• Tue, Aug 20 2013

The Big Bang Theory Is The Most Controversial Show On Television

The Big Bang Theory cast

If I asked you what the most controversial show on television is, you might say something violent like Breaking Bad or sexual Girls. You might even say a show like Two and a Half Men, which has had its fair share of behind-the-scenes drama. I might have said the same types of shows myself before a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about TV’s highest-rated yet arguably lowest-quality series and received impassioned comments about one show in particular — The Big Bang Theory. I realized how much of a love-it-or-hate-it show we have on our hands here, and how surprising that is considering it’s A.) a comedy, and B.) a comedy about a group of nerds. That’s pretty innocuous subject matter to get people so heated. I also noticed that it’s hard to pin down a particular type of person who likes or dislikes The Big Bang Theory. It could be the one show on television that’s virtually impossible to predict if someone will like. Nerds seem divided over it, and even though it gets awards attention (seven Emmy nods this year) and high ratings (19 million viewers last season), it’s a punchline among TV snobs, even from our favorite person Tina Fey. We say things like, “Oh, I bet he watches The Big Bang Theory” as an insult.

Let me start by explaining why I don’t like the show. I’ve watched multiple episodes from various seasons, but it has never hooked me in the same way shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock did. I’m left without a desire to watch more, unless that desire is based on the fact that I’m still trying to figure out why people enjoy it. One of the biggest problems is the multi-camera format, laugh track included. I can watch older shows with a laugh track, no problem, but it feels so out of place with new shows, especially when it seems to be compensating for the fact that the jokes just aren’t that clever. The laugh track is a big component to Big Bang haters’ argument against the show, to the point that people have posted videos with the laugh track removed to prove just how unfunny it is.

The other thing that bothers me is that every joke is delivered in such an obvious manner, as if the show is serving it to us on a silver platter. Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune echoed this idea in her review of the pilot, saying, “‘Big Bang’ is the kind of comedy that is so proud of a non-funny joke that it trots it out twice (sorry, but the idea of Klingon Boggle is not exactly gut-bustingly hilarious the first time around).” It’s a very ostentatious style of comedy that lacks a certain amount of subtlety. This extends to the characters, who seem pretty stereotypical. The nerds act like stock characters and the ditzy blonde next door is just that — a ditzy blonde. Add the fact that they’re all so over-the-top (save for Leonard), and it makes for a very annoying viewing experience. It’s like watching four Kramers on one show.

But my preference for more subtle comedy doesn’t seem to be a fool-proof indicator that people who like my favorite shows will dislike Big Bang. I have a few friends who love shows like Community and Parks and Rec but also love Big Bang. I’ve also seen it argued that you have to be a nerd to like it. That can’t be true, since it’s the #2 highest rated show. Are all those people nerds? Plus, even nerds are divided over it. Just look at this conversation that happened in the comments section of my ratings post.

Big Bang Theory commentary

Some people find it refreshing that nerds are being represented on TV, while others dislike the comparisons. While we’re on the topic of commenters, I’d also like to point out that the people who defended Big Bang were reasonable and polite and intelligent. They gave reasons for loving the show that went beyond just following it because it’s popular, but they didn’t try to make me watch the show or criticize me for not liking it, which, if we’re being honest, is more than you can say for fans of cult comedies like Community. Although, to be fair, it’s a lot easier to just agree to disagree when your favorite show’s not in danger of being canceled. Still, I appreciate the civility, and it tells me that smart people are watching this show. So why is it still such a source of disagreement among TV lovers?

Big Bang Theory commentary

Now I want to hear from you. What’s the deal with this show? If you’re a fan, tell me what I’m missing. If you’re not a fan, tell me why. Do you think it’s a good thing that the show’s fans are so hard to pin down? Does that prove that the show reaches a diverse population of viewers, or is it just the type of broad humor that can appeal to pretty much anyone? I love talking to you about TV, and this show definitely gives us a lot to talk about.

(Lead Photo: Chicago Nerds)

Share This Post:
  • djsquirrel

    Why are the articles on Crushable lamenting a laugh track with BBT? Even a tour of the set on one of the DVD sets shows they have a live audience, and always have! In fact, it’s unique in that they actually move the audience in front of the sets because it’s just one long track of areas the show frequents. The Cheesecake Factory set’s right behind Sheldon’s bedroom.

    Please stop accusing the show of a laugh track. Even an untrained ear would know there’s unique audience laughter. In fact, last year’s viral video of the BBT flash mob Cuoco’s sister choreographed for the cast and crew to perform actually shows the audience going bananas at numerous points throughout the number. Don’t believe me? Just look up “Big Bang Theory Flash Mob” on YouTube.

