The week of September 23rd-29th marks the one-year anniversary of this blog post of mine. People have viewed this particular entry almost 8,000 times over the past year. By the end of this anniversary week it will exceed the 8,000 mark and by the end of the year have over 10,000 visits by curious fans and detractors of the popular show. Yay, good for me, right?
So, the wife and I were sat on our couch watching the Primetime Emmys this past Sunday. TBBT was nominated for several Emmys, including “Outstanding Comedy Series.” It did not win any Emmys this year. (The series has won a couple of trophies over the years, both of which went to Jim Parsons for his portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Cooper.) I decided to go back and revisit my original anti-Big Bang Theory rant and discovered that while I stick by my original assessments and conclusions, I was sort of dickish about it. No, really. Also, while I realize that I have very far to go before I could ever consider doing this as a full-time job, it seems that my writing has gradually increased in quality over the past year. Good for me. Also, good for anyone who reads this stuff. (Thank you, by the way.)
I tend to be a positive person, so just blasting a show and the parties involved with the production of said show is not only shitty, but counter-productive. See, I really WANT to like this show. There are so very few good geek-related television programs on prime-time and most of those are on cable. I therefore decided to dig in and see if this whole mess can be fixed. I think it can. I really do. Here are some suggestions for improvement, in no particular order:
Turn the Whole Thing Over to Joss Whedon
I know it’s a stretch, esp. with a new SHIELD series in development and Avengers 2 and so on, but Mr. Whedon has such a great knack for managing and balancing an ensemble cast that I think this would be a perfect marriage. Plus, considering how much of the interaction of the BBT characters, esp. Sheldon, revolves around sci-fi and fantasy, um…that’s all Whedon friggin DOES, people! Sure he’s capable of more, but this is his strong suit. The banter would be intense, smart, and hilarious. Of course, the current dialogue would be helped tremendously if they’d do this one simple thing…
Lose the Goddam LAUGH TRACK
“But you’re WRONG!” the fanboys scream. “There IS NO LAUGH TRACK!! It’s a live studio audience!” Okay, I’ll give you the “studio audience” and raise you “Sweetening.” This is the process of adding canned laughter on top of a studio audience, especially when the jokes are falling flat. See, they go through the trouble of setting, lighting, and performing the episode. Everything goes smoothly, all the marks are hit, there are no line flubs…perfect execution. Except on any particular night the audience just isn’t feeling it. Rather than scrap the whole thing, they just throw in some pre-recorded laffs and bingo! Or should I say “BAZINGA!!” This has been going on since the dawn of television (and, honestly, radio), when shows weren’t recorded in front of a live audience to be aired at a later date; rather, they did that shit LIVE without a net. If Perry Como or Sid Caesar had a listless audience, they’d “sweeten” things with pre-recorded sound effects. The home viewing audience was none the wiser. Read more about it here. And I understand the need for this bit of subterfuge, except when I don’t. Scooby Doo added a laugh track. Because reasons. The Big Bang Theory does it, too, and most of the time it’s WAAAAAYYYYYY too much. Check out the following clip. It’s a scene from the show with the laugh track removed. Because of this, it’s also faster-paced. Watch it, and I’ll tell you what it reminds me of after. Okay, GO!!
Okay, you know what? That scene isn’t terrible. And you know what else it reminds me of? Kevin Fucking Smith. Seriously, that could easily be an outtake from Mallrats or Chasing Amy. Perfect? No. Far from it. But so much better. Which brings up another suggestion…
Turn the Whole Thing Over to Kevin Smith
Hey, if Joss isn’t available, let Kevin try his hand at a mainstream network comedy. Sure, he’s kind of hit-or-miss…but his knowledge (and experience) with the world of comics and sci-fi is pretty damn good. And his dialogue concerning such subjects is rapid-fire brilliant at the best of times and smarmy other times. In other words, a perfect fit.
Add a Full-time Female Foil
Penny is on the show as the everyman analog. She’s the majority of the viewers: a basic grasp of science and nerdity, but not immersed in it. She also fills the position that Spock and Data filled on Star Trek. She’s an outsider, commenting on the human condition. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. But the sexual tension-eye candy aspect of her character is wearing a bit thin. How about you cast Felicia Day as a new neighbor? Maybe she’s a librarian or something, adding some more literature-based nerdity to the show? Felicia would have another purpose: a tongue-in-cheek nod to all the REAL geeks out there. Or how about Adrianne Curry as a professional cosplay girl? One that dresses up as video game and comic book characters without a full-on grasp of the source material? Whatever. The point is, make Penny WORK to be the object of affection. Maybe she’d realize how much she really does have in common with the guys? It couldn’t hurt to add a new character or two.
Now, all these are long-term fixes, but I had a few one-off suggestions…
The Mirror Universe
Star Trek has done this several times, never better than the episode Mirror, Mirror form the original series. In that episode, Kirk, Scotty, McCoy, and Uhura travel to a dimension exactly like ours, only in THAT universe the Federation has been replaced by the warlike Terran Federation and everyone is cruel and mean. Spock even has a goatee, so you just KNOW he’s a badass. Why not have some fun and have the Big Bang fellas find their way to Bizzaro World or somesuch. Sheldon could be the captain of the lacrosse team at the local Community College. Penny could be the lesbian astrophysicist astronaut and so on. It would also open the door for full-on sexual relations and stuff. Despite my disdain for the show itself, I have always thought very highly of the cast, and would love to see them really chew the scenery in some new situations that wouldn’t otherwise work.
Another tried-and-true science fiction gimmick that would make sense due to the quantum-physics nature of the discussions and jokes on the show. (Same would hold true for the Mirror Universe storyline.) The fellows either go forward to see how their lives turn out or backwards to see themselves in the 80’s. Again, you could explore the characters themselves and even add some humanity! Romance! Action! Quantum entanglement and string theory! WIN!
I mentioned turning the whole thing over to Joss Whedon and/or Kevin Smith earlier. But realistically, this ain’t gonna happen. But what if guys like that did guest spots? What if J.J. Abrams wrote and directed an episode? Quentin Tarantino directed an episode of E.R. once and it was awesome. Why not? There are guest stars on television programs all the time. Throw in some writing and directing superstars and pump some life into this baby.
So there you go, Hollywood. Make some of this happen, or even just make a concerted effort to drag what could be a great show up out of the easy-joke, laugh-tracked abyss, and I’ll give it another chance. I’m counting on you. You’re our only hope for this sitcom to live long and prosper. (See what I did there?)