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Bad TV Is Bad TV Even If You Laugh At It: The Big Bang Theory

You're Laughing But For All The Wrong Reasons

I’ve always been bothered by The Big Bang Theory but I couldnever really put my figner on it as t first. I watched it during its first season I watched it and chuckled here and there but never felt sure as to what was funny about it. It was just something that stuck in the back of my head, left to linger and never to truly understand. That lingering stayed in my brain for a few years until my friend Breann was able to verbalize it for me. She asked me very bluntly if I watched The Big Bang Theory to which I told her I watched it now and then but not consistently to call myself a regular viewer. She pointed out that the show, despite its standard, banal sitcom set-up, is one of the darkest comedies on TV.

This perplexed me. How could a show so, for lack of a better term, empty be dark in humor?

Breann then pointed out that the humor itself wasn’t black. It was the concept of the show. “You pride yourself on being a geek right?” Breann asked me bluntly. “Yeah, I kind of wear my geekiness as a sort honor badge” I told her. “James, that show is making fun of you”. Now anyone who watches the show can tell you that The Big Bang Theory is a very base comedy about sticking a non-geek in the midst of many geeks and watching what unfolds with old tried and true sitcom set-up stories. It wasn’t until Breann pointed out that it was “making fun of you” that I understood HOW it had been making fun of me. The Big Bang Theory is the television equivalent of watching the football team beat the skinny guy after practice simply becasue they can. It is a form of bullying through mass media and the average TV viewer sits back and laugh so they can be one of the popular kids. Welcome to High School on the Mass Media level.

What you have in The Big Bang Theory is “Bullying Through A Glass Cage”. You’re watching how awkward the characters are and then poiting and laughing at them because they aren’t you. Of course all comedy is based on laughing atthe suffering of others. Be it a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Charlie Brown getting his kite eaten by The Kite Eating Tree or the stand-up comedy of Bill Cosby, the root oftheir comedy is misfortune of others or their own misfortune. There is nothing wrong with the comedy presented by The Big Bang Theory, it just isn’t very clever for comedy. In fact for a comedy that relies so heavily on mocking its proagonists social awkwardness, the humor is very very base and lacking any real intelligence. Even Penny, the non-nerd of the cast, is supposed to be the character who the non-nerd is supposd to identify with, is not really an everyman/everywoman character. She ishe hot chick trying to launch an acting career. If more ofthe show focused on her and less on the ners around her being awkward, then maybe there would be something original in this show.

I think the real shame of the show is that America watches it in droves becasue they want to be in on the joke. They all want to go ahed and laugh at he nerds and be the cool kids, not really caring if they are being given actual well thouhgt out humor or not. Even worse are the people in Geek Culture that watch and praise the show because they think they get the jokes, not aware that the jokes are designed to mock them and ridicule their own awkwardness. It is actually a dark, mean-spirited show that has become the one ofthose things that I cannot escape, especially since it has entered syndication. 5 nights a week of th football team pantsing the nerd in front of everyone and everyone laughing just to fit in. My what a society of social climbing little lemmings we’ve become.

The thing is, I like the cast of the show, they are a really good ensemble no matter how awful the material they’ve been dealt. I’ve liked Johnny Galecki since his days on Roseanne, ditto that for Kaley Cuoco who I liked on 8 Simple Rules. I was really kind of bummed to see Simon Helberg go from Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip to playing the creepy Jewish nerd Howard Wolowitz. My lord, its like they couldn’t decide which stereotype to use for the character and the creators had a fucking brainsorm of “Sweet fuck! Let’s just make him all those things we’ve been pitching to each oher for he last hour!”. Then there is Kunal Nayyar as Raj aka Stereotypical foreign exchange student. He’s sadly just playing the equivalent of That 70’s Show‘s Fes but with a PHD as well as Howard’s overt creepiness.

Finally we come to Jim Parsons and his protrayal of Sheldon Cooper, the “Alpha Nerd” if you will. God I wish I could just saythat Sheldon is just a gross stereotype of how people view the typical geek or nerd, but the problem I’ve known waaaaaaaaay to many Sheldon’s in my time. eal “Alpha Nerds” are scary smart AND scary hardcore nerdy. They can barely function on a normal human interaction level becasue there intelligence and nterests don’t necessarily match those of your average person. It is almost like a super-refined geek form of Asperger’s Syndrome. The scary thing isn’t that Sheldon exists on TV but that there are Sheldons IN REAL LIFE!

