In the quest to avoid spoilers for those few television programmes I actually want to watch, I may be going a little bit far. I was all enthused about The Big Bang Theory returning this Monday just gone, but it’s taken till today to learn that the much-dreaded spin-off show, Young Sheldon, started immediately after it.
Now the spin-off has a lot going against it. It’s a spin-off to start with. And it’s Sheldon at the age of nine, with none of the gang to bounce off. Which means child actors, and lots of them. And having to invent Sheldon’s family, of whom we’ve only ever seen his mother, frequently, and his sexy twin sister Missy twice, a bloody long time ago.
And Iain Armitage has to a) act well and b) convince us we’re looking at a nine-year-old version of Sheldon. And Zoe Perry, who plays Mary Cooper, has to live up to the performance of Lawrie Metcalf.
Basically, the words we are all groping for at the moment are “Hiding to Nothing”.
But apparently, the debut episode had incredible viewing figures, and retained more of the BBT audience than any other new show that’s been used to try and gain the benefit. Enough so that CBS have already taken up the option for the additional nine episodes that make it a full season. In short, it’s an instant hit.
Is it any good, though?
I have now given the episode a spin. Yes, it made me laugh several times. yes, Iain Armitage does a good job, and yes, Zoe Perry looks and feels and acts like the woman who’s going to become Lawrie Metcalf, which is high praise.
I doubt very much whether the family group is ever going to be anything as strong as the geek gang, and there are very early signs that this set-up is going to have to tread some in deeper waters. The episode is built around Sheldon’s first day at High School, aged 9, a fish not so much out of water as out of a whole bloody ocean, but he’s at a school whether his dull, steadily drinking, don’t want to get involved father George is the football coach, and his older brother Georgie (George Jr) is both on the football team and in the same class as his little brother, and he’s already going through hideous embarrassment at it, of a kind that, because of his age and the vulnerability of the developing boy, cannot possibly be as unalloyedly innocent as the embarrassment ‘old’ Sheldon causes his peers can be.
And George Sr, who is completely absent in the BBT Universe, and is not missed by anyone, is already having a serious and sympathetic past painted in: he used to be a good coach with a good job in Galveston, until he whistle-blew on cheaters: he got fired which is why they’re here and he’s clearly on the downhill path that I suppose will be drawn out over however many seasons the concept can sustain. To the detriment of the comedy, because this is getting its sentimentality in early.
Fortunately, Young Sheldon has one very potent weapon against sentimentality, and that’s Missy, who will never knowingly be out-cynicalled, and who is being played by a child actress of casual brilliance in Raegan Revord, and she’s why I’ll tune in for a few more episodes. If they have the sense to give her a big role in each episode, this might be worth the time.