One of many greatest TV reveals in latest historical past is about to finish, after an extended, massively profitable run.

Viewers are sharply divided. Some have argued that the present is a massively fulfilling instance of the ability of the monoculture, full with nice character work and compelling storytelling.

However others consider its viewpoint is regressive and backward, enjoying off stereotypes and tropes that may be actively dangerous in the event that they aren’t dealt with with care — and which the present has usually misdealt with.

However look past its large viewership and also you’ll discover a sequence that has gained many Emmy Awards in addition to a number of different honors. You’ll discover a present that, at its peak, was embraced enthusiastically by TV critics. You’ll discover a present that made plenty of folks snort and cry and possibly even really feel higher about life.

I’m talking, in fact, about The Massive Bang Idea, which ends its 12-season run Thursday evening on CBS. (Okay, additionally Recreation of Thrones, however set that apart for a bit.)

And in case you’ll excuse my hacky “you thought I used to be speaking about one factor, however I used to be actually speaking about one other factor” setup, the unusual lack of buzz across the finish of what’s nonetheless the top-rated comedy on tv feels uncommon. Usually, the top of a sequence like this is able to result in exhaustive oral histories and one final media blitz. The Massive Bang Idea is getting a few of that, however it’s largely truly fizzling out, in contrast even to the top of HBO’s much-less-watched Veep (which ended its seven-season run a couple of days in the past).

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However look once more at Recreation of Thrones and also you’ll begin to see why The Massive Bang Idea goes out with a relative whimper. Just like the HBO drama, Massive Bang rode the rise of geek tradition into the mainstream to develop into one of many greatest hits of the 2010s, a decade-long staple of the Nielsen scores’ prime 10 reveals listing. However its therapy of geek tradition ended up spawning simply as a lot hatred as pleasure. Unfairly, I’d say, however let’s take a look at the way it all started.

The Massive Bang Idea very doubtless might have been canceled after its first season

When The Massive Bang Idea debuted within the fall of 2007, there have been few causes to anticipate it will ever develop to be an award-winning hit. The sequence was truly on its second pilot. The primary, which CBS had handed on for the autumn of 2006, featured Amanda Walsh within the position that might finally be performed by Kaley Cuoco, and it boasted a wildly totally different supporting forged. (You’ll be able to see a little bit of it on YouTube.)

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However what the present’s authentic pilot did have was a central duo who clearly had the makings of an awesome comedy staff. As Leonard and Sheldon, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons introduced an odd-couple power to their scenes as roommates.

It’s straightforward to overlook now, however The Massive Bang Idea’s authentic premise was rather more about Leonard and Sheldon being hornt up for his or her new neighbor Penny (the position that might finally go to Cuoco) than what the present ultimately settled on, which was nearer to a hangout sitcom. And central to its hangout vibe was how good Galecki and Parsons had been collectively, and the way entertaining they had been every time Cuoco entered a scene and began urgent their buttons.

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(It took longer for The Massive Bang Idea to determine its two supporting man characters, the hopelessly lovelorn nerds Howard, performed by Simon Kinberg, and Raj, performed by Kunal Nayyar. Certainly, it struggled with what to do with Raj, who couldn’t speak to ladies until he was drunk for much too lengthy, till halfway by the sequence.)

Nonetheless, The Massive Bang Idea’s first full season — which ran from the autumn of 2007 by the spring of 2008 and was interrupted by the writers’ strike of that very same interval — wasn’t a culture-dominating drive. Critiques had been decidedly combined, with many critics taking concern with the present’s portrayal of Penny (who was rather more of a dim bulb within the early going) as an attractive complication fairly than a personality in her personal proper.

And whereas the present’s viewership was okay, its first season ranked an unimpressive 68th towards all the opposite reveals on TV. Had CBS opted to cancel it, the choice wouldn’t have come as an enormous shock.


The Big Bang Theory

Sheldon, performed by Jim Parsons, turned the present’s breakout character.
CBS

However The Massive Bang Idea held on. In season two, throughout which viewership grew by simply over 20 %, the present began focusing extra power on the rising friendship between Sheldon and Penny — a reasonably basic “e book smarts meets avenue smarts” dynamic, however with a frisson of sexual pressure and a completely distinctive character in Sheldon. It was nonetheless predominantly about how goofy and attractive nerds are, however there was one thing human at its core, one thing it saved chasing.

