Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Not so big a bang

Friends and acquaintances periodically tell me that, as someone in the science and technology field, I would love The Big Bang Theory, and I should check it out. And now the New York Times has published an article about the show.

The thing is, I have checked it out, and it’s not for me. The article notes that “many of the people who grouse [...] about the show have not seen very much of it,” and that some incorrectly think that it puts forth the stereotype of the “dumb blonde”. That’s not my problem with it; I just don’t find it funny.

I do have a bit of a problem with the other side of the stereotype: that it presents all the scientists as social misfits. Some are, yes, but certainly not all, and I’d say that it’s really a minority. People may get that perception because what such people do with their working lives is beyond the understanding of most others, but they do have lives outside of work. Most of the scientists I know are interesting people, with families and friends, with hobbies and interests, who enjoy art, culture, food, conversation, beer, and sports. They are not socially inept. (And, in fact, I suggest that someone unable to hold a conversation that doesn’t involve football is as much a “misfit” as one who can only talk about lab experiments.)

But, really, that’s a minor point: it’s meant to be silly, and I don’t take it seriously enough to be worried about that. It’s just, as I say, that I haven’t found the show funny, the few times I’ve taken it for a spin

What I really found interesting, though, was the final point in the article:

[Creator/producer/writer Chuck] Lorre said that the whole “challenge and joy” of a series like this is character development. “Maybe at the end of the day this will inspire some kids to go into physics,” he added, “just like ‘Cheers’ inspired countless young people to go into bars.”

It’s a scary thought that “Cheers inspired countless young people to go into bars,” though I suppose it’s true. That never occurred to me; I wonder whether Seinfeld prompted folks to be complete dufuses, and whether Green Acres moved people out of the cities and onto farms. What, I wonder, did Gomer Pyle do for Marine Corps recruitment?

Anyway, I can’t imagine that Mr Lorre really thinks that portrayal of scientists will encourage viewers to follow the characters into scientific fields. But maybe I’ll give the show another try.


Ray said...

I, too, had heard and read glowing reports of the series, so I, like you, "took it for a spin". Which lasted all of five minutes. Apart from anything else, I simply cannot bear canned laughter - if something is funny, I am quite capable of coming to that conclusion for myself, thank you very much.

I suspect, though, that the major reason I disliked it was that I have officially reached the stage of Old Fart, and simply couldn't "connect" with what the writer was trying to tell me. And for that I am extremely grateful :-)

Barry Leiba said...

Yes, the laugh tracks really put me off. It’s the main reason, I think, that I don’t like sit-coms in general.

I remember when The Odd Couple switched from a laugh track to a studio audience. Even as a teen, I preferred that — though even the live audience is being prompted to laugh on cue.

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

Don't underestimate the effect of tv series on impressionable young minds. I'd already discovered bars by the time Cheers premiered; I used to watch The Time Tunnel and My Mother the Car, and ever since I can't resist traveling through time or having stupid conversatons with antique cars. And it's primarily because of the Six Million Dollar Man that I had so many of my organs replaced.

Dadinck said...

About laugh tracks... Laugh tracks never bothered me. I didn't think about it much. Any professional in front of an audience knows the delivery of lines depends on timing. If the audience is laughing the actor has to pause before the next line is delivered.

The audience in this case is the viewing audience. Without a studio audience, the actors and actresses would be pausing for no apparent reason. The canned laughter fills in the gap so viewers know why there are so many pauses. This especially adds continuity for shows which aren't really that funny. ;-) <-(web canned laughter).

Dadinck said...

@Nathaniel: As you get your organs replaced, do you find yourself starting to move in slow motion? ;-)