Friday, February 20, 2015


Over the last two months Susan and I have gobbled up all seven seasons of The Big Bang Theory available on DVD as I write. It has became something of an obsession, really, and after one binge viewing session we'd enjoy another the following evening. This, despite the fact we had successfully ignored it - and Susan's boss, aghast we had never watched it, and insisting we do - for a full seven years since the first episode aired. The thing is, we don't watch television - just DVDs and BluRays - so remain only partly aware of the hit or good shows, and blissfully unaware of a great many others. (On a regular basis, customers trade in DVDs of series' at the store that I have never heard of or read about.)  Anyway, whenever TBBT DVDs have come in, they've usually been snapped up immediately, so when good condition copies of the first five seasons came into the store in December, as a store perk available to me is borrowing movies I decided to bring them home to see what the fuss was about.
It didn't take too long before we were absolutely hooked, and bought the lot! Not for nothing does a sitcom in this age of distraction and byte-sized 'entertainment' reach eight seasons,  but with TBBT it is extremely easy to see why. This show is so funny, sharp, poignant, emotional, observant and beautifully written and acted, that it truly is up there with the sitcom royalty of such as Frasier, Friends et al. We have watched 159 episodes so far (only behind on Season 8, yet to be released on DVD), and have loved every single one! Seriously, the brilliant writing team has yet to come close to dropping the ball, and in pretty much every episode there is at least one line so funny that we have to press pause on the remote control, laugh ourselves to the point of exhaustion, then regain composure, wipe away the tears, and rejoin the episode. It's that funny. Adding to the pleasure of this joyous experience is the regular social commentary, when the writers throw in barbed comments in directions thoroughly deserving of them, a factor that often makes us cheer out loud! 
The obvious ilk of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under aside, it's been been a long time since I fell so hard for a show, especially a sitcom. Far from it being comedy aimed at the lowest common denominator, if you will - I would include such as the Hangover trilogy, American Pie and all that dumb shit - this is sophisticated, yet direct humour, appreciated across the board by just about everyone. We have an unfortunately currently housebound university professor friend recovering from a serious car smash, so we've been feeding her DVDs to keep her entertained. She thinks TBBT is just about the funniest show she's ever seen! With this in mind, I've pondered the huge appeal TBBT has for me/us, dissecting the elements that make it so magical.
Firstly, it is, as I say, uproariously funny. The lines written for each character are perfectly in tune with their carefully developed personalities, and delivered to a tee by the impeccably cast ensemble. Comic timing is all, but will always fall flat in the face of flaccid material. Quite how the TBBT writers have managed to remain so consistently high on the hilarious-o-meter for what is now just one season short of 200 episodes is utterly bewildering, but as long as they continue to produce such side-splitting material and develop the characters at the perfect pace they have done so far, this show can run and run. The producers of The Simpsons should take note.
Secondly, I relate emotionally to traits of every single character. It's all about outsiders, nerds, geeks and dreamers who occupy their own place in this world to the puzzlement of much of the rest of society. It celebrates, rather than excludes, the 'different' folks among us, in this instance (principally) those brilliant souls in the arena of science that no one ever thinks about, but without whom this world would not turn. Besides their achievements it looks at their quirks, insecurities and vulnerabilities - such as the very real, awful situation of being alone, yet having no clue how to rectify it - and it does so with great compassion.
One aspect of this is looking at the characters as true products of their parents and families, so despite their glorious uniqueness they are presented as very real, very human. The show considers the pressures of succeeding under the keen eyes of parents that are, variously, cold, aloof and detached; religiously pious; overbearingly suffocating and needy, or - in the case of Raj - determined that their offspring conform to societal tradition (by agreeing to an arranged marriage). It also examines culture clashes, the complex nature of relationships between people of radically different backgrounds, and... oh man, I could go on and on.
In an article in the British newspaper The Guardian last October,  the correspondent called TBBT "an unstoppable force," and as a committed fan that's how it seems. In this world of increasing horrific violence and chaos, this is a show that brings a massive amount of joy to an awful lot of people: 18,000,000 Americans tuned into the premiere episode of Season 8, for heaven's sake; it remains the most watched show on US TV, and one of the most watched of all time, continually shattering its own viewing figures stats.
To have a right royal belly laugh at the end of a day filled with grim headlines, work drudgery and the rigours of everyday 21st century life - well, it is everything, at least to Susan and I. It's not that we bury our heads in the sand as to the madness all around us - far from it, especially me - but for as long as we wish to we can escape it all in the bosom of TBBT, laughing our heads off as we salute people, albeit fictitious characters, that we relate to in so many ways. Because our tastes are generally more aligned to alternative subcultures than the mainstream, we are far from typical people of our age; there are many out there who think we're weird, but it's simply the way we are, and we will change for nobody. I'm sure that this lies at the very core of why we love these beautiful characters of TBBT so much: just like us, whether the show's inhabitants are genii or not, they are still regular people.
We can't wait for Season 8 to be released on DVD. We'll blast through it as we have the previous seven, then likely start all over again to try catch the bits we missed when laughing our asses off so hard. Yeah, laughter really is the best medicine, and this is a world in great need of it right now. If you read this and for some reason, like us, you've let TBBT pass you by for any given reason, do yourself a favour and jump aboard. You won't regret it, I promise.

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