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TV Showdown: The Big Bang Theory VS Community

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  • Nick Spake
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    Jul 5th, 2012
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    #349816

    There
    are two sitcoms on TV right now that are widely considered “fanboy
    shows.” (Well, technically one of them is on the Internet, but what’s
    the difference at this point?) The obvious “fanboy show” is “The Big
    Bang Theory,” which, in its eighth season, is thriving as television’s
    most watched comedy. It’s additionally been a success at the Emmys with
    Jim Parson’s taking home his forth Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a
    Comedy Series last year.

    Whether or not you like “The Big
    Bang Theory” probably depends on your definition of a nerd. If you
    think a nerd is a socially awkward person who likes comics, video games,
    and “Star Wars,” you’ll enjoy the show for its heart, lovable
    characters, and witty pop culture references. If you view yourself as a
    diehard nerd and put yourself on a pedestal above everyone else, you’ll
    likely log onto a message board and go on an angry tirade, trolling “The
    Big Bang Theory” for being inaccurate and overrated. Okay, maybe that’s
    a harsh generalization, but you get the point. “The Big Bang Theory” is
    primarily a hit with mainstream audiences and casual nerds while
    legitimate nerds condemn it to hell.

    Whenever somebody
    trashes “The Big Bang Theory,” they’re fully prepared to endorse
    “Community.” #BigCHANGTheory. Once sharing the same timeslot with “The
    Big Bang Theory,” this alternative “fanboy show” suffered in the ratings
    for five seasons on NBC and was eventually cancelled. Due to critical
    acclaim and it’s dedicated cult following, though, Yahoo Screen saved
    Dan Harmon’s brilliant show at the last minute. #Sixseasonsandamovie.

    In
    many ways, “Community” is the more distinguished “fanboy show” as every
    episode works in references that only a select group of nerds will get.
    Of course if you’re not in on the joke, the references will fly right
    over your head. That’s why “Community” has always struggled to find a
    huge audience unlike “The Big Bang Theory,” which has more widespread
    appeal. There’s no doubt that “The Big Bang Theory” is the more
    successful show and “Community” is the more ambitious show. Does that
    really mean “Community” is the superior show in terms of quality,
    however?

    Personally, I’d deem “Community” the better
    series in a heartbeat if we were solely talking about its first three
    seasons, which encompass some of the most ingenious satire and dialog in
    recent comedy. Yet, even the show’s most dedicated followers will tell
    you that “Community” went downhill in its forth ‘gas leak year’ season
    after Harmon was replaced as showrunner. Harmon would fortunately return
    next year and while the two most recent seasons were solid, they’re far
    from a second coming. 

    With Harmon’s return, several key
    players exited “Community.” Although the show introduced some welcome
    replacements like Jonathan Banks, Paget Brewster, and Keith David,
    nobody can quite fill the void Donald Glover’s Troy left behind,
    especially in Abed’s heart. The most significant problem with the past
    three seasons is that all the remaining characters have ceased to really
    evolve. That’s not to say that they haven’t undergone any development
    whatsoever, but they mostly seem to be trapped in a primordial
    purgatory. Of course that’s to be expected from a show about people that
    are still trying to get their degrees from a two-year college. 

    “Community”
    is basically experiencing the same problem as most long running
    animated series. “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” haven’t necessarily run
    out of ideas, but they have run out of ways to further develop their
    characters. Again, that’s to be expected from shows where people
    literally never age. The less a show’s characters grow, however, the
    less interesting and funny their ongoing adventures are going to be. 

    The
    characters in “Community” now feel less like people and more like tools
    for satire. As humorous as that satire may be, it’s hard to stay
    emotionally invested when you really don’t care what happens to them
    anymore. At this point, does anyone give a crap if Greendale is saved,
    if Jeff ends up with Britta or Annie, or if Chang is ever properly
    utilized? Being the ultimate Meta show, “Community” at least seems aware
    that its characters are stuck in a rut and the show is well past its
    golden years. While gems like “Geothermal Escapism,” “G.I. Jeff,” and
    “Modern Espionage” do make everything worthwhile, it occasionally feels
    like “Community” may have been better off getting three seasons and a
    movie rather than six seasons and a movie, as blasphemous as that
    sounds.

    At least that’s what I was thinking until
    yesterday’s season finale, “Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast
    Television,” as the gang prepares of an uncertain future. In addition to
    employing some of the show’s most inspired Meta humor, the episode
    confronts letting go, the inevitability of change, and possibilities for
    a potential season seven. One can’t help but wish more of this growth
    had been spread out through season six, but better late than never.

    If
    this were the final episode of “Community,” it would be a touching,
    funny, and poignant way to go out. If the show were to return for a
    seventh season, though, numerous possibilities have been setup. I’m
    hopeful that season seven could be an amazing return to glory. Alas,
    that optimism comes with reservations since whenever the characters on
    “Community” take a step forward it doesn’t take long for them to take a
    step backwards. If there is a seventh season and/or movie, will
    “Community” just hit the reset button on whatever character development
    this finale offered? I think so…probably…maybe…

    On a side
    note, the previous episode of “Community” astutely pointed out that only
    a handful of shows have peaked after season seven, such as “South Park”
    and “Friends.” While its unclear if “Community” will be such a show,
    “The Big Bang Theory” has already made it into the selective seven years
    and beyond club. The CBS comedy is not only still funny going into its
    ninth season, but as good as ever. Part of that’s because the show has
    advanced as an ensemble piece over the years with characters we
    sincerely care about. Looking into next season, viewers can’t wait to
    see if Sheldon will propose to Amy, if Stuart will get his own place,
    and if we’ll finally learn Penny’s last name when/if her and Leonard tie
    the knot. With “Community,” we want to care about the characters, but
    it rarely lets us. As a result, we only care about what’s going to be
    satirized. 

    Interestingly, both of these “fanboy shows”
    have become allegories for different breeds of fanboys. “The Big Bang
    Theory” represents fanboys that are slowly growing up while also
    maintaining what made them nerds to begin with. They’re baby steps and
    the status quo isn’t constantly altered, but its still more progression
    than we typically see in sitcoms and definitely more progression then we
    ever expected to see from Sheldon Cooper. “Community,” on the other
    hand, represents fanboys that just want to drift through one eternal
    state of being where nothing ever changes. Thus, “Community” might be
    the smarter show, but “The Big Bang Theory” has surprisingly become the
    wiser show.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that both “The
    Big Bang Theory” and “Community” will go down as two of the best
    comedies of this generation. As for which one has had more staying power
    and is a better series overall, though, my vote would have to be for
    “The Big Bang Theory.” You can feel free to tell me that I’m an idiot
    who doesn’t know jack in the comments section. Before you do, however,
    consider the possibility that maybe “The Big Bang Theory” is a more
    mature “fanboy show” than anybody ever considered. #Bazinga.

    Then
    again, the series I should probably be discussing is HBO’s “Silicon
    Valley,” which only gets funnier with every passing episode and some
    would argue has become “The Big Bang Theory for Grown Ups.” Since that
    show is still fairly young, I’ll save that TV Showdown for another day.

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