First a flashback to a much simpler time 5 years ago, I was a 2nd year University student studying Math’s and Physics living in a sitcom like situation, I get my monthly copy of Physics World and in it there’s an article about this new show called The Big Bang Theory, I can’t remember the exact specifics of the article and I didn’t deem Physics World to be worthy of the same treatment my 1000’s of comics get so I didn’t save them once I read them but I vaguely recall it talking about how the show was about physics students and I instantly got interested, I mean a comedy about Physics students? Everyone knows the best parts in Futurama where the math/physics jokes and this would surely have a lot more where that from….
Yeah…no, sadly not.
The Audience Laughter.
I’ve enjoyed shows with audience laughter/laugh track before, though like Creator Chuck Lorre’s other “sitcom” 2.5 men this show takes the laughter to new unbelievable heights. I can only assume because there have been studies done that say that a laugh track makes the audience laugh more at a tv show because they feel they’re not laughing alone but that’s no excuse for the for the sheer intrusion it brings, I watch How I Met Your Mother and the laugh track on that isn’t anywhere near as intrusive as this. If anything the laugh track sounds like the audiences are being held at gun point and being made to laugh for their lives.
Every time I hear that laugh track and I don’t laugh it becomes a hindrance rather than a help, and that happened all too often in the first few episodes….course it doesn’t help that I don’t find the jokes funny which brings us to.
2. The “Jokes” and “Physics Joke”
From what I seen the vast majority of the “ smart/geeky jokes” aren’t actually jokes, but just the cast name dropping something geeky like comic book/star trek/physics formula into every day conversation and I don’t see the comedy in people being nerdy, Here’s a clip I seen on youtube once.
*Scene open, Sheldon walks into the apartment*
Sheldon: “My mum just sent me my Nintendo 64”
Seriously? What’s so funny about someone being sent a N64 by their mother? Is there some kind of hidden punch line there I’m not getting. The joke even then goes on with Sheldon saying he hopes his mum sent him his memory card so he can play his saved Mario 64 game and the audience laughs again….Am I missing something? And the few times they actually have a really good joke the have they ruin it by having the audience clap to completely ruin the impact of the joke, hurrah they got a joke right, they didn’t solve world peace or do anything that deserves that degree of applause.
Then there’s the “Physics jokes” which aren’t so much physics jokes as just name dropping physics terminology, don’t match a physics jokes on the scale of Futurama with such jokes as
Professor Farnsworth: “No fair, you changed the outcome by measuring it”
Which is a joke referencing Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, don’t get it? It’s ok, there’s no laugh track after it in the show to point it out or make you feel like you’re missing out. Incidentally this was Futurama before it got uncancelled and came back as this horribly unfunny cross between Family Guy and South Park, but that’s a rant for another time.
Then of course you have the normal jokes you’ve seen 100 times before in any other situation comedy so I’m not going to go into those.
3. The Stereotypical Portrayal of Nerds
As anyone that looks at me can tell, I’m probably one of the bigger nerds from around where I live. I’m unable to go through conversations without making some kind of cult reference, I read comics, I play video games, I have a 10 inch poseable spider-man figure in my room with over 100 points of articulation, I studied physics at university briefly and I can even recite entire verses of the Pokerap from memory (also everyone should feel free to forget that last bit) and I find how nerds are portrayed on this show to be offensive, we’re not all socially inept morons who don’t know how to talk to woman. Furthermore at times I can’t help but get the feeling that the writing is written in such a way that most of the jokes are just meant to be funny because the characters are so nerdy, haha they fight over nerd stuff, haha Sheldon has a Justice League Membership guard, in some shows you’re laughing at the characters because they’re funny, here you’re laughing at them because they’re so nerdy.
Furthermore, inaccuracies like the one above leads me to believe the writers aren’t that much like the nerds they write about, in the joke referenced above with the N64 and memory card Mario 64 saved game doesn’t make any sense because as anyone that’s ever owned Mario 64 will be able to tell you without even having to think about it: Mario 64 was saved on the cart and didn’t require a memory card. No one that’s ever owned an N64 should get that wrong, unless they put in the memory card line in it just as a joke because we all know it’s absolutely hilarious.
To me the show is written in such a way so normal people can laugh at the stereotypical nerds, or so that the people with some nerd quantities can assure themselves that “at least we’re not that nerdy.” To me, someone that proudly proclaims himself a nerd, I consider these people to be the “dark side” of nerdom, a side I’ve seen before in the past and do not want to be the defining side of nerds across the world, considering the popularity of this sitcom, it’s a losing battle. Here’s its not too bad because most people aren’t naive enough to define one person by one characteristic but if you look at how much American loves their stereotypes (Glares at Glee) I’d be afraid of moving over there in fear been unfairly painted with the nerd brush, you’d just know if I grew up in America I’d have been wedgied so many times now.
4. The characters are not sympathetic
As I’ve said above, my experience with Big Bang Theory is quite limited to date but so far the characters just seem to have the personality of cardboard cut outs.
Sheldon – Arrogant, awkward
Leonard – Nerdy, generally all rounder
Raj – Foreign, shy
Howard – Nerdy, pervy
Penny – Attractive, not nerdy
With such 2 dimensional characters why should I care what happens in their lives, whether they get the girl or fail horribly. Just like I don’t care when characters die in horror movies because they make stupid decisions and why should I care like characters when they act like idiots that lack fully rounded personalities and they act like caricatures that are played purely for laughs?
5. Community does the geek thing better, doesn’t have a laugh track and is just a better sitcom
But because the American TV network are idiots, they air it opposite the Big Bang Theory which pummels it in the ratings because it’s got a more mainstream appeal, seriously, watch “Modern Warfare,” “Advanced Dungeons And Dragons” or “Epidemiology” and tell me you don’t love it. I consider each of those and about 5 other episodes to be 22 minute masterpieces of television. (That may sound like an exaggeration, but trust me its not) It does nerd jokes in the right way, subtle, not used to beat the audience over the head.
I won’t lie and say the show has never made me laugh but forever time the show makes me laugh there’s at least 2 or 3 times it leaves me cold or just makes me shake my head in disbelief of how stupid it is and how utterly annoying and intrusive the laugh track is. I’m not against watching more to see why people love it so much, but so far there’s been no big pull to keep watching.
People have told me that the only reason I don’t like it is because I’m just like the characters on the show, so to prove them right, I’m currently working on an in depth analysis of a single 22 minute episode, stay tuned.