The Massive Bang Idea would continue to grow, however it wouldn’t enter the season’s-end Nielsen prime 10 listing till its fifth season — which debuted within the fall of 2011. By that time, the present had added two extra ladies to its supporting forged, in Howard’s love curiosity Bernadette (the at all times undersung Melissa Rauch) and Sheldon’s love curiosity Amy (Mayim Bialik).

Certainly, the present’s crossover from “hit” to “megahit” so neatly aligns with the addition of those two ladies to the forged, and the following foregrounding of romantic plotting, that it appears doubtless {that a} portion of its viewers was drawn to them. (I must also notice right here that the addition of Bernadette and Amy spurred a lot of the important heat towards the present in these years, together with two awards for Excellent Achievement in Comedy from the Tv Critics Affiliation.)

What’s outstanding about that is how old style this growth is. This present began as a low-rated oddball, then slowly however steadily constructed up its viewers over time. Alongside the best way, it was granted the liberty to experiment and add and subtract new characters (that Sara Gilbert was briefly an everyday within the present’s second season is one thing I at all times overlook). And CBS was extremely affected person with it.

So what was it that inspired the community’s persistence, its obvious perception that The Massive Bang Idea may very well be a large hit? Properly, consider it or not, it was doing one thing very totally different from different TV reveals on the time.

The Massive Bang Idea is older than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was completely positioned to seize maintain of geek tradition and trip it to the highest.

Try this viral tweet from 2016, which pulled a Massive Bang Idea joke out of context to clarify why the individual writing the tweet thought the present was so horrible.

“So it’s settled,” Howard proclaims. “The destiny of Physician Who’s TARDIS might be determined by a Recreation of Thrones-inspired demise match on the battlefield of ThunderCats versus Transformers.” Sure, that’s a phrase salad of geek tradition references. Sure, in case you’re in any respect acquainted with geek tradition, it feels like full gibberish.

However in case you take a look at the gag in context, you’ll discover one thing else. The precise joke is the road that follows Howard’s ridiculous mashup of nerd-friendly properties, the one the tweeter shouts over. It’s not the world’s biggest joke — it’s a callback to an earlier one a couple of bra that Howard used to have his toys combat over — however it’s not less than a typical sitcom gag.

And within the divide between that convoluted setup and the understated punchline lies the key of The Massive Bang Idea’s recognition: It was by no means about nerd tradition a lot because it used nerd tradition for what felt like a novel setting when it debuted. The jokes themselves had been at all times about intercourse or interpersonal relationships or the characters’ foibles. The geek references had been merely window dressing.

This half-measure method is what triggered a lot of the backlash towards the present (which we’ll take care of in a second), however it clearly labored for some portion of the viewing public. At a time when community TV audiences had been eroding because of the explosion of choices in how you can watch tv, The Massive Bang Idea was the one present usually pulling in additional than 15 million viewers per week.

In seasons six by 11, its common viewership surpassed 18 million folks per episode as soon as some time-shifted viewership was accounted for — an astonishing feat for the 2010s. (The ultimate season has fallen off from that degree fairly a bit, however the present nonetheless routinely pulls in additional than 12 million viewers for the preliminary broadcast of every episode.)


The Big Bang Theory

All people seems to be a little bit glum on this nonetheless from the finale.
CBS

The by accident nice timing of The Massive Bang Idea’s debut is vital right here. The present may not have been about geek tradition in any possible way, however as a result of it utilized a veneer of geek tradition to fairly conventional sitcom tales about friendship and romance, it managed to attraction to each precise geeks and individuals who knew these geeks and didn’t fairly perceive them.

The concept the present was genuinely fashionable with geek audiences for some time appears weird in an period when it’s synonymous in lots of circles with all that’s stale and hacky about TV.

However it actually was fashionable with a sure subset of geeks. The Massive Bang Idea wasn’t for Comedian-Con die-hards, however it was for individuals who thought going to Comedian-Con a few times may be enjoyable — and the standing-room-only audiences it drew at Comedian-Con on the peak of its recognition greater than proved as a lot.

Plus, the sequence predates the whole lot from The Darkish Knight to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to, sure, Recreation of Thrones. Geek tradition was huge when the present debuted, however it wasn’t but all-consuming. So the longer The Massive Bang Idea ran, the extra sure it may very well be that when Howard talked about the TARDIS, not less than some portion of its viewership would bear in mind that he was referencing Physician Who.

