Saturday, May 18, 2019

Weekend Post

Congratulations to everyone involved in THE BIG BANG THEORY, which ended its 12 year run this week with a nice send off.  That's quite an accomplishment, especially in this day and age where a series can be in year 6 and only have 36 episodes.

There were a number of articles about the show this week.  Some tributes and some analysis.   I, of course find the analysis amusing.  How much was the appeal due to geek-related references?  Was its throwback multi-camera style a help or hindrance?   Were the addition of two women characters responsible for its ultimate ratings climb?  

Here's why THE BIG BANG THEORY was popular:

It was FUNNY.

It had actual JOKES.

It was a comedy that strove to make you LAUGH.

It wasn't niche, it wasn't dark, it wasn't redefining television.

People tune in a comedy because they want to laugh.  THE BIG BANG THEORY delivered.  They weren't aiming at smiles, or wry nods of the head.  They sought to entertain.

Was it a perfect show?  No.  The stories were often paper-thin and not all jokes worked despite the audience's orgasmic reaction to each one.  But a lot of jokes DID work.  And the cast was terrific.  The sets were pleasant to look at.  The pace was brisk.    Personally, I thought the jokes were better and sharper earlier in the run, but they were also fresher. All long running series suffer from recycling material.

But Chuck Lorre assembled a funny cast and a room of very funny writers.

That formula seems like a no-brainer but no one else seems to be doing it.  Either the cast is attractive but not funny or the writing doesn't really pop.   And again, when I hear showrunners proudly claim they don't write jokes to me what they're saying is they CAN'T write jokes.

So congratulations to THE BIG BANG THEORY.  Scientists will tell you that sometimes the most obvious solutions are the ones right in front of us. 


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I agree that the early seasons were much funnier. Even so, I started watching the show at episode 1 and never stopped, and while there were definitely episodes I found disappointing there were only a tiny handful that I wouldn't be willing to see again. The send-off, I thought, was nice, especially as it effectively gave each character and actor a curtain call.

IME, the thing that really boosted BBT's popularity c season 5 was its arrival in syndication. I have quite a few friends who discovered it that way and then began watching the show. I'm amazed none of the commentators seem to have thought of that.

I don't normally watch YOUNG SHELDON, but for other BBT fans who don't, you may like to check out the end of this season finale, which also gives BBT a n affectiionate little send-off.


Coram_Loci said...

Recognizing my geeky attributes, some friends suggested I watch the show.

I watched about ten episodes. A light chuckle throughout each episode. Never burst out loud. Never a memorable moment.

Each episode seemed too - um - fast. It’s as if I was on a joke ride at an amusement park, being shuttled from one joke to the other, never having time to catch my breath or breathe deeply for a hearty laugh.

Back to the Golden Girls for me.

tavm said...

With the finales of "TBBT", and of "Modern Family" next season, those may be the last of the Top 10 TV comedies to have highly anticipated endings that would leave the air with bazinga (to steal Sheldon's catchphrase) ratings but they won't reach the vast number of viewers that greeted the ends of "M*A*S*H", "Cheers", "Seinfeld", and "Friends" the previous decade as network viewership continuously declines due to cable, DVD, and online options. And compared to those others, "TBBT" isn't considered a great TV show but is as iconic as not-so-classic-but-still-iconic ones like "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch"! So congrats to Chuck Lorre for finally "winning" with this particular show!

Coram_Loci said...

Ken a Friday Question:

Do you personally know an actor who lost his self-identity and started to think he was the character he played (perhaps a character you created)?

I was watching an episode of Night Court were a Lone Ranger type character loses his self identity and threatens to off himself when the character is reshaped and recast.

Professional wrestlers are sometimes their true selves cranked up to 11. Sometimes they get stuck at 11. But they are still being themselves. But actors are playing someone different. Have you seen them lose themselves? If so, what's the process? How do friends and family respond?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

THE BIG BANG THEORY was funny? It had jokes? It had comedy? Funny, whenever I'd glance at it, all I ever saw was sex . . . like pretty much almost every other show on television today.

therealshell said...

Unless I missed something, it looked like Raj didn't end up with anyone.

Chuck Cavender said...

That Young Sheldon conclusion got me in the feels. Brilliant idea.

