America’s most popular sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, has been commissioned for a spectacular three more seasons. This will take the surprise success story to a ten season run, matching the longevity of hit series Friends.
The Big Bang Theory is currently the highest-rated regular series on American television – and it’s certainly no mean feat to pull in an audience of around 18 million viewers per episode, even in a country the size of the US.
So, to celebrate the sitcom’s latest achievement, here are ten reasons (for ten seasons) why the show has become such a well-deserving popular hit, not just in America, but across the pond over here on E4 and Channel 4, too.
Everybody Loves Sheldon
Hyper-intelligent, infuriating, socially awkward and emotionally stunted, with the long limbs and controlled gait of a particularly pale “praying mantis,” (so says Penny), Sheldon Cooper is perhaps the unlikeliest comedy figure in history. Nevertheless, Jim Parsons’ exquisitely-crafted genius has, quite rightly, become synonymous with on-screen talent, as well as a goldmine for CBS ratings.
Beauty and the Geeks
There’s no denying that the show’s first season started formulaically. Kaley Cuoco’s “hot girl next door” Penny moved in opposite socially-awkward scientists Sheldon and Leonard, and hilarity was meant to ensue. Which it did. For the most part.
But there was no getting away from the fact that the Big Bang started life as light entertainment, with science jokes crafted to a perfectly-timed formula. Its staying power has since followed because this formula is endlessly adaptable.
Now, within an apparently closed comedic set-up, each 22 minute episode not only entertains, but the stars of the series have become well-rounded friends, with a lexicon known to millions of people around the world.
Two (and a Half) Women
For a long time Penny was the only recurring female character on the show, but with the introduction of the feisty, tiny and intelligent Bernadette, and the quirky but lovable Amy Farrah-Fowler, the contingent of strong, independent women has kept viewers coming back for more.
Far from being mere eye-candy, Penny has been drawn out as a kind, complex, flawed, and endlessly relatable character. Bernadette, on the other hand, is a tiny force to be reckoned with; cute as a button, and domineering without being unlikeable.
The final member of the trio, Amy, is her own mass of Sheldon-esque quirks, with an intelligence to rival her reluctant boyfriend’s, and a far greater capacity for warmth and human interaction. There are no Manic Pixie Dream Girls in this sitcom. All of them are their own person, and that is incredibly refreshing.
America’s (actually) Got Talent
As cliché as it may seem, The Big Bang actors have grown into an all-star cast over the years. Their chemistry is undeniable, and their ability to reel off pages and pages of dense, scientific text, and still have it be believable – and, more to the point, funny – is a talent in itself.
With this cast as an example, it’s difficult not to feel as though some of the stars of other American shows that air over in England, are simply being lazy by comparison. 90210, Revenge et al. I’m looking at you…Sorry.
The sheer volume of famous faces who have made cameo appearances on Big Bang is, frankly, staggering. Charlie Sheen, Katee Sackhoff, George Takei, Summer Glau, Bob Newhart, Leonard Nimoy, Stan Lee, Stephen Hawking, and Christine Baranski as Leonard’s mother, are just a few who have graced the Big Bang’s set in recent seasons.
Aside from the phenomenal number of celebrities who have guest starred on the show, there’s something eminently satisfying about watching Sheldon fall out with them. His (since reconciled) feud with Will Wheaton was a particular highlight, and who could forget the moment Stan Lee took out a restraining order against him?
It’s a source of real joy to watch the endearingly useless scientist alienate famous face after famous face, whilst simply not caring that he’s doing it. It’s safe to say that we could all use a bit of that mentality, sometimes!
Loud, demanding, embarrassing, and above all, disembodied, the voice of Howard’s mother is as unlikely a comedic point as Sheldon. But somehow, there’s something wonderfully funny about hearing a mother bellow “I can’t say no to my little tushy face!” up the stairs, while her mortified son lies next to his girlfriend, and wills the ground to swallow him whole.
A caricature she certainly is, but you can’t help but love her.
It started in season one. Penny moved in, and Leonard immediately began to pursue her. With the show now in its seventh season, you would think that the “will-they-won’t-they” dynamic would have been exhausted.
But there’s an element of the Ross-and-Rachel to this couple that keeps you hooked and rooting for them, despite so many false starts and cringe-worthy breakups. Like Friends, in amongst all of the laughter there’s a real emotional kick to their unlikely relationship, and you can’t help but get wrapped up in it.
(Filming at) the Eleventh Hour
Filmed in front of a live studio audience, The Big Bang Theory manages to use the best of both of the worlds of television and theatre. Jim Parsons, as an example, trained extensively in theatre before landing his break with CBS, and has openly admitted to ‘coming alive’ when the audience is led in to watch them film.
The slightly longer rehearsal process also means any jokes that don’t quite hit the mark can be rewritten and rehearsed. The show rarely falls flat later on, and instead maintains a theatrical sense of on-the-spot energy on-screen.
But finally, for me…
It’s All About Mayim Bialik
Her character, Amy Farrah-Fowler, is intelligent, opinionated, loving, lovable and knows her own mind. To have a female character who doesn’t conform to the usual stereotypes of “feisty and beautiful” or “deep thinking wallflower” in an American sitcom, and for her to be so well received because of it, is a huge step forward in comedy and drama.
And it isn’t just her character who’s accomplished. Mayim is a prolific actress, working mum, and cookbook author, who also happens to hold a Ph.D in Neuroscience from UCLA. That’s quite an achievement, to say the least.
Essentially, what The Big Bang Theory proves, is that clever can be funny, comedy can be intelligent, and stereotypes can be both celebrated and shattered without the show ever becoming preachy.
So, let’s raise a glass. Here’s to the next three, very well-deserved, seasons of clever American comedy.
What do you think of The Big Bang Theory? Have your say in the comments section below.