The sitcom is as American as apple pie, baseball and Alec Baldwin’s speech in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
However, in recent years, it has mostly disappeared in favor of more stylistic comedies, working on a lower budget, eschewing sets and laugh tracks, and taking a more natural approach to comedy. For the most part, it’s been nice to see something new.
The last holdout for the sitcom is CBS, but it’s a minefield wrapped in a hurricane of pandering mediocrity. Between the unrelenting crapshoot of “Two and A Half Men” and the knock-off-Apatowian “Accidentally On Purpose,” is the last great saving grace of the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”
“The Big Bang Theory” is a show I shouldn’t like. It rigidly holds onto the long standing 3-camera-live-studio-audience-sitcom format, casts its characters as broadly defined stereotypes and lets misunderstandings and simple problems become entire episode arcs.
And inexplicably, it works.
Sure, people may be addicted to the minute details of Jim and Pam’s baby on “The Office,” constantly follow Liz Lemon’s broadcast misadventures on “30 Rock” or simply be tuning into late night talk shows, but “The Big Bang Theory” is pulling in ratings that these crowd pleasers can’t even dream of.
It doesn’t hurt the show is funny too. Whether the group is developing the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock,” trying to figure out how to flirt with Summer Glau or deciding who should keep the last copy of a “Lord of the Rings” prop, “The Big Bang Theory” has been consistently entertaining.
And that is why its failure paralyzes me with fear.
On Monday’s episode, Sheldon, the group’s obsessive-compulsive, wildly neurotic center, was forced to give a speech that (gasp!) he was nervous about.
So, in the hoariest of sitcom cliches, the gang gets drunk at the party and Sheldon unleashes an inebriated joke-filled tirade in front of his friends and coworkers.
And that’s when Sheldon became Urkel and “The Big Bang Theory” became “Family Matters.”
Maybe that’s premature, but in this latest season, Sheldon has increasingly become not only the center of the series, but also the driving force. His abrasive and off-putting personality has been a consistent source of laughs over all three seasons, but now jokes and episodes have become framed solely around his antics.
Formerly, Leonard, the well adjusted, charmingly nerdy research scientist, was the backbone of the show. It wasn’t that the other characters were less important, but plots were able to reliably fall around the character that was the most relatable to the viewer. He would go on dates, hook up with coworkers and help his friends get out of trouble while perusing “Hellraiser” comics. It was a traditional sitcom move, but it worked.
Framing the show around Sheldon is giving “The Big Bang Theory” the license to eventually have Sheldon drink “Boss Sauce” and become his cooler alter ego. And that is something that cannot and should not happen.
Jackson Adams is a sophomore journalism major from Springfield. He is the Voice editor.
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