In terms of final episodes, the most obvious from last week was Game of Thrones but I won’t review that just yet. So much is the vastness of the Game of Thrones story that I feel a bit of time needs to be spent away from thinking about it to take it all in, no matter people’s opinions on how the show ended. Bowing out with a whimper rather than a bang was The Big Bang Theory- that is not a reflection on the quality of the final episode but the declining quality of the series as a whole.
Like so many other comedies, The Big Bang Theory ended long after people really cared and may have gone on even longer had Jim Parsons (the actor who plays Sheldon) not declared he was not interested in continuing. It’s rare for a TV show to go out on top, comedy or drama. For a comedy, you can only use the same jokes, the same character dynamics for so long and for drama there is only so far it can go before the plot becomes so convoluted from the original story. Friends is an odd one which probably left on top in a comedic sense but not story-wise.
In that sense, it’s nice to not be able to think of a time where The Big Bang Theory ‘jumped the shark’ for a ratings boost where the main relationships weren’t mashed together in the space of a week with Leonard and Penny’s will they/won’t they? and the slow progress of Sheldon and Amy’s relationship. There are some real messages in the show too with the story of Amy and Bernadette working in scientific fields used as a platform to say to young girls watching that they can be scientists too and the show is likely to have inspired a lot of young viewers to at least take a glance at the kinds of science mentioned in the show.
The Big Bang Theory is also odd in the fact that it is one of the most watched popular shows and yet also one of the most maligned. Personally, I feel there is a lot to like about the show. When it first debuted, we were in the pre Iron-Man/Marvel movie explosion when being a ‘nerd’ wasn’t cool. To start the show with comic book nerds, unapologetically being nerds but at the same time kind of wishing they weren’t was a good basis. I’ve read some opinions that the show claims to be for nerds but is actually just making fun of them, that we are laughing at them, not with them. I agree with that to an extent as the characters do fit a lot of the stereotypes but I think there is something very real about the characters like Leonard being passionate about it while also trying to hide it from the ‘normal’ people like Penny. As the show goes on, there is an acceptance amongst the characters that they are nerds and embrace it fully which is a positive message also coinciding with nerd culture becoming cooler in society.
Another thing people mention is the supposed ‘laugh track.’ This is where I think some people read too much into something. The laugh track actually is an audience and the reason that maybe some of the laughter seems fake or forced is because it is likely that the scene and the joke has been done at least four or five times before the final take. If it was funny the first time, it’s hard to recreate genuine laughter after a number of times. Another thing people read a lot into it is that some of the jokes just seems to be to just laugh at ‘science stuff.’ This is usually where some simple situation or some hobby is explained by one of the main characters with science that regularly people don’t understand. I feel that people watch the show and think ‘I’m not going to laugh just because they’re using big scientific words’ but usually the humour comes from the context of the overall story being told, the ridiculousness of bringing science into normal situations.
The later seasons of The Big Bang Theory mainly suffered from trying to get laughs using the same character dynamics; the friendship of Howard and Raj being more like a relationship, Sheldon’s attitude and OCD to everyone and everything, self-deprecating nerd humour from Leonard. However, as its popularity grew, it did manage to entice a lot of guest stars ‘for nerds’ from Will Wheaton, Brent Spiner and Levar Burton of Star Trek and Mark Hamill and James Earl Jones from Star Wars among others. It never felt like these stars were shamelessly trotted out. The stunned expressions, the hesitations involved with seeing someone famous, the urge to fanboy, are all portrayed really well when the characters meet these guest stars.
Despite losing interest, any show that was once good has a quality to draw you in at the end. For all the time you’ve watched it through the good and bad, the closure of a final episode usually brings appreciation for a show rather than a relief that it’s finally all over. Shows like to do a ‘look how far the characters have come’ segment and brings about nostalgia for a show that you will most likely look back on with fondness. For fans of any show, there will be memorable moments throughout, even in a dull season, so when fans look back on a show they will remember those moments and won’t care if it happened in Season one or Season eight.