On the identical time, the present was cautious by no means to let geek tradition references develop into its major mode of joke-telling. In an actual means, the geek stuff is a MacGuffin — a plot machine that drives the story. You don’t have to know what a TARDIS is to understand what’s happening within the clip above. You simply have to realize it’s huge and peculiar and gained’t match very effectively in Howard and Bernadette’s home, in order that they’re preventing about it. It may very well be a cheesy armchair or a canine.

The Massive Bang Idea’s particular portrayal of its geek characters additionally endeared it to a few of its viewers. Sheldon, specifically, was extremely annoying, however within the present’s greatest seasons (roughly seasons two by six), it displayed actual compassion for him and his inflexible mind-set concerning the world. It by no means as soon as stated the character was on the autism spectrum, however it hinted as a lot, and Jim Parsons’s efficiency, even in weaker episodes, was steadily super. There’s a purpose he’s gained a number of Emmys for the position, even when he most likely has too lots of them.

Lastly, on a pure craft degree, the sequence didn’t pressure to cram full tales into 21-minute operating instances, an uncommon incidence on this period. As soon as an episode reached the purpose the place viewers might realistically conclude, “Okay, Sheldon and Leonard most likely patch issues up,” it will lower to a degree after they already had. This gave The Massive Bang Idea room to breathe, permitting for extra scenes with the characters simply hanging out, fairly than satisfying the calls for of the plot.

Nonetheless, although I can provide you many the reason why The Massive Bang Idea turned so huge, it’s lots tougher to reply one different query: Why achieve this many individuals hate this present a lot?

The Massive Bang Idea already felt like a throwback when it debuted. Think about the way it feels now.


The Big Bang Theory

Look, even when it’s a present I now not watch, I’ll at all times try a sitcom finale!
CBS

The Massive Bang Idea is a “multi-camera sitcom,” which means that it’s filmed on a soundstage, within the trend of a stage play, with a number of cameras recording every take. The format is especially environment friendly, because it permits for longer scenes which might be captured from a number of angles.

The present can be filmed in entrance of a stay studio viewers, whose laughter is miked up in a means the place each single chortle serves to create a large cacophony of sound. It’s a typical follow in multi-camera sitcom manufacturing, however it nonetheless accounts for the frequent assumptions that The Massive Bang Idea makes use of a “snort monitor.” That’s not fairly correct, however the truth that even its hackier jokes are greeted by excessive viewers approval makes a disconnect between the present and its viewers all however inevitable.

Even in 2007, The Massive Bang Idea felt like a throwback. At the moment, TV comedy was tilting towards extra cinematic “single-camera” comedies, which didn’t include any viewers laughter. Each The Workplace and 30 Rock had been at their peaks, and hour-long dramedies like Ugly Betty and Determined Housewives had been seen as innovators.

These traits have solely gained momentum, and whereas multi-camera sitcoms have loved a mini-comeback up to now few years, it’s largely been for reveals like One Day at a Time and The Conners, which deal frankly with social and political problems with the second — making them the precise reverse of The Massive Bang Idea, which does its degree greatest to really feel just a bit bit out of time.

So The Massive Bang Idea feels extremely traditionalist in a world the place acclaimed TV comedy skews increasingly more towards reveals like Atlanta or Barry, although neither of these lauded however extraordinarily area of interest reveals might even dream of incomes scores as large as Massive Bang’s.

The Massive Bang Idea’s scores prowess — undeserved within the eyes of viewers who contemplate their comedy tastes extra rarefied — has lengthy been sufficient to mark the present as one thing to scoff at. However the sheer hatred the present conjures up comes from a handful of unlikely different sources.

One is that in 2010, when the present was simply starting its ascension to megahit standing, CBS moved it from Mondays to Thursdays. So its fourth season aired at eight pm on Thursdays, instantly reverse the second (and greatest) season of the beloved geek-friendly sitcom Neighborhood, which took as some extent of satisfaction its potential to really make correct popular culture jokes. On Neighborhood, jokes concerning the present’s characters had been usually informed through their extremely particular tastes, not probably the most generic model of geek tradition the present’s writers might dream up.

Neighborhood’s fervent fan base helped maintain it on the air for six seasons, regardless of it by no means turning into an enormous hit. However its continued survival didn’t matter: Having the very conventional Massive Bang Idea air reverse the a lot cleverer Neighborhood drew the strains for battles to return. The Massive Bang Idea was pretend geek tradition. By no means thoughts that it was written by math and science nerds, and by no means thoughts what number of geeks actually did see themselves in it. It was at all times, on some degree, going to go for the broadest attainable viewers fairly than the narrowest one, and that was the other of being a geek.

