The Big Bang Theory Success is Revealed. What are the reasons for the success of CBS‘ The Big Bang Theory? I think I can name a few. The show, now in its eighth season, is hugely popular with audiences.
First and perhaps foremost is the writing. Writing is everything. A good actor can’t surmount poor material, but a bad actor can look better with good stuff to recite.
The writing team of The Big Bang Theory are skilled at providing lines of dialog that often reflect ludicrous irony and cynical reality, but done in a way that makes the characters seem vulnerable and not threatening. If you’re a viewer it’s easy to warm to such characters. This vulnerability often takes shape in the form of feelings of inadequacy and frustration and the gnawing continual need for acceptance which we all have and with which the viewer can identify.
Though it is an ensemble type cast, clearly the star of the show is Sheldon (Jim Parsons). He is a boy in a man’s body. He looks like a boy from the neck up. He frequently utters lines of dialog that are sour, barbed observances about life in general, or criticism directed towards others, but is usually corrected by his friends and quickly backtracks. This shows he is made of jelly—a reason for his appeal.
Sheldon also delivers his jabs with a completely deadpan and serious expression no matter how ridiculous the remark. This is often genuinely funny.
The writers clearly understood there is some of Sheldon in all of us.
Johnny Galecki as Leonard plays a major support role, something of a straight man for Parsons, helping set him up for the big laugh lines. The show is interesting for its parings, and most episodes it’s Sheldon and Leonard in and out of trouble, and in another pairing, Simon Helberg (Howard) and his buddy Raj (Kunal Nayyar).
Howard and Raj are somewhat lesser parts with fewer zingers and jokes than Sheldon and Leonard.
Among the girls the ensemble is a little more evenly spread between Mayim Bialik (Amy) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco). Melissa Rauch as Bernadette has a somewhat less prominent role.
These are only general observations over the past several shows. The parts and who gets most air time can change given the whim of the writers.
The cast of The Big Bang Theory is somewhat reminiscent in its ensemble form to the TV smash hit MASH in the 1970’s. Like Parsons, Alan Alda as the wisecracking Hawkeye Pierce was clearly the star of the show, which led co-stars Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson to quit the show because they didn’t want to play what they perceived to be second fiddle to Alda. Stevenson came to regret the choice after two subsequent shows in which he appeared were cancelled.
Apparently, none of the recent major players of The Big Bang Theory have felt like leaving the show to strike out on their own, perhaps wisely realizing that hit shows are hard to find.
Again, the writing is key to what makes the show work. The cast members are given clipped and sharply declarative absurdities that often take accusatory form, yet are delivered in a way that makes the characters seem to be highly intelligent and befuddled innocents.
For example, if I had to think up my own line for a future episode of the show, I would have Sheldon say (deadpan), “My relatives hate me. They consider me to be a typical momma’s boy, a weakling, a coward and a lazy bum. I resent that. I’m not typical.”
In this week’s new episode (Feb. 19), The Comic Book Store Regeneration, Sheldon becomes annoyed when Amy helps an acquaintance with his homework, while Howard gets a disturbing call regarding his mother.
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