Pint-sized Iain Armitage is a sitcom genius in a Big Bang prequel that bins the laugh track.
I should probably declare at the outset that I haven’t been a Big Bang viewer for a number of years (although I do think Jim Parsons has brilliant comic timing) and the reign of Chuck Lorre sitcoms leaves me flat.
So what was I doing watching 3 episodes of Young Sheldon back to back? Simple: this is an easy watch, with sincerity bubbling underneath the punchlines.
More to the point, this is a single-cam comedy with no laugh track. Hallelujah! Now I can work out where the humour is for myself.
This prequel to The Big Bang Theory gives CBS it’s very own Malcolm in the Middle (FOX) or The Middle (ABC) -I always did get those 2 confused. As the title suggests, it centres around 9 year old Sheldon (Iain Armitage) a kid genius raised in the 1980s in East Texas. Bookending the episodes there are Wonder Years-like narrations from older Sheldon (Parsons), which are brief but scene-setting.
Peering at his own family members from the outside looking in, Young Sheldon is the brother of bully George Jr. (Montana Jordan), and a twin to sister Missy (Raegan Revord). Mary (Zoe Perry) and George (Lance Barber) are his lower middle-class parents.
Even at 9 Sheldon is an oddball kid, preferring to mount science experiments than playing outdoors, and insisting on wearing mitts to hold hands for fear of attracting germs. Poignantly, there is even a Stephen Hawking poster in his bedroom.
“Jane Goodall had to go to Africa to study apes. I just had to go to dinner,” older Sheldon recalls.
As the series kicks off he must face his first day of high school, a challenge that calls for his trusty bow tie. Mum Mary, desperately worried her kid won’t fit in, tries to barter: no tie in exchange for a day out at Radio Shack (better known in Australia as Tandy electronics).
“Perhaps I’ll start a fad?” he suggests.
At school Sheldon gets offside with his peers, most of whom flout the school’s dress code, and thereafter his teachers. But music will prove a great leveller and he will learn there are still things to learn even as a 9 year old genius.
The casting of the uber-talented Iain Armitage (recently seen in a dramatic role in Big Little Lies) helps make this succeed. He has all the timing of his adult counterpart, and displays a sharp rapport with Zoe Perry as his worrisome mother.
There are some unexpected laughs and touches of truth not usually associated with Chuck Lorre’s crash-or-crash-through schtick. Exorcising the multicam studio and banishing the laugh track has worked to great effect. As a bonus, there are ’80s songs rippling throughout the soundtrack.
How long this remains a winner could be directly proportionate to the speedy growth of its cutesy star, but right now this is broadly appealing if you are missing a 7:30 sitcom on your telly.
Young Sheldon airs 7:30pm Monday & Tuesday on Nine.