Young Sheldon

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.

8 Responses

  1. The trouble with this idea is that we know what Sheldon was like at the time he first met the other chaps in one flashback prequel ep of BBT and have also seen how his character has changed over the course of the series in general-ipso facto we can’t see any change for the better in ‘Young Sheldon’ which could make this very one note over time-we also know many of the incidents to come that were referenced in BBT so far.
    And Chuck Lorre is a living God!

  2. Like you David I to have given up on The Big Bang Theory. Somewhere along the way they forgot to bring the funny. It should have been retired 3 seasons ago. In the early years there was something innocent about peering into the world of those nerds, their experiments, their obsession with computer games and fumbling their way with the opposite sex. But as the series progressed they moved away from that and it became too much about the relationships. The character of Sheldon I now find annoying. I preferred Jim Parsons early dry delivery. He now over acts each scene. But this is just my observation. That said I’m looking forward to viewing Young Sheldon (especially without that forced laugh soundtrack). Seeking Zoe Perry’s services was a stroke of genius considering she is the daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who happens to play Sheldon’s mother in The Big Bang Theory.

  3. I watched several episodes while in the States over Christmas and thought it was alright. I don’t like BBT at all (I’ve seen several episodes) but this had a different vibe that seems unrelated to the show that spawned it. A different audience for this maybe. My kids (teens) love it.

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