Friday morning this gif from the show The IT Crowd was one of the most popular links on Reddit. In the comment thread, someone said that The Big Bang Theory (BBT) is just a dumbed-down version of The IT Crowd (IT) and for some reason, I found myself defending BBT. Side note: This isn’t an argument for or against BBT itself, although I personally enjoy it a lot.
Take the argument that BBT is just a dumbed-down version of IT. You first have to look at what each of these shows are at their most basic concept. IT is about a two computer and gaming nerds (Moss and Roy) and their less intelligent/ awkward female boss (Jen) who struggle to fit in at work. BBT is about a core group of nerds (Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj) and the character relationships between themselves and others.
I use the term “nerd” without judgement. I am a self-proclaimed nerd (though I may dabble in too many areas to gain the title of Über-Nerd in any particular category). “Nerd” doesn’t carry the same harsh connotations that it once did and in fact, and may even be worn as a badge of honor culturally. The nerds of The IT Crowd are predominately computer nerds – they’re hyper-intelligent and aware of all things computer and technology. They have their additional nerd idiosyncrasies, but for the most part, they’re out-of-place computer nerds in a corporate world.
The Big Bang Theory‘s protagonists on the other hand are four more typical “nerds.” They are pop-culture enthusiasts (Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica), comic book fans, gamers, cosplayers, and academics. Each character specializes in their own über-nerd category, but they also collectively share the same interests.
As I mentioned before, the two shows although centering around nerds, are actually quite different in their approach. Over the course of four seasons, IT had very little character development. The show succeeded in replicating recent British comedy styles of awkward situations, dry humor and absurd characters, but in the course of the run of the show, not a lot happened in regards to the life of the characters.
The BBT on the other hand over the course of it’s six seasons has really advanced their characters along. The reason the BBT has succeeded with it’s character development is that most of the show is dedicated to the characters interacting. Very little happens in the background and the settings of these conversations for the most part have very little to do with the conversations, they’re merely there to provide a setting. The IT Crowd was a work placed comedy, so the location of each scene set the expectations for the situation. The BBT‘s best example of a developed character is easily Sheldon, who in the course of the series has developed deeper relationships, shown personal growth and the ability to empathize (even though it’s sometimes suggested empathy from Amy).
Ultimately, each show has it’s values that make it loved by dedicated audiences. I am a big fan of both, but just because the shows have nerds as their central protagonists doesn’t mean they are in fact that similar.