CarolMR said...

Try watching BBT without the laugh track. It's so un-funny that it's almost depressing.

Lemuel said...

"Here's how we finish a quest in Nebraska."
"Wait till you see my new devil-may care bathroom policy!"
"And THAT'S how a girl makes a scene."

Plus, I enjoyed Chuck's vanity cards (which you can find on his websites0

Mike said...

Thanks for this Ken - I agree 100%. I started watching Big Bang this year, because the reruns are on after Seinfeld just as I’m going to bed. It’s a funny, well-produced show. I like the actors, and I like their chemistry. I’ve told a few friends that I like it and they act as if I have two heads.

therealshell said...

Not as funny as your posts.

Steve B. said...

One more unique thing about BBT - it was a current sitcom with an actual theme song (with lyrics and everything!) Better yet, I picture strict fundamentalist parents going crazy when their kids hear "it all started with a big bang!"

Mary Cini Warwick said...

Just stopping in to say hi to Ken & everyone else. I heard about Ken's blog on Jeff Maxwell's podcast MASH Matters last week. Sheesh, where've I've been? I'm slowly reading all posts and listening to podcasts. MASH is my favorite show ever, but I've enjoyed the other series mentioned.

Friday questions are my favorite blog entries. I also enjoy all pics of the fam and grandkids. :-)

For whatever reason, the BBT never appealed to me.

About me... I'm 52, married, live in Pgh, work at my husband's CPA firm (all accounting jokes are appreciated)and write in my spare time. Who doesn't? My book is available on Amazon. I hope to have another one finished this year. Oh, I have a son who is a senior in college, so I'm broke.

I got to meet Larry Gelbart once and HE WAS SO NICE.

I'm currently watching Jeopardy! and very thankful that the tournament of teachers is finished. King James needs to return. I'm also watching Fosse/Verdon on FX. In fact, I could be the only one watching Fosse/Verdon on FX... the past two episodes were ridiculously slow. I don't know anything about acting, but Michelle Williams is killing it.

Anyway, just wanted to say hi to everyone.

Walk in peace but raise hell!

Mike Bloodworth said...

I for one loved "The Big Bang Theory." It is without question my favorite of the Chuck Lorre creations. I agree that the earlier seasons were the best. The show was very well written. Most sitcoms you can see the joke coming a mile away. But TBBT often caught me by surprise. The first few seasons regularly made me laugh out loud.
That's why I have mixed emotions about the ending of the show. While I can't say that TBBT ever "jumped the shark" it was definitely running out of gas. They got repetitive. They ignored earlier plot points. And one of the biggest things was that the group dynamic changed. The A & B story lines became so divergent that at times it seemed as if you were watching two different sitcoms.
While they could have milked a few more seasons out of TBBT I'm releaved they didn't. I'm glad they ended it now before it left a bad taste in your mouth.
The I was rather disappointed by the finale however, because it seemed anticlimactic. But all in all it's a show in which everyone involved can be proud.
Someday, I would love to be part of a sitcom like that.

sueK2001 said...

I liked BBT but never loved it..I think I watched a season or two. I know friends that adore it. I did love any episode that featured Christine Baranski, Laurie Metcalf and Bob Newhart..for they brought out the greatest from the cast. The best ones were the one where the whole cast got something to personal favorite was Raj's Scanvenger Hunt..Seeing Howard and Amy bond over Neil Diamond was hilarious.

As for real laughs, I just discovered Gilmore Girls on Netflix. When it was on originally, I think I was watching something else so I missed it but, that show is a real treasure and am glad to find it.

Bob B. said...

Predictions --

"Young Sheldon" will die on the vine without TBBT lead in.

CBS's general viewership will fall without TBBT. CBS will offer Simon Helberg and Melissa Rauch a spin off which they will accept.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed TBBT and found it amusing.
Was it life changing not necessarily but it did calm the nerves and bring a smile.
No more a niche show then one that deals with doctors, or sewer workers, or any other show centered around a particulauar profession/realm of activity.
It will be missed.
Just can't wait for the last 3 or so seasons to hit Hulu.
The commercials became so all consuming that I couldn't watch it on commercial Tv any more.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Are we sharing favorite lines? The guys have bought the prop chair from THE TIME MACHINE and Penny says, "It's not a real time machine. It looks like something Elton John would drive across the Everglades."

