Why 'Big Bang Theory' Fans May Be Shook By 'Young Sheldon'

by S. Atkinson

If you've been wondering if Jim Parsons is narrating Young Sheldon, then the answer should make you pretty happy — The New York Times has confirmed that the original Sheldon Cooper narrates the series. But don't assume that this means the new show will be identical to the original in terms of its tonality — the prequel is going to be a stark change from its origin series, The Big Bang Theory.

When The Hollywood Reporter announced The Big Bang Theory spin off in November 2016, they reported two notable aspects of the project: insiders were comparing it to Malcolm In The Middle, not the Caltech-centric CBS series that had inspired it. Also, the first announcement included that the new series would be a single-camera comedy, a stark shift from BBT's laugh track and multi-camera based format.

It's a great relief that the series creators made sure to have Young Sheldon stand out from BBT. After all, we knew the series would be set in East Texas, not Pasadena, California, and it seemed likely he'd be living with his family and experiencing life as a young genius as a fish out of water attending high school at the tender age of nine, not kicking it with roommates who were mostly as smart and socially inhibited as himself. The reviews for the show so far seem to confirm what The Hollywood Reporter hinted at: that Young Sheldon is a radically different beast.

Variety suggests that there is more experimental camera work at play, describing how Young Sheldon uses cameras so we see the world from Sheldon's own point of view and can empathize with him, which suggests how anxiety-inducing the world can be for children (they cite even situations involving crowds as seeming overwhelming to him). In the promo shots, he seems a little too pithy and ready with a self-confident retort, which could become grating without a deeper understanding of why he reacts the way he does to the world around him.

Similarly, The Daily Beast reports "a departure in tone and format from the sitcom juggernaut that birthed it" with Young Sheldon not using a laugh track and a "softer, quieter" tonality than The Big Bang Theory.

Forbes concurs, with its review suggesting that while they're not looking to alienate fans of the original show, CBS could also be trying to reach an audience who isn't familiar with Sheldon, Leonard, Penny and the gang with a more emotional, vulnerable take on the theoretical physicist, arguing that the new series possesses "the heart and charm absent from its parent show." However, according to Forbes, the new show does have one major draw for those who are totally invested in the charming narcissist. While week by week on The Big Bang Theory we've seen relatively little in terms of personal growth for the character, this could be a whole different ball game in Young Sheldon.

In fact, Parsons told Entertainment Weekly that his new series would be a huge shift. In his interview, he also seems to imply that the network is trying to reach a wider audience with the show. "If you didn’t know Big Bang at all, you could watch this show on its own," he said. "It’s a family with three kids, one of which is very special. It’s really an origin story, and it’s a bit of a memory play in that way too."

So by all means get excited, but do so for the right reasons. This isn't a new Big Bang Theory — but it is a chance to delve more deeply into the former child prodigy than audiences have ever had before. And luckily for those looking for at least some tie to BBT, Parsons and his unique timber will be there to guide them.