Every now and then there comes along a show that everybody seems to love, but for some reason it lacks any appeal to me whatsoever. The new Battlestar Galactica was one of those shows for me. Although, I do see the appeal, I honestly feel that it was an overrated show. But then there’s The Big Bang Theory. Supposedly, if you’re a nerd, you have to love this show. Tech Haze even listed it as one of the Top 5 TV Shows for Tech Lovers. Great! I’m a tech lover. I used to run a site called Brit Girls Gadget Guide for crying out loud. Not to mention it seems like every week I learn of a new genre actor making an appearance. From Katee Sackhoff to George Takei, all have put in an appearance on this show that is supposedly written by geeks for geeks.
But for some reason that I cannot fathom, this show just makes me want to puke garish, skittle coloured vomit. It has me worried. Am I not “geek” enough to love a show like this? Well, I run a sci-fi and fantasy website, have indeed been to a Star Trek convention and ran a tech site. So the problem clearly isn’t my geek cred. There are plenty of jokes in there including references to Admiral Ackbar and World of Warcraft that I can chuckle at. And yet…
First there’s the garish colours. Sure those bright colours were the norm for a comedy in the 90s but in the age of Arrested Development and The Office all I can say is “tone it down a little!” Then there’s the laugh track. Or is it a laugh track? I’ve heard claims that it is filmed before a live audience and others that have said the laughter is actually from the crew. Either way it’s annoying and fake. Don’t believe me? Check out this clip of the The Big Bang Theory without the laugh track.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have a degree in Theatre. I understand the need to wait for the audience’s laughter to die down before continuing, but it certainly ads to the general fakeness of the scene and helps me to feel even less connected with the characters and situations.
This could just means I have a problem with sitcoms. I won’t deny it. I listed two of my favourite comedies above and neither of them are traditional sitcoms. So does that mean I’m not giving The Big Bang Theory a fair shake? Ahh, if it were only that easy…
Now I come to the thing that bothers me the most about The Big Bang Theory: the characters. You have a group of socially inept, scientist/geeks that can’t even talk to girls. Seriously, they look and act like the nerds from Saved by the Bell, that’s how poorly constructed they are! In what seems like a nerd renaissance, when super heroes equal big box office and the stars of Battlestar Galactica are being invited to a UN conference, why does The Big Bang Theory continue to perpetuate such stereotypes?
And that’s just the guys. The girls on The Big Bang Theory either have a smoking hot body but know nothing about geek culture or are plain (read: ugly) and are only comfortable talking about science. As a geek, actress and one-time fashion magazine writer, I can officially confirm that you can be a geek and also be interested in fashion.
Remember that episode of Heroes where Hayden Panettiere gets a job in the comic book shop solely because she’s a pretty girl? The writers got a lot of flack for that and yet The Big Bang Theory perpetuates those kind of myths every episode. I don’t expect The Big Bang Theory to be realistic. Of course the characters are going to be larger than life, that’s what comedy thrives on, but until I can find characters that I can associate with and genuinely want to hang out with, I’m gonna pass on it.
Disclaimer: I’ve only watched a few early episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I have heard from some that the series does get better and the jokes become less about making fun at geeks and more making fun with geeks. That said, who has time to keep watching a series on the promise that “it gets better?” Want to watch shows that really are “by geek, for geeks?” Here’s a few of my favs:
Created by Felicia Day (Dr Horrible, Dollhouse) as a way to get over a two-year World of Warcraft addiction, this web series is just hilarious. Sure, the characters aren’t in any way real. Vork is the ultra-frugal leader of the guild and Zaboo seems to project his mothers smothering tendencies onto poor Codex. But Day gives us a variety of characters and backgrounds versus the stereotypical pocket-protector type seen in other shows. Also, while the gaming jokes are plentiful, you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy it.
Spaced is what you get when you combine the ultra geeky mind of Simon Pegg and the queen of pop cultural references, Jessica Hynes. It’s a surrealistic show that prides itself on its open geekiness. And I think this is why the show rings true. That, and it shows a group of twenty-somethings doing what they tend to do best, i.e. clubbing, going to the pub and slacking, in addition to geeking out.
Special Mention: Psych
Okay, Psych’s not really about geeks- well, aside from Gus. And Shawn has made some pretty overt statements about being too cool to be a geek. But does anybody remember him in the original series Battlestar Galactica helmet? How geek-cool was that?! Sure not all shows revolve around conventions and alien kidnappings, but pop culture references are fast and furious on this show making it definitely worth a watch.
Extra Special Mention: Community
I’m not sure why I didn’t initially mention Community when writing this article a year ago. I alwas already thinking I needed to add them to the list, but given the latest moves by NBC to replace Community with the awful (laugh track show) Whitney for mid-season, it seems now is the time to introduce viewers to it. And what a geek show it is! Of course there are the obvious nods to geekdom everywhere such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (no explanation needed), or the timelord alternative Inspector Spacetime (which has sparked a geek following of its own), or even the recent Remedial Chaos Theory which features multiple timelines. But then there are also the more subtle mentions thrown in there for fans, such as references to Firefly (Firefly suicide pact anyone?) or the ongoing references to Kickpuncher, a shoutout to cheesey Van Damme flick, Cyborg. Honestly, I’m kicking myself for not listing Community sooner. They clearly have the cred. Sadly, it’s pretty clear that NBC doesn’t want to be known as a geek network. Their fuss over the D&D episode as described by show creator Dan Harmon in this AV Club Interview proves that the network does not get it. And although NBC states than they do plan to air the rest of the show’s third season (at some point in time) it’s looking more likely that Community will fall the way of other classics such as Firefly and Arrested Development.