I haven't been a steady viewer the last couple of seasons. Did they ever reveal Penny's last name?

Peter said...

Was Big Bang Theory filmed in front of a live studio audience? I've never been a regular viewer but whenever I've tuned in, the laughter sounds excessive. I guess it could be that real audience reactions were "sweetened", as Ken has described happening on some shows.

The problem is sitcoms where there's very clearly a laughter track. I watched an episode of 2 Broke Girls recently and it was an ordeal to sit through, not because of the show itself but because HUGE fake laughter was used for every single line - and I really do mean every single line. It just makes it obvious that there isn't a real studio audience. There were a handful of jokes I found genuinely funny but it's hard even to enjoy those when you've been bashed over the head on all the mediocre jokes with uproarious laughter.

I've never liked laughter tracks but if you're gonna have them, use them carefully. Don't crank it up to 11 for every joke.

MG said...

Buttermilk Sky: They never revealed Penny's maiden name. Every mention of her last name was after she married Leonard and they used his.

Apparently, they were thinking about a spin-off for Raj but couldn't decide on a concept that worked without the other characters.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Did they ever reveal Penny's last name?

Nope. They left it behind.

Markus said...

You forgot:

It's almost completely based on extremely simplistic stereotypes (to the point of rendering them untrue) without being even the least bit subtle about it.

Which is pretty much why I never got into it, despite giving it a try several times. Never found it funny or enjoyable or clever whatsoever. It's one of those shows that you start to look into because you wonder why everyone is raving about it, only to end up facepalming every few seconds because every aspect, every line, every joke, every stupid Star Trek or Star Wars reference is delivered wiht a sledgehammer. That's just not for me.

Daniel said...

I watched a handful of episodes of "The Big Bang Theory." I don't think I laughed once. Everything was so broad and over the top. Every set-up so obvious. And, as someone who loves geek culture, I should have been the core audience for this series. Just never worked for me.

therealshell said...

Couldn't disagree more. I find "Young Sheldon" amusing and surprisingly sweet. You are right, though, about the "Wolowitzes" spinoff- that's a no-brainer.

Landon said...


TWO BROKE GIRLS was multi-cam with a studio audience. Some friends of mine attended a taping.

Dad Solo said...

relentlessly mediocre

therealshell said...

Lots of pop culture annoys the life force out of me, but TBBT was mostly harmless. I did stop watching TBBT a few years ago.I find it amusing that so many people lose their shite over a sitcom, when there are far more important things to be not only worried about, but terrified about. Like the survival of the human race.

Peter said...

Ken, did you see Rhea Perlman being interviewed by Andy Cohen? He asked if it was true that there was friction between Shelley Long and the rest of the cast.....

Chris said...

Great review

thirteen said...

I like Young Sheldon better than TBBT. Better stories, no laugh cues. Sheldon's twin sister is the breakout star there.

I noticed that the BBT cast had high words of praise for each other and especially for the writers and crew, but had precious little to say about Chuck Lorre, pro or con.

No TBBT spinoff, please. It's done. I'm looking forward to the next big thing.

MikeKPa. said...

I got into BIG BANG THEORY late, this past season. Saw the set on a visit to the Warners' lot last summer and then started following it on syndication. I can't think of a single episodie where I didn't laugh out loud, which I can't say for most comedies today. MODERN FAMILY I tried several times but didn't even chuckle. I know it, unlike BBT, doesn't have a laugh track, but I didn't need one to laugh just as hard at VEEP, THE OFFICE, or 30 ROCK.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Buttermilk Sky: Oddly, no lines really spring to mind. What I remember as favorite moments are all visual: Sheldon turning around in bewilderment trying to decide what to do when Penny is sleeping on the couch and he wants to sit in his spot; the cornstarch dancing on those giant upturned speakers; the space station stuff (which was amazing for TV); the look on Howard's face when a new use for the robot arm occurs to him...


John Nixon said...

I heard my favorite line just this past week when Sheldon said "I wouldn't coitus her with your genitalia".

I like to read the Chuck Lorre vanity cards that appear so quickly at the end of each show. They all are here