  • Joseph Robert Lee

    Being an educated relatively intellectual person myself (yes I’m a nerd) I enjoy Big Bang because its comic book geek chic is something thats more commonplace than the public is willing to recognize or admit to. The characters are nerdy, generally not overtly handsome or sexy and very relatable. How many of us have struggled talking to women as satirized by Raj or dealt with an excessively obsessive roommate like Sheldon or have been insecure in a relationship like Leonard? Seinfeld was similarly filled with well written if two dimensional characters who were quirky and whose insecurities were laid bare for the audience’s amusement. Not everyone can be attractive yet live in unrealistically fabulous, carefree circumstances like the characters in Friends or How I Met Your Mother. The dynamic of Penny, Bernadette, and Amy has really been a great improvement to the show and the way these characters have embraced their significant others’ interests (comic books, cosplay) is hilarious and shows their characters really care about their boyfriends. Lastly, theres nothing wrong with highlighting nerds.

  • let it be

    whats your beef ? its a t.v. show either you like it or you dont why you have to psychoanalysis everything to the bone thats whats wrong now days always over doing $h%t & i cant believe i wasted my time reading this @#$%&^ S%#t

  • grant

    I guess to me, it’s all about the perspective of the ‘story teller.’ If
    you think of this show as an outsider making fun of nerds, then you
    won’t think it is funny. However, if you look at it as a bunch of
    people who realize that they are nerdy, realize that some of their
    activities and even personalities are a bit socially awkward but have
    fun with it instead of cower in shame from it, then you capture the true
    essence of most of the people that society would view as nerdy.

    I belong to
    that true breed of nerd. In college, I was All-Conference in
    football and conference champion in Track, yet I also played a TON of
    computer games. I played some arena football, yet most of the time I
    sat back in the hotel rooms playing computer games when my teammates
    went out drinking. I even had teammates drop me off at the card shop to play the card game Magic. Yet with all of that, I was very accepted and well-liked and fit in with both my teammates and with my ‘nerd’ friends. That is why I like the show, it shows that people
    can be both socially awkward and nerdy and at the same time be likeable,
    fun, and funny all at the same time.

  • sherry

    With all the crap going on in the world, sometimes I just like to watch a TV show that makes me smile. That’s it. The whole lot of them make me smile.

    • K Joseph

      Exactly! It is the only show pleasant and easy to watch and then have NO bad dreams after you go to sleep. We watch reruns before bed…..

  • Josh Dierickx

    I have only seen 1-2, maybe 3 episodes of this show. I do not know how people can consume this shit every single day or week, as if it were they drinking milk from a bowl of a cereal that is rotting away. It’s like you were slave that was raped, by that, you were dehumanized of everything positive. This show is that and more. I honestly think The Big Bang Theory is equal to that of a Shakespeare play is completely not about what the play is about, so they just bullshitted it up? You get it?

    I don’t want to be an inconsiderate asshole, but you cannot be serious? It’s all for the mockery of nerds and geeks everywhere. Sure I will say that 5%-10% of the stereotypical nerds and geeks are in fact, what they say in the show, is true. My brother is one of from – well, only Sheldon (with a sleep schedule), besides that, he has nothing to do with it. I do not know any else that is actually like for the realest nerds out there – they do not for the music, political, art, or English nerds – The Big Bang Theory thinks they’re useless. For example, it’s all about: comic books, computers, video games, they do not want to be tardy (even 1 minute) to a class, and they ALWAYS want to right on every math assignment – if they miss one – they’ll cry, etc. They have OCD, Aspergers, Autism, or any form of disability. CBS knows this, even Viacom and Chuck Lorre shows (this applies to “Two and a Half Men”). They both show the same terrible shows (week in and week out), and the worse plots out there for the cause for exploitation, even the same formula….

    The audience is completely rigged – if it was real for an audience – which is it would be atrocious for what they’re doing completely. The audience gets paid by all of these television producers, corporations (CBS, Viacom) and the agencies know that comedy is easy to rig. I would call that forced humor at it’s finest, they get paid so much to laugh at everything, they consider “humor,” a commodity. If it wasn’t real, it would be clearly evident that they’re using a laugh track. However, if the fans ARE laughing and they’re not being paid at it, and some of the “people” do not comprehend the jokes at all. Or using a laugh track – I would honestly say: “This is an average show besides Sheldon just gets in the way, too much – then I would consider this a serious show. If that were to happen… It’s not going to be which I find bullshit.

    All of the references are to Halo, Star Wars, Spider-Man, Sonic, Star Trek, basic physics, and too much references to Einstein, just in the 1-2 episodes that I had watched alone… Imagine if I had seen a whole season….

