For nearly half of my life, the one thing scores of people have agreed, and perhaps even conspired, to ask me is, “Have you watched The Big Bang Theory? Whereupon I say, no, I haven’t, and they respond, “You should check it out; it seems like your kinda show.”
Despite the conspiracy to get me to watch the show, I held off until the year 2021. That’s when my now-girlfriend recommended it to me, because she was binging it, that I gave it a shot. Whew. I can’t believe I’ve blown this show off for so many years.
Yes, it’s a network show on CBS. Yes, it’s consistently been the most popular sitcom on television for years. Yes, people find it easy to hate for those reasons. But yes, it deserves all its hype and love. It’s hilarious. It’s lovely. It’s enjoyable, binge-worthy viewing.
And here’s my hot take on the show right off of the bat: Unlike other sitcoms, this show has no lull. Even my most beloved sitcoms, such as Family Matters, King of Queens and Friends all have parts of their run I don’t like as much (looking at you, season 10 of Friends).
However, The Big Bang Theory’s entire 279 episodes across 12 seasons, with remarkably the same core cast the entire time (with great additions along the way), never wanes. It’s hilarious and fun the entire time. In fact, I was ready for more. Usually by around seasons nine or 10 of a show I’m binging, if it’s that long, I start getting burned out. Here? I wanted more episodes. I wasn’t ready to be done with these characters.
The short premise of the show is that roommates Leonard Hofstadter (played by Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper (played by Jim Parsons), along with their friends Howard Wolowitz (played by Simon Helberg) and Raj Koothrappali (played by Kunal Nayyar), are brilliant scientists, but socially awkward around other people, particularly women, including Leonard and Sheldon’s neighbor across the hallway, Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco).
Leonard is the one who tries to check Sheldon’s worst anti-social quirks while trying to cozy up to Penny; Sheldon just wants to do quantum mechanics and early on in the show, doesn’t even think about women, or really, anyone else; Howard is a creepy aerospace engineer; Raj literally can’t talk to women, as he becomes mute around them; and Penny isn’t about that science world, but hangs around the guys anyhow.
Along the way, we get mainstays Amy Farrah Fowler (played by Mayim Bialik), Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (played by Melissa Rauch) and Stuart Bloom (played by Kevin Sussman).
Over the course of the show, though, everyone grows and matures. Center to this is the growth of Sheldon, who can be such a narcissistic jerk, but the gag is that he doesn’t really get it. He doesn’t get how … he sounds. And at first, as a viewer, you find him off-putting, but much like how the other characters feel about him, Sheldon grows on you. Similarly for me, Howard grew on me because he really was a total creep at the beginning of the series. But over time, he becomes a great, hilarious character (he does incredible celebrity impersonations and magic!), and even loving and tender toward Bernadette, his wife, and a father, at that!
Toward the third season, and then full-time thereafter, Amy’s character is perhaps my favorite of the whole show because she’s the one trying to tame (and perhaps lure in?) Sheldon, as their courtship blossoms … INCREDIBLY SLOWLY. But so funnily, and beautifully.
The brilliant conceit of the show is that Sheldon is so robotic and uncaring about others, that even the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential human gesture he offers, is like a, “Holy hell!” moment in the show. It’s awesome and works so well. Jim Parsons plays the role to perfection. First, I’m impressed at how someone can rattle off the dialogue he does with such precision and clarity. But secondly, he handles the aforementioned moments with the lightest touch that make you genuinely empathetic to him.
Something that surprised me about the show, too, is that it almost feels “edgy” in a way? That might be another hot take, but the show, which started in 2007, feels like it goes in some directions that wouldn’t necessarily be unacceptable today, but at least, they feel more risky? One example that comes to mind is that Sheldon and the other guys can be incredibly sexist toward women in terms of objectifying or whatever else (well, not Sheldon). But it works in the context of the story? Because the guys grow out of that? Still, some of those moments land hard.
But the show also feels fresh in how it talks about current “nerd media” like Star Trek, Superman, Lord of the Rings, and so on, as well as Twitter. One has to consider, too, that when the show started, nerd culture wasn’t as acceptable as it is today? So ingratiated into the wider culture? After all, Iron Man and The Dark Knight didn’t splash into the zeitgeist until the next year.
There’s also great reoccurring gags in the show, like Howard’s mom, who we never get to see, but has a raspy yell she uses to berate Howard. That interplay between Howard and his mom is one of the funniest aspects of the entire show. Another is that the apartment elevator has been out of commission because Leonard blew it up prior to the start date of the show that we see. There’s a payoff to it at the very end that actually gave me goosebumps because they paid it off! I couldn’t imagine having actually waited 12 years for that pay off.
Notably, that’s another important aspect of why this show is so great: Again, unlike other long-running shows, I feel like The Big Bang Theory 100 percent nailed its landing in the final scenes of the series, with Sheldon and Amy winning a Nobel Prize, and Sheldon thanking his friends for being there for him along the way. The final scene is them in their familiar place around the couch in Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. I get chills just typing that!
Finally, one other item that comes to mind. I’m currently watching Seinfeld for the first time, which I’ll give a review of soon, and something interesting came to mind while watching. There’s never a serious moment. Never. However, with The Big Bang Theory, yes, there’s lots of comedy and laughs, but there’s also genuine serious moments. And because it’s a “comedy” show, those serious moments are well-earned and believed.
One of the best of those is toward the end of the series when Leonard finally forgives his robotic mother (she’s basically a spitting image of Sheldon) and they hug.
The show works on every level and it rewards those who watched all 279 episodes by having the characters we love grow, but still remain largely true to themselves.
After all this time, we now come full circle where I will be the one recommending this show to others. Alas, I hope they don’t take as long as me to enjoy this show for what it is. Because I now consider this sitcom up there with my all-time favorites. It’s that good, folks.