If you are easily manipulated like me, you take for granted that everything within a bone fide scientific study would be accurate but in his case, though the drift of the study was no doubt correct, at least scientifically, they were wrong in assuming Jim Parson’s portrayal of Sheldon Cooper was that of an autistic man. At no point in over 120 episodes of The Big Bang Theory have the writers suggested Sheldon is autistic and Jim Parsons denies using either autism or Asperger’s as the starting point of his characterisation.
Also, Sheldon is not mad; his mother had him tested.
Sheldon Cooper’s character is complex; he is a genius who has never acquired social skills and rationalises all human situations as scientific theory. Since the first episode, at a glacial speed that in the Hollywood way of things sit-com writers are never ordinarily allowed, Sheldon has become socialised (nearly) and has even acquired a girlfriend and can now recognise sarcasm and irony. So Sheldon is not autistic, though the mistake in this official report has provided me with the excuse to inform anyone who has never watched or acquired a taste for the programme that it is, without doubt, the greatest sit-com of all-time. At least in my opinion, esteemed as it might be. Greater, and I never thought I would say this, especially of a U.S. sit-com – and here, rather in the manner of Sheldon, I must gather my emotions and speak with a trembling lip – even than ‘Only Fools and Horses’ at its very height.
Jim Parsons, by the way, is a truly great actor. His first audition for the part was so good the producers asked him to come back for a second audition believing he would not be capable of being as good second time around. He wasn’t; to their disbelief he was better. They did not bother auditioning anyone else. In real life Jim Parsons is gay, yet even playing a man with no interest in sex he never at any time gives the impression that Sheldon also might be gay. Some achievement.
Now, I realise ‘Big Bang’ maybe one of those ‘Marmite’ programmes; either loved or misunderstood. But believe me; I am a connoisseur of all things comedic – I have watched and listened to everything comedic from ‘The Goons’ to the ‘Asian Comedy Network’ - and in my opinion nothing tops ‘The Big Bang Theory’. At its peak the writing borders on genius, and at all times the acting is without peer. Even those who play guest parts must work to the high level of the cast. No actor who gets on ‘Big Bang’, no matter how big a star they are, is allowed to simply say his lines. Christine Baranski, for instance, is outstanding as Dr.Beverly Hofstadter. Possibly the best guest star in television history.
It is also quite possibly the only sit-com where the characters have been allowed to grow and develop. The ‘Simpsons’ may be enduring and always funny but the characters are the same as when they were devised. Homer has neither aged nor grown with experience. But in ‘Big Bang’ Sheldon Cooper has developed mentally and socially and is a different, though recognisable, character than he was on the first ever show. Howard is not the perverted soul he was in earlier episodes; Raj can now talk to women, something he could not do until halfway through what is soon to be the tenth series, and its twenty episodes a series; and Leonard and Penny have married and Penny is no longer an actress.
The other unique feature of ‘Big Bang’ is that the show hit its greatest heights with the introduction of two new female characters, Bernadette and the fabulous Amy, played by the equally fabulous Mayim Bialik. Usually the introduction of new characters is a sure sign the programme is on a downward path. But not with ‘Big Bang’.
Anyway, it is not the most watched U.S. comedy in television history for no good reason. My only criticism is that though the episodes have the magic quality of becoming funnier the more times you watch them it is too good to be repeated over and over as they are. In this instance, less might just be more.
If you are of the number that fails to appreciate ‘Big Bang’ there is nothing I can say that will change your point of view. But it’s only appropriate that there are unfortunates out there who dislike the programme as geniuses are often shunned by those who do not understand them. Often they are bullied and squeezed into spaces that seem too small to accommodate them, as Sheldon, Leonard and Howard often describe as episodes from their youth. It is life imitating art. Or should that be art imitating life? Anyway, ‘Big Bang’ shines a light on bullying and in that it should be lauded.