Is The Big Bang Theory burning out?

Written by TV


In 2007, Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, we hadn’t yet experienced the financial crash, Gnarls Barkley won a Grammy, and Britney Spears shaved her head. It was also the year that The Big Bang Theory first made its way onto our television screens. It has been consistent ever since, but with CBS calling the next season its last, it’s probably all about 5 years too late.

The series was revered, adored by fans across both sides of the pond. It became a staple of tea-time viewing in the UK on E4 and pulled in colossal audiences on CBS. It even outperformed series creator Chuck Lorre’s other hit comedy Two & a Half Men, which had been the sitcom the network had learned to rely on. It was popular for a number of reasons: it was original, funny, clever, and didn’t feel airbrushed like so many other sitcoms.

[pullquote] The attempt to make the series work by season five was obvious but it began to get lost[/pullquote]

By series four, the comedy – featuring dysfunctional scientists – had gone well beyond its initial premise. Additional female characters were added to male-dominant cast and the series for the first time became about multiple, slightly abnormal relationships: ditching the initial premise of one man trying to get a girl who he was never going to get. The attempt to make the series work by season five was obvious but it began to get lost.

Leonard went from being the guy who could never get a girl to becoming the guy no girl could resist. He inevitably fell in love and married the one person we never thought he could actually marry. Which, of course, is a totally original US sitcom idea… unless you’ve watched that little sitcom from the 90s about some friends in New York who loved that coffee shop.

It gets more complicated when you look at the main protagonist (or antagonist). The character of Sheldon Cooper has a bit of a rollercoaster of character development. As the seasons progress, he becomes a considerably more socially inept man who seems to care very little for those around him and has no sexual interests. That is until he is forced to change in the more recent series by a set of scriptwriters who seemed to think that the only way to make a character grow is to make them fall in love.

The tertiary characters in latter season become a welcome addition, with Mayim Bialik playing Amy, a stand-out from the cast who provides a unique and much-needed female perspective. However, from season seven onwards, they themselves became airbrushed. Howard’s mother’s home went from a dated Californian home to an IKEA-filled house while Sheldon lost his quirks and became more and more standardised. The airbrushing only adds to the disappointment of the series being within touching distance of hitting on some huge social issues – but it never happens.

Lastly, there’s Young Sheldon. It’s a spin-off about the titular character’s younger days and landed with a charming, funnier edge. With the decision to end the series, the showrunners clearly have in mind that the legacy of any good show is reliant on not going on for one season too many. It’s just a shame that they missed that memo.

Last modified: 6th November 2018

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