I only started watching the show in the last year or so and was able to plough through it pretty quickly thanks to the wonders of dvd box sets and E4’s endless repeats. I quickly became charmed by the series and its collection of geeks. I’ll be honest, the characters, scenarios and conversations are pretty familiar to me. I studied physics at university and have shared houses, gaming days and a multitude of geeky discussions with people more than a little similar to these characters. That’s not to say that you need that background to appreciate the show, the fact that it’s one of the highest rated shows (8th) on US TV at the moment attests to that. I know plenty of people that like it who don’t have a science background, and at least one person with the same background as I that can’t stand it actually. But for me it really helps that the show’s writers clearly have a knowledge and respect for science geeks, meaning for the most part it stays respectful rather than mocking.
I say for the most part, because the show isn’t without its over the top moments and characters. Sheldon of course is the most extreme, he’s not utterly unbelievable, but he isn’t far off. In the early seasons it doesn’t really matter though, because by surrounding him with credible characters he is automatically more believable – Leonard and Penny are normal (for sitcom characters) and they think that Sheldon is odd but not imaginary so somehow it convinces me too. That doesn’t make much sense now I come to write it, but you know what I mean. It also makes the moments when Sheldon does something normal that much more lovely, the simple act of Sheldon hugging Penny as a thank you for a Christmas present brought tears to my eyes.
Unfortunately that balance is one of the things that gradually shifts over the seasons. Raj becomes an increasingly unlikely character and is mostly used as the butt of jokes, somehow actually becoming less socially aware as the years go on. The biggest problem however is Amy, who as a female Sheldon only draws attention to his weirdness; one of them is just about believable, two is too much. Fortunately the other new character, Bernadette, actually has a grounding effect on Howard (even if it’s never really clear what she sees in him) and forms a nice friendship with Penny.
Season 5 isn’t the best season of the series, I’m afraid my hatred of Amy (the character, the actress is actually very good) and growing frustration with Raj is just too much for me to get over, I cringe whenever they’re on screen. When they’re not about, the show is still a great deal of fun and there’s some very sweet relationships which it’s lovely to see evolving over time (Leonard and Penny’s on/off relationship, Howard and Bernadette’s engagement, Sheldon and Leonard’s friendship).
The fact that I generally don’t like American 1/2 hour comedies, the fact that I’ve got to season 5 of this one tells you a lot! There’s certainly a lot that they do very well, the actors are all superb and even the mediocre episodes still make me laugh out loud and it has a theme song by The Barenaked Ladies! I think if the over the top edges of Amy and Raj were sanded off, the show could easily return to the strengths of the early seasons, going back to being a charming and light look inside of the world of geeks that I remember.