The Olympics has thrown off my TV watching schedule a bit so I was a little bit behind watching this week’s Big Bang Theory. The few female friends I have left on Facebook though had quite a reaction to this week’s episode. Having seen their comments, I immediately thought that the worst had happened. I thought the writers had performed sit-com hara-kiri and finally had Sheldon and Amy consummate their relationship. After watching the episode, I found that not really to be the case, but for Sheldon, maybe it is as good as it gets. This lead me to thinking about what I think is a major problem facing The Big Bang Theory that I and many other reputable scientists call the Sheldon Cooper Conundrum.
The Big Bang Theory has been on for seven seasons now. That’s right. Seven seasons. The problem that shows who make it to this kind of rare air run in to is that they are going to run out of story lines. On this show particularly, I’ve felt that the show has gotten a bit stale and unoriginal. The ensemble cast is starting to suffer a bit from Flanderization and we are seeing the same types of plot lines over and over. The break out star of the show, Sheldon Cooper (played by Jim Parsons), is usually the focus of most episodes forcing the other characters to react in some way to him. Even if there is a separate story line for characters, most of the time, Sheldon will get involved in some way. I don’t blame the writers and producers for heading in this direction because everyone has bills to pay baby and that’s Hollywood. If there is something good, they are going to ride it in to the ground.
The reliance on using the most popular character to help drive story lines along has helped The Big Bang theory become one of the highest rated shows on TV. This also leads CBS to have to face The Sheldon Cooper Conundrum. What are they going to do with him now? They have relied on him so much to help make them huge buckets of money but people are going to tire of him. I know the writers know this and I’m sure it pains them. This is an issue that is coming about because of the show’s longevity for sure but the problem now becomes, what are they going to do with the future?
This week’s episode highlighted the problem the writers are facing perfectly. Sheldon has been with Amy for three years now and there has been just about zero physical contact between the two. Viewers of the show are expecting something to happen and really, there has to be some movement. Characters have got to continue to evolve and grow or people will quickly get bored. There is a huge catch-22 in this case though as fans love the sexual tension between characters and they always want to see resolution but as soon as it happens, people are done with it. Remember when Tony and Angela finally got together on Who’s the Boss? What about Dave and Maddie on Moonlighting? And the biggest case of post relationship flop, Niles and Daphne getting together on Frasier. People want to see relationships happen but as soon as they do, they are done with it.
The writers on The Big Bang Theory handled this problem well this week. The two characters kissed. Everyone was happy for them. Great. Now people are going to expect more. In real life, these things tend to move forward. The relationship between Sheldon and Amy is the only one people are really watching because it’s the only one that has any room for real growth. Howard and Bernadette are married. Do they really want that relationship to grow? That means kids and moving out to the suburbs. No one wants to watch a married couple fall in to the monotony of real life that all of us married couples find ourselves in. The relationship between Leonard and Penny is no longer interesting. We already went through their would they/won’t they. Then they got together and the writers quickly broke them up so we could go back to the would they/won’t they stage but now they are back together. Snooze. What’s next? They break up again? They get married? Penny realizes that she isn’t attracted to 5ft tall Hobbits?
No. The relationship between Sheldon and Amy is the one that people care about but there isn’t much left for the writers to do here. People are not going to stand for the status quo for much longer. I think fans have given the show quite a lot of leeway already in suspending disbelief that we would all believe that a horn-dog like Amy would go for three years in a relationship with not so much as a kiss goodnight. Now that that has happened, people are going to be looking for more. The problem the writers face though is that once they give the people what they want, there will be nothing left for the show to do. The Sheldon Cooper Conundrum is going to be a problem for The Big Bang Theory and I think that if you live by the Sheldon, you will probably die by the Sheldon. Time will tell but being that I am the smartest person on the internet, I know I’m right.
The Big Bang Theory airs on CBS Thursdays at 7:00.