    They’re mocking people who are a nerd/geek, woman (dumb blonde blond stereotype), people from Nebraska/Midwest (who are stupid, incest, farmer), engineer (it’s easy to do and they think they know everything), Jewish, physicists, Indian/Asian, Aspergers/Autism, OCD, and etc. If I can remember: they’re even mocking people who are better because I’m a physicist/scientist and if you are writer or a musician, you’re work is therefore, shit. The nerd/geek stereotype is easy to do on television, just equal to that of the dumb blonde stereotype which I find disgusting and degrading to everyone who is the real nerd/geek. Even someone who is a blonde watching this show, I would be fucking pissed. And if you’re watching this: you’re taking this in your fucking face, because they’re mocking [you] directly, if you are a dumb blonde. YOU NEED to stop watching this NOW!

    If someone said to me: “My nerd[y] side is out of me because I watch The Big Bang Theory.” First off, your nerdy side was never was shown in the first place anyway so it doesn’t necessarily matter, you’re only following the crowd – like the heard of sheep mentally that you are. Secondly, how is this show even forward-thinking one time, I do not see anything? It has toilet humor that is beyond the level that is on television these days equal to Family Guy, (early) The Simpsons, or a Jackass episode – maybe (season 1-2) South Park. Even an Anal Cunt song title… Besides that: there’s hardly anything to physics as what I’ve seen, it’s just Sheldon’s fucking rants as he knows everything about physics and they want him to shut the fuck up. There you go: there’s nothing about science this whole fucking time. There comes the stereotypes: “comic book night”, “Halo night” (as what my friend told me), sex, Chinese food (they live in California – it’s all about Chinese), gender biased (woman cannot be a scientist better or they’re stay-at-home mothers), racism (mocking Islams, Jewish, Christians – sure this happens all the time, but they have to the extreme), etc.

    You’re not going to, or will be a physicist if you watch this show; the same applies to Frasier with getting your career/dream job in psychiatrist; or Scrubs in the healthcare/medical field (sadly, only realistic, I think); or even The King of Queens will not make you a postman, etc. They’re honestly mocking people for capitalism which the majority of the people are too fucking stupid to research independent DIY shows that are intelligent, the same applies to music (compared to only finding it on the radio or on the TV).

    How could people think that “Bazinga” is hilarious, I have never understood that. All is zing (a witty remark in a negative manner) and a Star Trek reference with the Klingon insult (“Bazinga”). And yes, I love Star Trek and that is just bullshit, in which all of these television writers are assuming it’s a original catchphrase – it’s not – they had stole it, from one of their shows [Star Trek], from the 1960′s. They can use that material because it’s the corporation that made it and not Gene Roddenberry’s intellectual property. Even if people at school, in my town, or on social networks such as Facebook believe that, such as a terrible writer: John Green, for example. (I’m not a fan of the author who supports Obama, and plus, Obama is from Kenya, who is presidency is invalid, he’s anti-life, anti-environment, pro-gun, etc.) Sorry about that. think that if a simple catchphrase which makes a show is bullshit, such as “Hey there, Jack” with Duck Dynasty, when I was in high school, six months ago, that’s what everyone had said. I was sick of it. I also only seen one episode of that white thrash pro-gun white trash show and i’ts godawful. You can say the same thing about half of television, so what? I could never get myself to watch both of Duck Dynasty and The Big Shit Theory because they’re both one of the worst shows on television (as of right now) – or all of time. Or Jersey Shore has to take the piece of cake? 16 & pregnant?

    Everything on VH1, Fox News (every decade), MTV in the 2000′s…

  • persephinae

    I have a love/dislike relationship with this show. I love the characters & show, but sometimes I feel like the characters are beat up by the show’s stereotypes. I get a lot of the references as I am a huge geeky nerd myself, and a lot of times I’m forever explaining all the geeky things to my parents who absolutely love this show. My beef I guess is that the show sometimes goes out of its way to laugh /at/ the characters and not have viewers laugh /with/ the characters. So even though it might be this terrific wonderful show, it’s still kind of feels like it’s a big laugh fest /at/ nerds, and perhaps the 2000′s version of 80′s nerd bashing.

  • Big Picture 144

    Boy, are you overthinking it. I watch it. I laugh. If you don’t, watch one of the other hundreds of shows on. TV “lovers”? Please it is just an entertainment device. Put down the remote and go build a life.

  • Jeremy Liggett

    I’m a fan of this show because I think some of the actors have tremendous talent and the nerdy (particularly the very deep science) jokes I find very clever. I like the fact that there is a laugh track because it makes me think back to older classic shows. I like the intelligence of the characters and the way they interplay with Sheldon who is a supposed master of everything but social norms and conventions. They’re very realistic portrayals of individuals who are nerdy (to a point, it is television after all) and I find I can relate to it. It’s one of those shows where I actually don’t get offended when people say it’s stupid. If you say that about 30 Rock, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad and a bunch of other shows I will defend them, but I just kind of shrug about BBT because I don’t really care if anyone else likes it. I find the humor appeals to a part the scholarly side of my personality and makes me harken back (four whole years woo-hoo) to college and physics and math, when I used those things.

