It’s made Chuck Lorre rich, but The Big Bang Theory is a niggling weed in the cracks of modern comedy.
I was a kid who grew up on some of the world’s most popular comedies; Friends, Frasier, The Office – sitcoms that contained real gems of television comedy that the western world still holds dear today. Now, as a 16-year-old, sitcoms are still my daily bread. I watch them with semi-insane regularity, literally being able to reel off entire Friends scenes by memory after watching them repeatedly. This is why I hold a particularly strong opinion of any new-found sitcom claiming to have ‘taken the world by storm’, ‘reinvented the comedy genre’ itself, or some other washed-up phrase that’s plastered all over the billboards for the new and improved comedy that we will all love and watch because, well, we’ll have no choice – it’ll be everywhere.
According to Chuck Lorre, the losers, aka the ones we’re meant to laugh at, are the geeks, the socially awkward, and women
So, let’s address an issue with recent sitcoms in this ‘Golden Age of Television’. It all comes down to The Big Bang Theory, and Chuck Lorre’s colourful, canned laughter bandwagon of a predecessor, Two and a Half Men. I have regularly and regretfully had the opportunity to tune into both of these shows several times; enough times to get a clear picture of what they are. Apparently, there are clear winners and losers in Chuck Lorre’s idea of life. The losers, aka the ones we’re meant to laugh at and not with, are the geeks, the socially awkward, and the women.
The winners are the ones who are blessed with cable-worthy good looks, or the ones whose alcohol addiction and sexism are shrugged off as funny banter for the whole family to enjoy. These two groups occupy both ‘comedies’, and the characters that adopt these written traits are loved and adored by the public. Simply put, Lorre’s shows are designed for us to laugh at the expense of people who don’t realise they’re a joke, neatly wrapped into a 20-minute package that is convenient for us all to watch every Thursday at 9pm. But how can these shows be so incredibly popular, when the majority of people who watch them don’t regularly spout off offensive one-liners like a character in The Big Bang Theory?
The harsh reality is that this comedy is genuinely loved and appreciated by the general TV-watching public. The real question is: why is this allowed? Why is the current highest-rating sitcom, drawing in tens of millions of viewers in repeats alone, so atrocious? Why do I see T-shirts baring the phrase ‘Bazinga’ every god-damn place I go?
While Dads was promptly cancelled, a new strain of insulting sitcom appears every TV season like a weed that simply won’t die
The worst part of sitcoms like Big Bang Theory is the hope they inspire in wannabe show creators who believe that, yes, they too can have the massive, looming success of that Godzilla of a comedy by being just as offensive as the people who created it. Enter shows like Dads, also known as the show that became renowned for its racist and sexist storylines. If only the creators had masked it as cleverly as Chuck Lorre masks the brash offensiveness of The Big Bang Theory’s scripts, they could have had just what Lorre is currently rolling in. While this particular comedy was promptly and appropriately cancelled, a new strain of insulting sitcom appears every new TV season like a weed that simply won’t die.
And while I’m not a fan of award propaganda like the Oscars or the Emmys, the unfortunate false belief is that a film or a TV show isn’t actually worthy until it’s won a load of meaningless mini statues. While many of us can cling to the idea that good shows that win next to no awards (cough, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Parks and Recreation, cough) are still beloved and deserve cult status, the cold reality is that the shows that reach even the most off-the-grid TV viewer via extensive marketing are the ones that funding is pumped into like a bloated pig: the shiny award winners.
Sure, sometimes, if the advertising, acting and ‘rave’ critic reviews all align perfectly, genuinely clever and funny comedies can make it through the dark tunnel and into the promised land of decent viewer ratings. Newer shows like The Mindy Project are living proof that, sometimes, this can just work. These kinds of comedies skim on the surface, safe enough for a few more seasons, but not reeling in the big money like our family-fan-favourite, The Big Bang Theory.
We, as a television watching community, need Chuck Lorre and people angling for his success to just quit while they’re ahead. Make room for the sitcoms that are, you know, actually intelligent, original, and – most importantly here when talking about comedies – funny. So, as an eternally hopeful sitcom-lover, I will continue to watch new comedy pilots that appear every September from the USA in an attempt to find my new Friends or Frasier, while all the time resisting the shows inebriated with bright colours, offensive one-liners and cheap jokes, and I encourage others to do the same.
All images: CBS