Saturday, February 08, 2014

[TV] Nerd Defense League

Nerd Defense League: I like Big Bang Theory. So does everyone else. It's only the most popular show in the known universe or something. The writing is not as crisp as it was in the early seasons, but the it has one of the strongest ensembles of comic actors you'll ever see. It's run into some resistance in the media as it has evolved over time, though.

First, a common complaint is that it is nerd blackface, that it's gone from laughing with nerds to laughing at them. There is some validity to this. Early on in the series when the nerds were picked on, although there may have been a laugh here and there, it was ultimately portrayed as sad. At least to be a nerd on this show was not to be ridiculed or shamed or have it be something you were supposed to get over. Now occasionally the nerd-slamming is the joke in itself, but that kind of fits with the age of the characters. They are all adults now, with adult problems, not being picked on by bullies, so they would likely laugh at nerdiness now because it's not such a symbol of pain anymore. (I say this as someone with painful memories of high school geekery.) At least it is still respectful of nerds, enough to get the facts and prevailing opinions straight.

The second complaint is that it has turned from a show about four nerds to a latter day version of Friends. Well, there's not much you can do about that. If the show is going to last more than a season or two, it's going to have to morph. Five years down the road, you don't want to find yourself in the writer's room trying to figure out a new spin on Leonard working up the courage to ask Penny out. For the sake of longevity, you get 3-4 years of nerd tropes, then 3-4 more of Friends knock offs, and then you have entered the sitcom run-length stratosphere along with Cheers and Frasier and Seinfeld and Friends, offering lucrative lead-ins and endless syndication to make millionaires out of everyone involved. If you're really, really good you relocate to the suburbs and start knocking off Modern Family or Everybody Loves Raymond for another four years. Then Men of a Certain Age. I am only being marginally absurd.

For now everyone should just chill out and appreciate that it is still smart and funny, usually, after all these years. It's a high quality three camera sitcom and has remained so. It's part of our shared culture now. One of the few shows that can say that since the 90s.