Review: Young Sheldon 1×1 (US: CBS; UK: E4)

Far nicer than than its predecessor

Young Sheldon

In the US: Thursdays, CBS, 8:30/7:30c. Starts November 2
In the UK: Acquired by E4. To air in 2018

One of the pre-eminent examples of those CBS sitcoms that I mentioned not too long ago that are ‘not nice’ is The Big Bang Theory. This is a show that distinctly failed to impress me when I first watched it and while it’s obviously changed over the years, whenever I’ve tuned in since, it’s still never made it as far as making me laugh.

That said, the character of Sheldon, a genius nerdy astrophysicist with a blunt manner and distain for others’ intellects, is a great comic creation with a great performance by actor Jim Parsons:

It’s just a shame about everything else, really.

Over the years, The Big Bang Theory has revealed a few details of Sheldon’s early life and it was Parsons’ suggestion to the show’s producers that they pitch CBS a prequel series. And here’s Young Sheldon. Confusingly, CBS is only airing  one episode for now, with more to come in November. Genius? No.

Young Sheldon – it’s about young Sheldon

The show is set in east Texas, when Sheldon was nine-year-old a child prodigy (Iain Armitage), just as he’s about to go to high school in the same class with his older but vastly stupider brother (Montana Jordan). Already equipped with an intellect that sets him apart from everyone else and a lack of social skills that do likewise but in a very different way, Sheldon finds school hard and/or unnecessary, depending on which class he’s in, which makes it hard for his devout mother (Zoe Perry) and school football coach father (Lance Barber).

What the show has in common with The Big Bang Theory is that it’s not funny. But the big difference between Young Sheldon and its predecessor is that apart from being a location-filmed, single-camera effort, it’s nice. Just like Me, Myself and I, it’s nice. CBS must be turning over a new leaf or something.

The show, which is more a slightly amusing character drama than sitcom, has genuine sympathy for the child Sheldon who can’t fit in and who needs to wear a bow tie to school and for his family, who know they haven’t even a tenth of his brains between them and have to help him survive school while avoiding becoming social pariahs themselves. When a music teacher is playing a cello and Sheldon joins in on a piano with perfect pitch, despite never having played before, it’s actually a genuinely moving scene as the teacher and child strike up an understanding.

There are a few nods to ‘the mothership’, such as Professor Proton (Bob Newhart) showing up on a TV, and a few of the jokes are only clear if you know the character of Sheldon well. Similarly, as with The Big Bang Theory, Parsons, who narrates the programme, is the one properly funny thing about the show.

But despite not giving a monkey’s about The Big Bang Theory, I did actually enjoy this quite a lot. I don’t know if the general niceness of it all is going to be enough to keep me coming back, but I’m far more likely to watch more episodes of it than I am of its source show.