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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why the Big Bang Theory may just be the best comedy on TV.

If Sheldon Cooper is not already a household name to you then where have you been? Sheldon Cooper, brilliantly played by the Emmy winning actor Jim Parsons is the star of the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory. The show revolves around seven characters: Roommates (1)Leonard Hofstadter and (2)Sheldon Cooper, two physicists who work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech); (3)Penny, a blonde waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon's equally geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers aerospace engineer (4)Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist (5)Rajesh Koothrappali. The show also includes(6)Bernadette Rostenkowski, a microbiologist and part-time waitress alongside Penny, and Howard's love interest as well as (7)Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist who joins the group after being matched to Sheldon on a dating website.

The shows comedy mostly revolves around the hysterically O.C.D., eccentric, and brilliant Sheldon as well as the contrasting character Penny who is an in-the-clouds social blond bombshell. Without divulging too much at this point I would like to present to five reasons why this may just be the funniest show on television. It is already one of the highest rated and viewed shows on a weekly basis.

1. Jim Parsons
As mentioned, Jim Parson’s portrayal of Sheldon Cooper has already been recognized with numerous awards by all the critics. His character has grown and developed over the 5 seasons. Sheldon was originally the comedic roommate to Leonard; whose romance with Penny dominated the beginning of the show. But as the show progressed, the produces realized how popular Sheldon became and how his character could become so much more than the nerdiest of the nerds. His character’s brilliance and eccentric behavior has become absolutely laugh out loud funny. His sarcasm and unyielding obedience of science and fact is so different than any character ever portrayed on television. His social awkwardness such as his refusal to drive or “roommate contracts” is so outrageous you can almost imagine someone this awkward doing things like this. While his character his unyielding in many ways the character has grown over the years. Firstly, his relationship with women has grown from viewing them as simply sources of procreation to his extremely uncomfortable and unconventional “relationship” or “arrangement” with the hysterical Amy Farrah Fowler. Secondly, the show truly took a turn for greatness when Sheldon learned to have a sense of humor. I deliberately use the word learned because an entire episode was designated to Sheldon learning how to tell a joke. Once introduced to the idea of a “gotcha” joke, Sheldon immediately fell in love with the ability to “prank” others and thus we were introduced to the catchphrase “Bazinga” (already copyrighted and trademarked by CBS). Every night I fall asleep staring at a huge poster on my wall of Sheldon yelling Bazinga! Watching Sheldon learn how to tell a joke and fail miserably at the usage of his Bazinga was truly one of the most enjoyable television experiences of my life. If you don’t watch this show you should and if for nothing else than one of the funniest characters in TV history.

2. Geek Humor
The second reason The Big Bang Theory (“TBBT”) has become such a hit is that its source of comedy and humor is founded in a world that no TV show has ever approached, the world of the Geek. Some have said that Chuck, NBC’s sitcom and fan favorite about a “BuyMore” (aka Best Buy) geek squad member becoming a spy for the CIA is a geek comedy. But while Chuck originally delved a lot more into the world of science, video games, magic cards and Lord of the Rings, it now only occasionally mentions it; TBBT lives in the world of comic books, math theorems and scientific jargon. Every episode is intuitively worded into some type of theory, calculation, or hypothesis like “The Infestation Hypothesis”, “The Good Guy Fluctuation” and “The Desperation Emanation.” Entire episodes revolve around comic books, video games, and even anti-mater metaphysical theories. The humor is so quick and witty and yet very intelligent in its content that you will find yourself asking if the show is written by geeks who are funny or comics who are also geeks.

One of the funniest if not the funniest episodes of all time is Season 2 Episode 11, entitled, “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis.” In this episode, Sheldon is worried about getting Penny a gift for the Christmas holidays. After deciding on a basket of bath items he discovers a wide selection and is unable to decide on which one since he does not know what Penny will get him. Being the logical person he is, Sheldon purchases all of gift baskets planning on giving a reciprocal gift once Penny delivers hers. Penny eventually shocks Sheldon with a signed and used napkin by Leonard Nimoy, thus containing DNA for Sheldon to clone his own Mr. Spock. In one of the funniest sequences I have ever witnessed, Sheldon flips out at how good the gift is and winds up giving Penny all the baskets and a hug ta boot. The episode received such amazing reviews it was submitted as part of Jim Parson’s resume for his eventual win of the Emmy for Best Actor. Watch the final clip below (the entire episode is recommended).

