Many of my friends and family LOVE The Big Bang Theory. I’ll admit, I’ll watch it if there’s nothing else on. but, something about the show has never sat right with me and, I think I’ve just figured out what. I’ve recently been suffering from a bout of chronic insomnia. So, one sleepless night I reached for the ever faithful, ever comforting, continually funny, Spaced.
Now, Spaced is without doubt the best geek TV show ever made. It’s made by geeks, for geeks.
For the unfamiliar, it’s a British sitcom about two strangers — Daisy and Tim (played by co-writers Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg) —who have to pretend to be a couple to get a flat.
Like the Big Bang theory, Spaced featured in-jokes and movie references. With the Big Bang theory, they’re screaming “There’s a reference coming, We’re about to make a reference, here’s the reference, Did you get the reference? No, ok. Well here’s what the reference was about”.
Spaced was smarter, it worked on multiple levels. If you watch it as a straight sitcom, with no idea of the references, it will still make you laugh, but if you watch it and you pick up the references it makes you laugh in a different way.
It rewards multiple viewings. 14-years later and I’m still picking up things I’d missed before. The references aren’t gratuitous, they move the story along. There isn’t a random reference, for the sake of a random reference.
I can’t help but feel that the Big Bang Theory is just making fun of “geek culture”. Pointing the huge finger and shouting “THIS IS WHAT NERDS DO!”. Most of the humour comes from the audience laughing AT the characters and not with the characters. You’re not meant to be laughing at the jokes they make, you’re meant to be laughing at the guys themselves and that’s what doesn’t sit right with me, I’m meant to be laughing at myself, at my friends.
The characters aren’t likeable at all, now. Not every character has to be likeable. Every character in Seinfeld, Curb your enthusiasm and Arrested development was a detestable human being. But it takes skill to do this. The writing team on TBBT are too busy high-fiving themselves for squeezing in another reference, or lazy pop shot at geeks to give us believable characters. Instead, we get another overused stereotype, not seen since saved by the bell.
Leonard is whiny, weak and a mummy’s boy, Raj is shy around women and just irritating, Howard is sleazy and belongs on some sort of register and the star of the show, Sheldon is just a complete and utter dick.
Would anyone really be friends with him?
At first, I thought it may just be a cultural difference between a US show and a UK show. But, step forward Community. A show made by NBC which like Spaced, deals with geek culture in a respectful and realistic way. With community and Spaced, you never laugh at the characters, you laugh with them.