How does a show whose first scene involved two genius’ waiting to masturbate into a cup for money at a sperm bank turn into twelve seasons and television’s biggest comedy?
I remember watching that first episode of The Big Bang Theory and laughing until I cried. The characters, the timing, and even the moments of silence were so brilliantly captured. And yet I couldn’t figure out how the writers would turn two socially-awkward nerds and their hot, dumb blond neighbour into anything more than a stereotype that would get old within the first season.
Sometimes I love being wrong. And not just a little bit wrong – “The world is flat” kind of wrong.
For those who “never got into” The Big Bang Theory, you missed something truly special. I say this with the same sentiment I hold for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Cheers, Friends and the like. These ensemble sitcoms explored and honoured the importance of friends, the families we create, and a key period in time.
People loved these shows because within each group, there was at least one character with whom viewers could relate. Over the years – and generations – those characters changed. MTM’s young woman entering the workforce in a man’s industry made for a lot of laughs, not to mention a few tears. By the time Friends jumped into the foray, working women were de rigueur. But 90’s male and female stereotypes still gave writers a lot of fodder.
However, comedies are about so much more than just making people laugh. They offer a release of life’s tension and a safe format to discuss some of society’s most difficult topics. They allow conflicting opinions and new ideas to be explored without judgement.
And because they are comedies, at the end of the day there’s always some kind of happy ending.
TBBTheory’s last “end of the day” had television’s most socially-stunted and isolated character – one Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D – finally accept change and recognize that he had friends who would be at his side no matter how intolerable his actions. And the “dumb blond” showed not only her brilliance, but also her ability to manage a group of geniuses – each of whom has proven to be so much more than the sum of their IQ.
Just as Friends was often mistakenly passed off as simply a show about beautiful people in New York – which it was – TBBTheory could easily be summarized as a show about the homely nerds you ignored in high school – which it was. Yet, by following this oddball group – the university prefers the word “quirky” – viewers discovered that everyone follows the same journey. Just at a different pace.
TBBTheory proved the hypothesis that everyone feels both special and stupid at some point in their lives. Nobody completely fits in everywhere, every time. But there’s someone out there who accepts you if you’re willing to answer the door.
Just listen for the knock – three times.