Ratings for the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” are ” not only growing, but soaring,” according to the New York Daily News, now reaching 20 million viewers an episode. What accounts for the show’s massive success, especially in a market that is increasingly fragmented with a large number of TV viewing options (and methods of viewing)?
In short, the Daily News article asks: are Geeks bringing everyone together in a big kumbaya hug of a viewing night?
I need to preface any more discussion on this topic with the fact that I am a “Community” fan by nature, which means that since the Spring of this year I have felt punched in the face about 35 times. That said, I respect the obvious appeal “Big Bang” has on its large viewership. As one person whose opinion I respect noted, “It’s just a funny show you can watch when you come home from work; there’s nothing mean about it.”
And there are worse things (“Animal Practice,” for instance).
However, can we attribute the runaway success of “Big Bang” (henceforth known in this article as “TBBT”) to all the “Geeks,” comic book enthusiasts, Bronies, Whovians, Trekkies, hobby gamers, and “Castle”/”Firefly” crossover fan-fic writers who must be DVRing or even (gasp!) watching the show broadcast as soon as it’s on?
Or is it more about “watching” Geeks — tuning in to view a version of what “Geeks” are imagined to be like?
I’m reminded of that scene in “American Splendor” in which MTV-alum Toby tells Harvey how excited he is to watch “Revenge of the Nerds,” because he feels that the movie is “Nerd-Positive.” Harvey hastily corrects Toby, saying that in the classic 1980s movie Nerds are not the heroes, but more like the freakshow to watch and laugh at.
However, I do not pick up such necessarily negative and sinister overtones to “TBBT” (nor did I to “Revenge of the Nerds”). If anything, characters like Sheldon Cooper have become something of an assexual sex symbol, and the sight of the cast in their garishly-hip colorful outfits and comic book t-shirts is certainly a friendly one. I do not expect Fred “Ogre” Palowakski grinding Leonard Hofstadter’s face into the ground any time soon.
That said, I am doubtful with the conclusion of the Daily News article that the secret to “TBBT”’s success “is that there are a whole lot more geeks out there than we would care to admit.” I see far more fan art and activity for shows like “Doctor Who,” “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” and the oft-beleaguered “Community” than I do for “TBBT.” This is not to say that the lines to glimpse Jim Parsons et al. at San Diego Comic-Con this year were not huge — they were enormous. But perhaps that says a little more about SDCC than it does about the perceived/measured “Geek” demographic backing “TBBT.”
Maybe the whole problem, though, is even defining what a “real” Geek is at all. Isn’t this how we got into that big Tony Harris brouhaha last week? Hasn’t this slapfest over who has “real” Geek cred, and who only “plays one on TV” getting kind of old?
And if there is one thing that “TBBT” does bring back to “Classic” geek/nerdom it’s the Science Connection. While the study group on “Community” is taking classes on beginner’s pottery and The Doctor is going on about the “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey”, Sheldon Cooper talks of string theories and quarks. Hey, maybe “The Big Bang Theory” really does have that true cred, centered squarely in science and other pursuits true “eggheads” are supposed to engage in — the rest of us only poseurs.
Also, I’ve always looked a little more like Mayim Bialik than Amy Pond, Britta Perry, Princess Amidala, Buffy Summers or any of the higher-end Ponies (I’m thinking pink/purple, sparkles, tail accessories)…so in that sense how “generic” and idealized are the “Big Bang” geeks after all?
Harps. Harps are hot.
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