The Big Bang Theory is a sitcom about four nerdy thirtysomething scientists who work at CalTech. It stars Johnny Galecki, Darlene’s boyfriend from Roseanne. This was how the sitcom was originally described to me. So unappealing was the description that I didn’t watch it for a year. Once I finally did, I devoured it; it instantly became my favorite sitcom. The rest of America agreed. As time went by, more and more people discovered this show. In its final seasons, it was consistently the highest-rated sitcom in the country. There’s a good reason for that: this show is great!
The four scientists are:
- Supersmart theoretical physicist Sheldon, who is as advanced in physics as he is stunted in social skills. Many have speculated that Sheldon has Aspergers. The shows writers initially stated that they did not write Sheldon to have Aspergers. I don’t just think Sheldon has Aspergers - I think they all do. Sheldon is portrayed by Jim Parsons, who has rightfully won numerous Emmys for this role.
- Experimental physicist Leonard is Sheldon’s long-suffering roommate who pines for the neurotypical girl next door, waitress and wannabe actress Penny. Johnny Galecki's portrayal of Leonard is perfect. In general, all of the actors are well cast, and the ensemble cast really clicks.
- Astrophysicist Raj initially suffers from selective mutism; he cannot speak when a woman is present.
- Mama’s boy engineer Howard rounds out the group.
At its heart, this sitcom is about the development of these four young men, especially in regards to their relationships with women. The sitcom never just stays with its successful formula. Instead, it permits its characters to really develop. Relationships with women - some long, some short - come and go. Marriages take place. Forever unseen babies are born. It is a delight to see the characters make real progress in their lives.
One of the ways in which this sitcom really shines is in guest appearances. Wil Wheaton is a recurring favorite, as is Stephen Hawking. Guest stars are drawn from such shows as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Firefly. Bill Gates makes an appearance, as does Neil Gaiman. The guest star list is nerd nirvana.
My favorite aspect of the show is the constant references to the things geeks like, whether it’s TV shows or movies, video games or ComicCon. This show has validated an entire subculture. And, really, why shouldn’t it? Why should grown men be belittled for having paraphernalia from a favorite franchise while other grown men decorate their man caves in sports paraphernalia? Why is one socially acceptable and the other not? Well, thanks to The Big Bang Theory, no more.
12 years. Not a single weak season. Sure, there was an occasional weak episode. But this show could have gone on forever and never gotten old.
(The one weak spot is the Leonard-Penny relationship. These two have literally nothing in common, and it shows. In the end, the best the writers could do was envelop them in insult humor. That’s not to say that one of these brainiac boys could not have had a successful relationship with an intellectually-inferior attractive blonde. It’s just that this particular relationship clearly does not work.)