Every once in a while, a new TV series comes along that has me scratching my head, wondering how this can possibly succeed. Young Sheldon for CBS this Fall is one of those.
This is the spin-off "prequel" of The Big Bang Theory, that has the 'Sheldon Cooper' character as a little boy, growing up back in Texas. It strikes me as a great idea for a flash-back episode. Or even a few episodes, the kind of thing they could do once a year. Maybe not for a full half-hour each time, but flash back to for about 10 minutes.
But a series? Sheldon Cooper is brilliant, obnoxious, clueless, without social skills, cold, close-to-friendless, compulsive-obsessive, and unthinkingly mean. He's also a hilarious character, not just for how well he's written, but largely because of brilliantly he's played by Jim Parsons, who has won four Emmy Awards for his portrayal. I'm sure the character is well-written on paper, but I'm equally certain that it's Parsons who makes such an objectionable person actually "lovable." Moreover, he's helped by being surrounded by an ensemble that embraces how awful he is. In fact, being socially-inept themselves, it's Sheldon who makes them seem solid, warm and substantial. And that creates this happy, little world. Add to all this that by the point of The Big Bang Theory Sheldon, for all his massive flaws, is a genius with many impressive accomplishments. And except for the one foil of 'Penny,' all the core group around him are brilliant scientists themselves, who can hold their own with him.
Now, dump all that on a 10-year-boy, played by a 10-year-old child actor without the skills of a Jim Parsons. And keep in mind that what we do know of the character's past (from what Sheldon has talked about), it was very unhappy, being the only smart person in town, surrounded by an annoying religious-freak mother, and idiot locals who ostracized him and bullied him.
So, what we have is a show about a 10-year kid who is condescending and a jerk to all the other kids around him, none of whom like him, and is condescending and belittling to all the adults around him. And with no actual accomplishments yet that can justify his rudeness. And no others around him even nearly as smart, so he is truly alone.
And this is a show the public is expected to tune in to every week? Like I said, it seems like something that can have a very funny pilot episode. Maybe even a really fun follow-up. But, boy howdy, do they have a big hurdle to get over every week after that -- week after week. Maybe they'll give him some friends his own age who -- despite being totally out of his league and lost in the dust by his brilliance, an entire gang of "Penny's" -- are all able to tolerate him, and some very smart adults who are able to tolerate this obnoxious little kid as their equal. But it seems to me a major hurdle. The main saving grace is that the show's creators have a good track record. But then, even Shakespeare wrote Cymbeline, Charles Dickens wrote Barnaby Rudge, and Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote Me and Juliet.
I remember at the height of the series Happy Days, Henry Winkler was offered a spin-off series with his wildly-popular 'Fonzie' character. And he turned it down. With great perception, he said that The Fonz character worked in relation to the other characters on Happy Days. Take him out of that, and you just have this guy in a leather jacket who goes around saying, "Ayyyyyyyyyy." And so, he wisely stayed with Happy Days, and the character became legendary in TV history.
It strikes me that 'Sheldon Cooper' is all that -- and far, far worse when you don't even have the same actor, or even really the same set-character, but instead a 10-year from a different world at a different time played by a child trying to make this obnoxious, annoying, pontificating, condescending kid endearing in an environment we know he desperately wants out of. And sustaining that week after week after week.
Hey, maybe I'll be wrong. I wish it well. But at the moment, I don't get it.
8/14/2017 06:48:39 pm
I agree. I'm a fan of the Big Bang show, but this spin-off seems like just a bad idea. The Sheldon character, as originally portrayed, was the biggest flaw in the show--an extremely unlikeable main character and it made no sense that the other main characters would have put up with him. Over the years, the producers smartly softened and humanized the character, but an unlikeable child main character seems unsustainable. You're absolutely correct that Sheldon was and is only tolerable as one of a number of other main roles and several strong subsidiary roles, and Jim Parsons has done a terrific job in the role. But....
8/14/2017 08:14:20 pm
"But..." is about as good a pithy way of putting it as there is.
Anne M Perry
8/15/2017 06:14:06 am
Yep, I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Love Big Bang, think the other will be creepy! We have enough creep in our lives with Twitter Boy Trump! ugh
8/15/2017 08:47:23 pm
Articles! I write articles! Because you all deserve better than mere piddly blogs... (Oh, okay, sometimes I toss in a blog or two...)
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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