There once was a sitcom called The Big Bang Theory. It was both the birther and product of the late-2000s geek culture boom that began with Iron Man, The Dark Knight and rebooted Star Trek movies and is now the dominant of all mass entertainment. Somehow the creator of Two and a Half Men tapped into the zeitgeist in a way nobody else could have foreseen: documenting the ascension of a certain subculture to the leaders of the free market while treating them with equal parts disdain and admiration. It’s not funny. It was rarely ever funny. And its politics and intentions are profoundly questionable. But as I sat down to watch the hour-long series finale I found myself propelled back to the mindset of my 13-year old self who (for a brief, horrifying period) thought this was the funniest, smartest thing on TV.
Despite missing 6 or 7 seasons I didn’t require a catch-up before this episode. Sheldon and Amy are awaiting the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Physics (spoiler: they win it) as Penny and Leonard find out they’re pregnant and the other characters are up to their usual bullshit. Joshua Malina shows up for a few seconds, and is hilarious.
Winning the Nobel starts to inflict positive changes on Sheldon’s life, and Sheldon doesn’t like change. I feel ya, buddy. He starts running out of rooms and he gets upset when his wife gets a makeover. In fact, he’s just an annoying rude asshole in general and his friends finally confront him on it. Which leads him to, in his Nobel speech, make a moving effort to recognise how they have helped him to succeed over the past 12 years. It’s never explained why he is the way he is: is Sheldon on the autism spectrum or is he just a bit ‘quirky’? I don’t think anyone who watches this show really cares.
As much as Big Bang and I have grown apart, I did recognise the elements of the show that appealed to me when I was younger. The warmth of the relationships but underlying cynicism in every scene is an unhealthy but appealing tonal balance. It’s never too earnest for too long, because we’re always being invited to laugh at the characters. Every dispute is resolved within 20 minutes. And, just as Sheldon likes it, nothing ever changes too much. I quite like that too.