something scientific or Lord of the Rings. In short, this is a TV show where the premise is ‘lol look at these losers!’. And depressingly people seem to lap it up.
That’s probably enough ranting anyway. I know there are others out there who hate this show, so let’s unite against the menace that is The Big Bang Theory! What people should be watching instead is the cult US TV show Community. It laughs with geeks, not at them, has brilliant episodes based around, among other things, mammoth paintball fights and games of D&D, and takes hilarious swipes at shows like Glee. And in Abed Nadir it has a character who is basically Sheldon Cooper done well and far more endearingly. Next week my colleagues Jen and Hannah, who endorse this blog piece wholeheartedly, will give you ten reasons why Community knocks spots off The Big Bang Theory. Six seasons and a movie!