3. Not quite Friends, but close.
One of the major contributors to the show’s success is the wide array of hysterical characters. The show over the last few seasons has attempted to create a Friends-like atmosphere with 4 guys, 3 girls and an array of occasional characters. While many TV shows have attempted to copy the Friends’ atmosphere of roommates, friends, lovers, and apartment hangouts, they have all fell by the waste side. TBBT has obviously not reached the level of friends (yet) but it has established the required concepts required for the long run success. Let’s examine and prepare yourself, this might scare you.
· Most of the comedic relief from Friends originated from the hysterical banter and stories of two roommates, roles originally played by Chandler and Joey, now held by Sheldon and Leonard.
· Inter group relationships, on and off, were a staple of the NBC sitcom and TBBT is full of them including Leonard and Penny; Sheldon and Amy; and Wolowitz and Bernadette.
· While Chandler and Monica were the stable and lovable relationship on Friends, Bernadette and Wolowitz’s relationship, while dealing with issues once in a while, is a steady and reliable staple among the crew.
· Perhaps the most famous, lovable and emotional relationships ever documented on TV, Ross and Rachel set the bar for all on and off relationships. But who could not fall in love with the mismatched couple of the tall, confident and beautiful Penny with the short, lovable and eager Leonard who were on and off with each other for almost 3 seasons.
· No Friends episode was complete without a hilarious conversation or game of Bamboozle held in the apartment hang out of the Friends gang. TBBT is no different as many/most scenes are anchored in the roommates’ apartment including their weekly Chinese meals from a very specific restaurant and weekly showings of the Star Wars Trilogy.
· When not chilling by Joey & Chandler or Monica & Rachel’s, the gang was almost always hanging out at Central Perk. It was their home away from home. TBBT is no different. Just instead of hanging out in a hipster coffee shop, the gang weekly spends their nights at the local comic book shop where they have funny encounters and comical acquaintances.
· What would Central Perk be without the lovable and stalkerish Gunther. The coffee shop waiter/manager always wants to be part of the gang but never quite makes the cut. Stuart, the always awkward and also quite stalkerish, comic book store manager seems to always provide a laugh or two when the boys visit the store and occasionally gets some more attention. He is eerily similar to Gunther.
As is evident, there are tons of similarities between these shows. What does this mean? It means that TBBT has the necessities for a long run sitcom. All of its characters are different, funny in their own way and provide something different to the show. From Wolowitz’s typical (sometimes stereotypical) Jewish banter and classic Jewish mother, to Koothrappali’s adorable Indian accent and shyness around girls (he can’t speak in front of pretty girls), to Amy Farrah Fowler’s weird obsession of Penny, and Leonard’s embarrassing Christian loving mother, there is no shortage of funny characters for everyone to enjoy. So while it may never reach the grandeur of Friends, The Big Bang Theory is getting awfully close.

4. Continuity of Jokes
The success of any good TV show is continuity. Not any continuity but intriguing, relative and witty continuity of jokes or characters. TBBT excels at building up jokes, character personalities and similar situations. This quality is perhaps the only reason the almost endless goal of How I Met Your Mother can be completely pushed off season after season. Who cares about who Ted is going to marry when you can constantly hear more about the “Bro Code” and anticipate the next Slap Bet? TBBT does this just as well. Recurring jokes and themes are found throughout the show. Whether it is Sheldon’s Bazinga, Amy’s obsession with Penny or Sheldon’s on-going feud with former Star Trek star Will Wheaton, TBBT is constantly connecting the dots. This is something that the show can and hopefully will get even better at. Some other recurring gags include the “Soft Kitty” song that Sheldon needs to fall asleep, visits from Leonard and Sheldon’s parents and some sort of costume dress up (Halloween, Renaissance Fair).

5. We are Geeks, deep down!
We may all be very cool dudes now in our older age but deep down we all love channeling that nerd in us. How many of you played Dungeons and Dragons, obsessed over your Lego sets and always had a fascination with the planets. Somehow, someway there is a Geek in each and every one of us and this show will bring it out in you and remind you just how much you love it. You may not be obsessed with particle physics, World of Warcraft or even Battlestar Galactica, but being that there is some Geek in you, you can definitely appreciate it.

In summation, I know that there are many of you who think Modern Family is the best comedy on television and I can respect that. I am embarrassed to say I have a TV/movie/sports blog and don’t consistently watch Modern Family. That being said, in my humble opinion The Big Bang Theory is a work of comedic gold. And in the mind of this blogger, it may just be the best out there.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post. Thanks for vindicating the Geek deep down.