In the end what we have in The Big Bang Theory is a very dark and mean-spirited Television sitcom that dresses itself up as harmless entertainment. I really feel that is sends th wrong meesage to people about how we should treat those not like us and honestly, if I had children I would not let them watch the show until they were at least 17. Keep laughing and adhere to the credo that might makes right and those different from should be mocked. We shouldn’t be letting our kids watch the show that encourages them to laugh and point at the nerd like he is a monkey, flinging poo while trapped in the Zoo because, in all honesty, he has nothing better to do. Of course, in the end, isn’t that what most Television is these days?


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5 thoughts on “Bad TV Is Bad TV Even If You Laugh At It: The Big Bang Theory

  1. Gary on said:

    Great essay. I do find it noticeable that whereas the ner is continuously ridiculed in the media, the conventional alpha male is continually lionised.

    The funniest character is Sheldon, who really is odd and eccentric, a fantastic larger than life character, superbly played by Jim Parsons. The other nerds are really pretty horrible and lazy stereotypes. The others are pretty much interchangeable. It seems to assume all nerds are into science, whereas in reality artists and writers tend to be “nerdy” as well. Whereas Sheldon is intrinsically funny as a character (we sometimes laugh with him, too), the others seem to be just there to be mocked and laughed at “Haha look at how they can’t get laid”, etc (even though getting laid is actually quite hard unless you are Brad Pitt).
    Incidentally, the show’s writers make some odd assumptions; the nerds in Big Bang Theory have “Halo nights”, an odd thing because nerds tend to not be keen on FPS shooters which tend to be played by more typical males. They’d be more likely to indulge in a Portal, Shenmue or Legend of Zelda night.

    The show relies too heavily on mockery, but nevertheless has some genunely funny moments. The “nerdy references” are actually the wittiest parts of the show.

  2. The Groundhog on said:

    I appreciate your honesty. For myself, my bigger concern was/is that we cannot lament the fact that too many young people are not scientifically literate, while dissing those who are. Simply put, there is very little in this show to make any cool kind want to study science. At the same time, the show does confront us with an uncomfortable truth: We all have our own status hierarchies. The TBBT gang revels in its superior intelligence–would they be kinder were they not picked on? The show only dips it toe here, and never plunges in.

    For me, I do admire people who can name an egg-laying mammal, or know the difference between a Sunni or Shiite, more than those who do not (or worse, don’t care). I would like to think these things are more important; maybe it is just that I’m good at a history and zoology. Spock told Trelane: “I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline; I object to power without constructive purpose.” The TBBT crew has the first, but rarely even tries the second. Do they really feel that weak? I fear that these clowns read comics because they admire, even envy, the heroe’s power, not their objective morality.

    That said, I am certain that may of us would not actually want to hang with Sheldon or Howard. I guess a show about well-adjusted intellectuals has limited comic potential. Maybe I’m dreaming, but it would be cool to see smart as cool.

  3. Chaim Paddaman on said:

    Kaley Cuoco likes nerds as much as turkey;s like Xmas. She has always liked hard and ready guys. “The whole nerd thing” is nothing but a mock. Declaring her love of nerds in Playboy magazine “says it all” Kaley Cuoco and showrunner Chuck Lorre are laughing all the way to the bank.

  4. Lugasa on said:

    the success of TBBT has become one more punch for me to loose faith in humanity since i was released to the society. when i first watched it, i didnt see the humor too and i just thought i just didnt get it, little did i realize i was the smart one. i was never fond of comedy where they think mocking people or seeing people get hurt is funny. i could imagine how the majority of the audience of this show must be like, but i think a lot of people already discuss it. apparently a lot of people skipped or didnt pay attention in their science class or literature (if they did they should know references and good writings.

    compare it to community, even though english is my second language, i know community has better content and creative ideas to offer the audience. that’s why their dvd sales went up to the roof, because people actually want to keep it. and the funny things is, i saw several hidden messages and codes particularly the phrase “BBT SUCKS” in a few of their scenes in graffiti (seriously).

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