The Big Bang Theory, like every other long running comedy, has had problems with turning its characters into stereotypes. I don’t know why it happens, maybe it’s laziness on the parts of the writers and/or actors, or maybe it’s something they think the audience wants “they laughed when X happens, so do it more and do it bigger!”. Either way, that’s where they start losing me. Too often it pushes the characters from being extreme but credible to being charicatures and unrealistic.
The Big Bang Theory has been heading in this direction for a while. Characters could reasonably be expected to mellow with age, with the extremes of their personalities rounded off a bit as they meet more people and experience more life, but instead they get odder and odder. It makes the characters seem alternately stupid and cruel. Sheldon, despite supposedly being in a relationship and being surrounded by ‘functional’ people like Penny and Leonard who have repeatedly told and shown him that his behaviour is inappropriate, continues to be selfish, rude and hurtful. It makes him seem mean, and it makes the other characters seem foolish for continually associating with him and trying to change him.
But then, as if an alarm goes off in a character’s head, they take a step forward – Sheldon inches his relationship with Amy closer, Penny realises what she wants in life, Raj learns how to be in a relationship. It feels like fireworks should go off. These moments are so sweet and lovely, so elegantly written and true to the soul of the characters that other missteps are forgiven. Until the next time and then with a sigh I find myself seeking out a clip of a highpoint and remind myself of the good.
The writers have made some improvements at least. Amy’s obsession with Penny has been toned down and Penny’s increasing familiarity with science and geekery are a refreshing acknowledgement of how long she’s been with the group. I wish they’d smooth Stuart’s character out a little and make more use of him, I like his addition to the group, I guess we’ll have to see how integral Raj’s girlfriend becomes but I hope it will last as that will be an interesting direction for the character.
I don’t really see myself giving up on the series, it’s pretty much the only sitcom I watch and it’s easy to slot in during the week. But they need to make sure that they keep hitting those highpoints regularly enough to keep me forgiving the low points, and if they could maybe avoid the low points a bit more often, that’d be great too.