This all led to one of many extra unlucky strains of Massive Bang Idea dislike — calling the present “nerd blackface,” which means that it was constructed round huge, trope-y portrayals of geeks that had been meant to attract derisive, jeering laughter. Equating the present’s clumsy portrayal of geeks and geek tradition to a decades-long historical past of systemically portraying black folks as bumbling fools is, I hope I don’t need to inform you, fairly dang offensive. But the concept of describing the present in such a trend retains cropping up, as a result of many self-proclaimed geeks really feel just like the present takes a hectoring and even bullying tone towards them.

That feeling stems, I consider, from the straightforward undeniable fact that multi-camera sitcoms, even at their greatest, are sometimes constructed round very broad stereotypes. Consider the early seasons of Will & Grace, a present that genuinely appears to have moved the American dialog about LGBTQ points ahead a few steps however that additionally featured a really stereotypical, flamboyant portrayal of a homosexual man in its supporting forged. Viewers had been invited to snort at this character as a result of he was so stereotypical and ridiculous, however the extra time you spent with him, the extra you noticed he was a human being too.

The Massive Bang Idea debuted in an period when community tv more and more (although not at all times) tried its damnedest to keep away from these kinds of stereotypes. Keep in mind how the preliminary backlash to the present stemmed largely from how ditzy Penny was? That form of response doubtless wouldn’t have occurred to the identical diploma if the present had premiered even 10 years earlier.

However The Massive Bang Idea largely sidestepped community TV’s rising aversion to stereotypes by centering itself on a gaggle of people that had been nonetheless largely acceptable to stereotype. Geekdom was a group constructed by alternative, not by genetics. The present’s broad portrayals are the entire level. The stereotype is supposed to make you snort. After which, simply as in Will & Grace, you hopefully develop into hooked up to the characters and notice they’re human too.

You’ll be able to even see this mirrored within the present’s scripts. The characters of Howard and Raj have lengthy since left behind their attractive nerd beginning factors; Howard has two youngsters, for god’s sake. However they’re nonetheless referred to in The Massive Bang Idea’s scripts as “Wolowitz” and “Koothrappali,” their final names and what they had been known as on the present early on, once they had been outlined much less as characters and extra as strolling exemplars of geeky ineptitude.

I perceive why so many geeks discover the present so repugnant. There are many engineers on the market in extremely profitable relationships, who know how you can speak to ladies, who’re ladies themselves. Liking geeky issues doesn’t imply you’re socially maladjusted by default. (I’m not less than considerably satisfied by the arguments that The Massive Bang Idea’s refusal to speak about whether or not Sheldon is neuroatypical created patronizing stereotypes of individuals with autism, an argument made splendidly by Yohana Desta at Mashable in 2014.)

And like all TV reveals which have run this lengthy, The Massive Bang Idea’s greatest days are behind it. There was a time once I did genuinely benefit from the present — although I by no means would have known as it certainly one of my absolute favorites — however I’ve fallen away from it because the characters have gotten married and had youngsters and settled into comparatively peaceable, static lives. That’s the attraction of many a present like this, however I at all times discovered The Massive Bang Idea’s early years, when the present’s characters had been simply making an attempt to determine how you can stay collectively, way more compelling.

I additionally don’t suppose The Massive Bang Idea has ever really argued that to be a nerd is to be eternally alone, until a sitcom-hot girl strikes in throughout the corridor. In any case, the present’s characters have all discovered long-term companions, and it has roughly made a rousing case for domesticity. Like different sitcoms, The Massive Bang Idea used broad stereotypes to attempt to humanize a gaggle of people that had been usually the butt of the joke on different reveals. And since it was doing so proper alongside the rise of geek tradition within the mainstream, it turned massively fashionable.

Did the present at all times succeed at letting its characters be the butt of the joke and the individual telling it, within the model of one thing like Will & Grace? Opinions, in fact, will fluctuate. However to jot down off The Massive Bang Idea is to jot down off a present that shined a highlight on geek tradition in a means that has helped it take over the world.

Do we’ve the MCU due to The Massive Bang Idea? Nah. However having the most well-liked sitcom within the nation cracking clever about Iron Man and the TARDIS and Arya Stark, effectively — it definitely didn’t damage.

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