At some point in the last decade, discussing what television shows you watch has been elevated in the hallowed halls of “good conversation” from the ranks of “what color was my stool this morning,” to “better clean up my Dothraki before discussing GoT at high-tea with the Queen.” This evolution has been a welcome one for a life-long TV addict like me, as I am now a King Among Men.
Lesser males defer humbly in the TV discussion pecking order- my manhood, engorged with a myriad of obscure references, meta-jokes, and behind the scenes trivia sends Johnny-come-lately pretenders scuttling for safer conversations. As Bane would say “You merely adopted the television, I was born into it” (imagine in a deep, garbled, Shakespearean accent)
I am, and have been for years now, a self-described TV renaissance man. Bring up the topic/genre/series and I am equipped to comment with authority.
- Martial arts flicks? Let me direct you to the Indonesian film The Raid: Redemption. Don’t like subtitles you say? Don’t worry, the US remake is on its way
- Sex and the City? I would act like I’m too good for it but that would be so Charlotte of me.
- Cult classic, canceled-too-early comedies? You’ll forget all about Arrested Development and its letdown last season on Netflix, once I convince you how “streets ahead” Community and Happy Endings were
Usually I am a lover not a hater when it comes to TV shows. At the very least I can understand the appeal of a terrible show others love. For example, Entourage had acting only acceptable when your series creator is Mark Walberg and a degree of predictability only rivaled by the STD tests for the cast of Jersey Shore. But at the end of the day it was popular for all the same reasons porn is popular: bright colors, easy-to-follow plot lines, gratuitous nudity, and well, actual porn stars.
However, the popularity of one of the top rated show in America still entirely escapes me, and I must understand why. That show is the Big Bang Theory (BBT), which pulls in 20 million viewers and can afford to pay its leads $1 million dollars per episode. For those not familiar with the show, let me write a 100% representative scene for it, which pretty much is on perpetual loop:
[Penny (the hot blond) enters the apartment looking around]
- Penny: Sheldon, I know you know where Leonard is hiding my birthday present, where is it?
- Sheldon: [not looking up from his computer] Much like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, giving you that information, will indubitably change the location of said present, negating the answer thus provided.
[Uproarious canned laughter]
- Penny: Huh?
[Sounds of TV audience members’ ears bleeding due to high levels of hilarity]
- Sheldon: My point exactly. Bazinga!
[Sounds of studio audience being raptured into God’s Kingdom]
How can a show with such poor writing, which I hate with a passion typically reserved for 9-11 Truthers, be beloved by millions of Americans? After much soul searching, I believe I have found the answer- as much as BBT claims to be a “nerdy” show, the writers never intend for you to empathize with its brainy stars. If you do, then you will hate the show like me.
The best “nerdy” shows celebrate their nerdiest qualities, and reward their nerdiest fans. Futurama did this brilliantly. Futurama would reference and incorporate real scientific theories into plotlines, have Bender’s binary “gibberish” actually translate, maintained perfect logical consistency across all time travel storylines, and even created an entire alien script which they used to leave easter-eggs and inside jokes in background signage.
Big Bang Theory on the other hand, wants the viewer to relate to Penny, not the nerds. The punchlines and jokes come from the audience empathizing with her exasperation dealing with these crazy, shut-in braniacs. She is the “straight man” in this comedy formula, the “Jason Bateman factor” if you will. A smarter version of BBT would have you relate to all the nerds, and empathize with them having to deal with all these superficial idiots surrounding them.
I am clearly in the minority here but maybe CBS can meet me halfway. Perhaps they can make the colors brighter, the science references nonsensical, and Penny topless, because I would definitely hate-watch that.