Measuring the success of a sitcom, the first element to look for deals with how audiences relate to the subject matter portrayed in its story. I’d argue it’s the longevity of the sitcom and its relevance well beyond the series ends and the actors have moved on to other projects. Look at the shows The Office & Friends, both sitcoms have ended years ago but both shows are as relevant today as they were when on the air. New fans discover these gems of a series which keeps the interest high in them. The Big Bang Theory is one of those shows that will stick around for decades to come since the syndication plays the series on constant loop on cable television.
Six full seasons have come and gone of this genre specific niche series about the smartest people we wouldn’t think twice about on a normal day. They also happen to be considered “nerds” and “geeks” – two descriptive words that describe someone’s fandom to some property that also has correlations to bullying, online or in person. The Big Bang Theory presenting things that are considered nerdy to us can make us realize that we may have similar interests. Who doesn’t like Marvel, Dc Comics, Star Wars or Star Trek? We are in what is considered the golden age of comic book adaptations after all.
The Big Bang Theory has handled fandom differently than it thinks it does. When the show first aired the smoke and mirrors of the constant humor between Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) was enough of a distraction to mask the fact that the writers don’t understand nerd culture in the slightest. Characters would flash their collectables, rant on which comic book character was the best and parade their love of a series by memorizing their made-up language and use it in board games or general dialogue.
When the smoke and mirrors fade and the dust settles, the reality is everything revolving around nerd culture is being nerd-splained as if the audience that tunes in week after week isn’t a fan of the characters and properties that are on full display. We are and we don’t need things explained to us like we’re five years old. Add to it that the stereotypes presented as our core group are amplified by 1000 %. Howard (Simon Helberg) is in his late 20s and lives with his mother (Carol Ann Susi) who does everything for him including getting on his last nerve. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is a selective mute who up until the end of season six couldn’t say a word to a woman without alcohol. Add to that Sheldon, besides having a god complex may have high functioning Autism or Asperger’s syndrome that is constantly mocked and exploited for laughs. These stereotypical personalities don’t represent every single person who has an affinity for nerd culture.
If the goal was to make the audience insecure about their own struggles, mission accomplished. Being open and vulnerable is difficult enough in real life but in a sitcom that is meant to celebrate nerd culture, good luck opening up to someone else.
All the negatives aside, The Big Bang Theory at its best is about family – finding that in unlikely places since the characters actual families are dysfunctional yet relatable in some fashion. For Leonard, since he struggles with his identity and living up to his mother Beverly’s (Christine Baranski) impossible standards, he finds his family across the hall in their neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco). Howard finds Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), Sheldon finds Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) and Raj is finally getting his turn to be happy by getting his heart broken. If that’s all it took for him to not be a mute, I wish that storyline happened seasons ago, though Raj constantly whispering in Howard’s ear always had a good one-liner to follow.
The core group is enough to keep coming back season after season. By now their chemistry together is enough to rival Seinfeld, Friends, The Office, and some of the most popular sitcom’s ever put to screen. Though at times each member can get stagnant enough from lack of development, season 7 spices things up significantly, especially with Sheldon. For as long as we’ve known Sheldon, he’s a creature of habit with predictable tendencies – going to the bathroom at a set time each day or having to sit in the same spot because it’s his and no one else dare sit there or feel his wrath.
Season 7 follows a slew of storylines that tie a lot of the arcs set up in the beginning of the series while setting up future seasons. While plot lines are established within the current season, things haven’t changed all too much. Yes there are marriages, space travel and stepping out of comfort zones, series creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady have ultimately played it safe up until now.
The season finale does something for Sheldon’s character that’s considered a risky move – sets him on a path of being alone for a period of time and uncomfortable, not adhering to his carefully constructed minute by minute plan for each day. The university where all four work decide that Sheldon cannot change his research from String Theory to Dark Matter. Sheldon sees this as unfair, that his world is crashing down around him while other characters, namely Stuart (Kevin Sussman) is going through a crisis of his own. Sheldon in classic form makes it about himself, as he does with just about everything.
Different characters are often paired up with one another that normally wouldn’t be alone together to keep things fresh and interesting. There are clear juxtapositions between couples highlighted in the season premiere between Howard & Bernadette and Sheldon & Amy. Real progress is made between all couples as finally Leonard and Penny get engaged. it only took them how long and how many break ups?
Besides the characters, the best aspect of The Big Bang Theory year after year is the dialogue, though heavily scientific that is headache inducing to follow along with, you can’t help but watch in awe of how flawlessly Sheldon can recite a theory that barely anyone has ever heard of.
Season 7 is much of the same formulaic foundation that has been built up over the past six seasons with surprising character moments that don’t fit the personality that we are used to. Performances from all involved – main cast and supporting/reoccurring are still the main draw as well as seeing which cameo of a celebrity will make an appearance. Finally, Darth Vader himself James Earl Jones and Princess Leia Carrie Fisher along with Bill Nye make their way in. Anything involving Mrs. Wolowitz and Howard is still comedic gold adding new characters to the mix of her toxicity.
Season 7 does provide possibly one of the best moments in the series to date with Howard and the group singing to Bernadette. In that moment, we all feel lucky these characters came into our lives, not just her.
Created by: Chuck Lorre & Bill Prady
Premiered on: September 26, 2013
Season Finale: May 15, 2014
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Can be seen on: HBO Max
Starring: Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik, Kevin Sussman, Carol Ann Susi, Wil Wheaton & Regina King
Score out of 5 stars: 4 stars