The Big Bang Blunder
Multiple clips from popular TV show The Big Bang Theory recently went viral on YouTube and Tumblr — but not due to their scintillating humor. Each clip had its laugh track removed, revealing the irritatingly unamusing and eerily overdramatic elements of the show’s script. The main revelation, though, is that you will not laugh.
Jokes, by definition, are stories or statements that cause laughter by way of an unexpected ending — often called a punch line. These are practically nonexistent in The Big Bang Theory’s script, which instead includes sentences, often containing nerdy pop-culture references, spoken by nerdy characters, followed by prolonged pauses so that the audience has a chance to mock them.
I didn’t even notice the rather offensive bias in the script until I had a conversation with my brother — who was a philosophy major, mind you — about the anti-intellectualism that fuels the show. In The Big Bang Theory, the less intelligent and therefore more socially capable characters in the show are awarded with respect and relationships, while the more brilliant characters are made to seem unbearably awkward. Let’s not even delve into the issue of the show treating the female characters as rewards, as objects to be desired who lack full personalities — one character, Penny, doesn’t even have a last name.
As a disclaimer, I’ve only been able to watch about two and a half episodes of the show without having to turn off the TV, but it seems to be one of the most prominent examples of the television industry assuming that all viewers are dense, and will therefore find hilarity in mocking the brilliant.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the fact that the show is in its sixth season, this predilection for low-effort humor, repeated ad-nauseum, appears to work. Rules of Engagement — which you might have forgotten due to the fact David Spade has barely been a thing since 8 Simple Rules — is going to hit its 100th episode by the end of this season. To say its level of humor is mediocre would be overly generous, but somehow it has managed to stay on TV while quality comedies like Community — disregarding the failure of the current season — struggle to stay on the air. How I Met Your Mother, which was definitely comical in its youth, is still chugging its beat-up Chevy of a plot to a ninth — and final, thank god — season next year.
Yet another example of the low-quality-but-seemingly-never-ending sitcom is Two and a Half Men, which somehow survived Charlie Sheen’s downward spiral and a complete lack of new material to stumble its way into a 10th season more incoherent than Sheen at his worst.
So if you’re wondering why networks continue to think these dumbed-down versions of humor will be successful, it’s because, apparently, they’re right.
I know there are people out there who crave jokes that reach farther than a Star Wars reference or a well-timed insult. They just need to become louder. Because, with their voices, we can equal the power of the Big Bang Theory fans and make sure that the Parks and Recs, New Girls and Archers of the world are not unjustly cancelled like so many smart comedies before them.