Let's get the formalities out of the way up front: I hate The Big Bang Theory . Sorry, 16 to 20 million viewers an episode, but the fact that this show is the biggest comedy on television boggles the mind. Naturally, CBS renewed The Big Bang Theory for three more seasons — as any network executive with a brain would do when a series had managed to double its initial audience seven seasons in. But while the 20 million TBBT fans cry "Bazinga!" in joy, we're on the other side of the fence, cursing the heavens and asking, will this show ever end?
Sure, it seems a little harsh to root for the end of a show that millions of people apparently love, especially when there's far more offensive fare to direct our ire at, such as ABC's rape-joke-happy Mixology or the racist and sexist Fox show Dads . Even CBS' 2 Broke Girls treads the offensive line more steadily and obviously than The Big Bang Theory, so what's the big deal? To put it bluntly, it's a lazy, simplistic show with nothing special or gripping to offer. And when we start really digging into the ensemble of characters, all that we find is a gaggle of two-dimensional nerds ripped from a middle school girl's understanding of the term and a handful of one-note women created solely to play off of them.
But there are many reasons this mega-renewal brings about an overwhelming sense of frustration with the series' gargantuan viewer base and the show itself. Is the world upside down? Are we nuts? What the hell, America?
1. The Jokes Aren't Even Geek-Approved
If we're to give any character credit for having the best one-liners, it has to be Jim Parsons' Sheldon Cooper, who is the most interesting person on the show — and that's not saying much. His jokes range from observational and dry, "You can’t make a half sandwich. If it’s not half of a whole sandwich, it’s just a small sandwich," to observational and dry with an errant nerd reference thrown in so we know that Sheldon is in fact a nerd, "Well, there’s always the possibility that a trash can spontaneously formed around the letter, but Occam’s Razor would suggest that someone threw it out."
There's no specificity to their references. The theme seems to be that if you can find a topic at Comic-Con or in a science book, these nerds all universally love it and reference said topic dispassionately. And it's not just me. There are plenty of other self-proclaimed geeks who are disappointed with the series take on geek culture.
2. The Women Are Terribly Written, Especially Penny
Does no one else find it odd that while Penny has been a central character on this show for seven seasons, she has no last name, no success in her acting career, and still works the same terrible Cheesecake Factory job she started with in the pilot? Hell, this show sends its characters to space and Penny can't even upgrade to a job at a fancier restaurant — we'd even take a Wolfgang Puck's gig at this point.
One could argue that she doesn't need to change jobs for the show to work, but that's exactly the issue. The show is built so that Penny needs to keep her dead end job, continue to be "adorably" vapid and insecure about being the pretty girl, and act as an all-out ditz — after all, the main conceit of the show is that she's dumb in most areas outside of sex and the geeks are smart in all areas except Penny's one sliver of expertise. Even the lady geeks on the show, Bernadette and Amy, are rather flat characters who exist only to act as counterparts to their partners Howard and Sheldon, much like Penny's character was clearly only created to instill lustful and romantic desire in Leonard.
Us too, Miss No-Last-Name-Necessary.
3. The Women Are Terrible Part 2: Geek Girls Gone Wrong
The other issue with TBBT's women is that even when they're not being treated as pieces of semi-brainless meat, they're still being treated like pieces of semi-brainless meat. In fact, it's an issue that is common in geek culture, where women are often made to feel inferior in what is "supposed" to be a man's world. As Krisite Pirone writes at Feminspire ,
The Big Bang Theory accepts the idea that only men can be “geeks” with open arms. Although this is seen throughout the course of the show, it’s highlighted in the season six episode “The Bakersfield Expedition.” When three women, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette, walk into a comic book store, the men act as if they’ve seen a unicorn tap dancing in Macy’s. In fact, the show jokes that such hardcore “geeks” never see women, implying that there’s no way women could partake in comic book reading, science fiction conventions, or other “geeky” past times where they could come into contact with the comic book store’s clientele. By perpetuating the stereotype that women aren’t participating in “geeky” activities, The Big Bang Theory is providing a justification for the men who like to think that it is their sacred duty to keep women out of geekdom through demeaning and insulting confrontations.
The show manages to get so much about geek culture wrong, except for what might be one of its worst common elements: the sexism that many women are continuing to attempt to change. Great job, TBBT.
4. Supporting Chuck Lorre Hurts Our Brains
Yes, Lorre has shown support for many ideas we can actually get behind in his famous vanity cards; topics such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the fact that The Bachelor is anti-feminist nightmare. Yes, Lorre actually compared the reality series to the pre-feminist era in which "The patriarchal sexism that treated women as chattel and dictated how much they could earn or how much control they could have over their own bodies" so clearly he's not incapable of doing right by his female characters. He apparently just chooses not to.
In practice, Lorre is a peddler of sexism, painting women as sluts (everyone Charlie Sheen's character ever dated) and harpies (Charlie and Alan's mother and Alan's ex-wife) on Two and a Half Men and as accessories on The Big Bang Theory. Mike and Molly isn't afraid to use the word "slut" or even a racial slur and while Mom certainly isn't leading the sexist pack, it's not doing Lorre's reputation for flat, uninteresting female characters any favors.
I get that 20 million viewers is a number that CBS can't and won't ignore — though how this boring show managed to double its viewership worries me almost as much as falling test scores in schools do. I get that this show is a money maker. I just for the life of me cannot figure out how or why. And for the time being, that means this show will keep coming back, like a zombie inexplicably prancing around in a Flash costume.