TV Comedy & "The Big Bang Theory"Those of you who follow me on twitter may have seen my occasional expression of hostility to TV sitcoms that depend on the stupidity of characters to raise their laughs. Take a bow "Not Going Out" by Lee Mack where all the characters other than the wise-cracking Lee (basically doing his stand up act and wedging in one-liners where the script can't support them), are pig thick and much of the supposed comedy ensues from their misunderstanding, nay mangling of the English language. But Shakespeare also employed the same device of characters who were mastered by words, rather than mastering them, but they retained more dignity than Mack's characters.
But it's not limited to this particular show. Even the hugely popular "Only Fools And Horses" had a roster of ninnies and well yes fools, also overwhelmed by their ignorance. Only the scriptwriters and actor skills investing them with enough humanity and pathos I believe swayed us the audience to embrace them to our hearts.
So "The Big Bang Theory" has to be by definition, comedy at the other end of the spectrum. Four uber-nerds with brains the size of planets and a concomitant plethora of absent social skills is the heart of the comedy. So no comedy of the stupid on show here. And I want to like it, I really do. The writing is witty and clever, but not laugh out loud even though I get most of the clever science gags. The performances are also top notch, particular that of Jim Parsons as chief uber-brain Dr Sheldon Cooper. His physical performance of someone with a host of tics, neuroses and an inability to evidence most of the everyday things about relationships such as apologising, keeping a secret, compromising, is something rarely seen on mainstream TV. I am in awe of his performance week after week. Actually I am mesmerised by it, to the extent I keep coming back to the next episode. But I don't laugh all that much.
The monstrous character has a proud centrality in TV comedy. Consider Basil Fawlty for example, a man consumed by petty snobbery, delusions of grandeur, primness, sexual frustration within marriage and an inferiority, not to say fear, before his wife. Fawlty is a comedy creation of sheer genius.
Sheldon Cooper is equally monstrous, but not one I find funny. Fawlty always loses, he is a clown who falls flat on his face. Cooper rarely loses any situation, because his behavioural demands usually cause others top kowtow to him. Falwty is highly vulnerable, Cooper almost inviolable, because he doesn't understand most of the hurt he is causing and little can penetrate him in return. Fawlty keeps trying to realise his dreams; Cooper has no dreams because his vision is so narrow and he is 'successfully' living within its narrow parameters and rarely shaken from it.
Finally, I am a little uncomfortable being asked to laugh at the antics of a domineering and dominant character who is I believe, somewhere on the Autistic-Asperger's spectrum. He is so impaired in his social interactions, that one has to believe there is a neural cause behind it rather than a psychological one. So the comedy revolves around the monstrous behaviour of a character who in all likelihood has a neurological condition underlying it all. Hmmm...
Still searching for some intelligent TV comedy for the 21st century along the lines of Fawlty Towers (which is after all nearly 40 years old now). Any suggestions?