I am an unashamed fan of The Big Bang Theory and I have been since seeing what was probably no later than its second episode, on Channel 4, many years ago. I have belly-laughed at its jokes and its characters more often than any other comedy series I have seen, and such is the beauty of this series that there are episodes I have seen literally a half dozen times over, and still I find myself exploding in delighted roars every time I see them again.
Honestly, there is no other series about which I could say that.
So, does that make TBBT some sort of uber-comedy, perfect in every respect, an ideal never to be bettered? No, of course it doesn’t. One other thing that distinguishes TBBT from everything else I have seen is that it is a massive success in America, the top TV show on that side of the Atlantic, a series that, after completing seven seasons, was renewed for another three! I really am not used to finding myself in the middle of a mass audience for anything (except Manchester United, and that’s something completely different).
All I can say is that The Big Bang Theory is the comedy that is most perfectly attuned to my sense of humour and my experiences in life.
For those who, strange though it may be, have no idea what TBBT is about, it centres upon four highly intelligent but deeply geeky and socially inept scientists, and the beautiful, blonde, mid-western would-be actress who moves in across the landing. Penny may be considerably less smart than Leonard and Sheldon, indeed be not that clever at all, but she possesses all the street smarts and more, enough for all the geeks with plenty left over to spare.
From there, the show has expanded its cast and range,and in recent series has taken on a Friends-like aspect. Howard, the short, Jewish, sex-obsessed, mother-dominated nerd has married the short, waspish Bernadette, Sheldon, who occupies a place on the autism spectrum, who is wholly self-obsessed, has found a girlfriend in the perpetually frustrated Amy, who took nearly four seasons just to get him to kiss her.
What makes it work so spectacularly well with me is that I understand these characters. I may not be up on the latest developments in fantasy and SF in comics, TV, games, films etc., but they speak my language, and it’s a language I’m fluent at. I know the jokes, I know the references, I’ve stood in their shoes. And when it comes to the social ineptness, yearning towards but clumsiness with women, the lack of confidence, the lack of success that they all collectively and individually suffer, I’ve stood in those shoes too,and I’e currently got a pair that, in a dim light, look pretty much the same.
Penny is, of course, both a fantasy and a joy. Kaley Cuoco is gorgeous, but more important than that, she’s a superb natural comedian, with brilliant timing on pauses and double-takes. That after seven seasons she’s gotten engaged to Leonard is highly improbable, but within the characters these two have played since 2007, is entirely believable within the series (and doubtless enhanced by the fact that Cuoco and Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard, were involved in a secret relationship in the early years of the show.
I will be honest and say that I found season seven to be patchy, unlike its predecessors. Sheldon, played briliantly by Jim Parsons, has dominated the show since its early days, but Sheldon has progressed far less than the others: it is, after all, an integral part of his character that he is both impervious and ultra-resistant to change, but it does make him very wearing on occasions, and the humiliations he heaps on the ever-hopeful Amy do come close to infringing the Law of Comedy of Embarrassment at the best of times.
Anyway, the whole point of this post is to celebrate the return of the show for season eight: the by now traditional double-episode premiere, broadcast around midnight our time in America, and already streamed and eagerly devoured here. There are new themes: Sheldon has returned from the rail trip he set out on at the end of season 7, having criss-crossed the whole of America without once leaving the train station: he has finaly got his wish to stop studying the now-exploded String Theory and change his field to Dark Matter, but has been punished horribly: he had had to accept a promotion to Junior Professor and more salary, but now has to teach. Sionce every student thinks he’s obnoxious, nobody’s signed up for his class, except Howard who, after years of Sheldon belittling him over his not having a Ph.D, has finally decided to go for it.
Meanwhile, Penny – who has cut her hair surprisingly short, without compromising Kaley Cuoco’s looks – has lucked her way into a serious non-acting job as a pharmaceutical rep for the company where Bernadette works (she gets the job because her interviewer is every bit as afraid of the tiny, squeaky-voiced Bernadette as Penny is!).
It’s still taking small steps, but with three more years at least to run, The Big Bang Theory isn’t going to let things stagnate completeky, and it has my permission to develop in this manner for as long as it likes. I’m still as into it as ever, and life is naturally sunnier, even in stressful times, by the prospect of a new episode coming back.
Penny, Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, Raj, Bernadete, Amy, Stuart – welcome back buddies!