  • Tabali Tigi

    you don’t have to like everything…it’s just not for you…

    • Tabali Tigi

      in fact, i HATE the characters on the show, except for sheldon, and i feel bad for amy, but i love the show…all the characters are extremely flawed, and that is the drawing point of the show…no character is without a HUGE flaw, and after the character develops for a while, they are all made aware of their flaws, and in some cases, they do a complete 180, and in some cases the flaw gets 1000X worse…such as raj not being able to talk to women…well, when he got drunk, he could talk to women, but then once he got over his problem, the group of girls realized he talked way more than all of them put together…it’s amusing, not belly laugh funny all the time…something to watch while you’re eating dinner…if i want gut busting laughter, i will watch stand up comedy…also, the references to physics and metaphysics are hilarious, and fun…

  • inle

    Because I am a member of the counterculture it represents, and it is glorious to see it mainstream.

  • Olive

    So one of the big problem I have with this article (other than the fact that BBT is hilarious, mostly bc of Raj) is that they mentioned a laugh track. This show is taped in front of a live audience. If you disagree watch any bloopers reel. I do aggree that laugh tracks are annoying (eg How I met your mother) Just make sure you know what you are talking about before you blog…..

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      It’s recorded laughter from the live version that you can hear on the televised version. I think that’s what she meant.

    • Jill O’Rourke

      I’m using “laugh track” to describe the sound of audience laughter, whether the show was recorded in front of a live audience or not.

  • Pingback: Kaley Cuoco And Ryan Sweeting Are Getting Married Next Week

  • Ashley

    I know this post is nearly a year old but I must say that I think your assessment of the characters were signficantly misjudging. I also think your understanding of how the show was intended to deliver jokes were off as well-according to how I’ve myself grasped the “concept of the comedy” (for a lack of better words). You mentioned that the show presents Penny as a “ditzy blonde” when actually she is never ditzy. In fact, Penny is almost the most sobering character on the show after Leonard. She’s very level-headed and even sometimes the witty one. Penny actually often times is the one who proposes the rational solutions to everyone’s social problems. I think here presence as a “ditzy blonde” is sometimes employed as a joke on the show only within context of her scientifically savvy friends showing off or “overwhelming” her with knowledge she can’t competently interact with. So Penny is isn’t ditzy, she’s just not a scientist; so she becomes dumbfounded at times. Otherwise, Penny is an average working tax payer who is waiting for her big break as a successful actress. Also, I don’t think the show plays out the “dumbie with the nerds” dynamic too much but only just enough. And the jokes aren’t always delivered through the actual dialogue itself but the humor is more “action-centered” (i don’t know the proper terms for theatrics or comedy). Meaning, the jokes are to be caught in the way the actors speak, respond, move- the attitudes and characters as well as how they interact seem to be the concept of the comedy. Now, since they’re scientists and nerds, there are substantially intelligent discourses among the characters, but not in a way that excludes the average audience from the conversation. I guess some expect thew dialogue and/or jokes to be more clever or witty in its craft in comparison to other sitcoms like Seinfeld but I think its approach is different. It wants to emphasize the funny interaction more than each own individual characters’ respected humor . Notto say that chcharacters don’t have indentities, but their attitudes towards one another are intentionally the comedy because they’re always presented as overtly being aware of everyone else’s character…hopefully that was lucidly worded- if not, oh well I tried….And if my insight still doesn’t help TBBT be recognized as a good show, I understand. I’m not a fan, I just think I “get it “more than most.

  • Ashley

    I was typing on the phone which explains the typos. Sorry.

  • Pingback: China: Where ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is too hot to watch, but ‘Game of Thrones’ is just fine

  • Guido

    First three seasons were very funny. Then as usual it got a little stale, but it’s still watchable.

  • Rebekah

    I love them both!!

  • Somdutta

    I love The Big Bang Theory. I am even ordering a T-Shirt saying ‘I’m not insane, my mother had me tested’ (that’s a Sheldon Cooper line from the show). Now, I really don’t want to defend it to you or tell you why you should watch it. I find it funny. I think the humour is not typically slapstick-American. Even if the characters are a bit stereotypical, they still do not fail to elicit humour. I got hooked right from the first season and I am still hooked. One thing that I might agree with though is that the humour has become a little less nerdy, something that I do not like.

  • Pingback: Even Kaley Cuoco Is Aware She'd Be Lucky To Get Cast Again After Big Bang Theory - Crushable