Listen Up Network TV: Subculture Is The New Cool.
Several people whose opinions on TV/movies/etc I respect have lately been telling me that I should watch the Big Bang Theory. I’d seen about five minutes of an episode before, and I remembered thinking it was stupid, but for the sake of fairness to said people I decided to watch a complete episode before I condemned it for all time. So, I went right out to Best Buy and bought season one on Blu-ray for $49.99. Just kidding, I downloaded an episode at random and watched it.
I honestly don’t understand how anyone can think this show is funny. No, I take that back. I can understand that people who really miss Friends and who think that Bart Simpson is “too fresh” could get a real kick out of The Big Bang Theory. What I mean is that I don’t understand how anyone under age 50 or anyone who enjoys sci-fi or comics could even remotely think that this show is good. My first thought was that this show must be the brainchild of some real winners in the CBS studio offices whose untold riches led them to think it would be a fantastic idea to just remake Friends, but with the edgy and brilliant twist that “they’re all… what’s the word? Squares? No, that’s not it. Geeks!” The familiar previously-thought-to-be-dying sitcom tropes are all there:
- Characters that range from complete fucking idiots to complete fucking assholes who are never at a loss for a “witty” zinger,
- Frequent and overbearing laugh track to remind everyone which stupid jokes are supposed to be funny,
- Minority characters that make golden setups for sitcom-approved low level racist/gay jokes (just a Jew and an Indian though, nothing crazy like a black guy or an Arab)
- Gigantic city apartments that in reality only wealthy people like studio execs can afford
But the big twist is that they’re geeks, right? So apparently the way to get this point across is as follows:
- Dress all the characters up in the wardrobe from That 70’s Show
- Hire a consultant to pepper comic/pop culture/scientific references into the tired, cliché scripts about dating and how men are different than women, and
- Have all the nerdy characters “act” “really really really really really… you know… nerdy!”
Way to go, CBS. You really have your finger on the pulse of the times. The Avengers made like a billion dollars last week, but you know, the only people who wear super hero shirts are pasty douche bags who write out physics equations on dry erase boards for fun. I’m not so pretentious as to sit here and complain about how we folks with nerdish leanings are being unfairly stereotyped by mainstream America or something, but The Big Bang Theory is just a stupid and backward portrayal of something that could actually have had the potential to be legitimately comedic. The market has spoken, man! Superheros are cool. Game of Thrones is fuckin cool. But once the suits at these dying dinosaur networks smell something they can latch onto to turn a quick buck in the 36-54 prime time commercial viewing demographic, they squeeze that shit for all its worth.
I’m also not saying that people like the lead jerkoff in The Big Bang Theory don’t exist, for they surely do. There is no shortage of hyper-intelligent dickheads who have the average social skills of an 8th grader and an encyclopedic knowledge of Tolkein, and much like the characters in TBBT, their jokes aren’t funny. However, these people tend not to have friends or their own apartments. And if they do have friends, they usually don’t look like a bunch of TV actors with perfect teeth and clear skin who’ve spent the last two hours in wardrobe being dressed like Mike from All In The Family. At some point, the prime time corporates are going to have to accept the fact there are a large number of just normal-acting people who read comics and like Sci-Fi and don’t fucking piss themselves when they see a mint condition Star Trek action figure. I mean we’ve had the billion-dollar Batman and Avengers movies, how much does it take for this to sink in? In any case, I hope it does so soon because I’m really holding out for our comedic culture to move beyond these tired, whitebread, not-so-cleverly disguised sitcoms that try to pander to whoever these out-of-touch network executives assume is their target audience.
So that’s 23 minutes of my life I would really like to have back. At least I got to have some fun talking about how shitty it is. If you’re looking for a funny show about nerds, I highly recommend Freaks and Geeks. If you’re not familiar with it, this great show only lasted one season, making it the Firefly of teen comedy series. If you haven’t seen it, it is a seriously funny show with great characters that really hits the nail on the head regarding what its like to be a subculture-oriented social miscreant while at the same time being a believable person. You actually can have it both ways: a comedy show about nerds without an entire cast full of ridiculous network-spawned caricatures. If you have seen it, watch it again. Just please don’t encourage the producers of The Big Bang Theory to keep making television.
By Lou DiDomenico
For an exhaustive list of everything else I’m furious at, go here: http://dukelimousine.blogspot.com/