Young Sheldon Series Premiere Plot Summary:
The Big Bang Theory spin-off/prequel follows 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) as he attends high school in East Texas. Outside of school Sheldon attempts to deal with the world around him while his family attempts to deal with him.
Okay, get your jokes out of the way. Advanced scientific jargon coming out of a 9-year-old’s mouth. Condescending dialogue directed at rural midwestern citizens. Character from hated Emmy-winning primetime series in child form. Hardy har.
Say what you like about The Big Bang Theory. I still think it gets more than its fair share of criticism in the primetime TV world, but the show definitely has its drawbacks. My relationship with the lovable nerds from Apartment 4A has shifted from steadfast loyalty in its infancy (I may or may not have purchased the first four seasons on DVD) to “I’ll watch it if it’s on” in recent years so my feelings on it are pretty measured.
But you would be doing yourself a disservice if you let your Big Bang hate stop you from checking out Young Sheldon. The latest Chuck Lorre sitcom is a departure from the oft criticized multi-camera laugh track setup of Big Bang and Two and a Half Men and Mom in favor of a more natural single camera format. As a result, the jokes land easier and our characters feel more like people rather than puppets put on a stage to make us laugh.
At the center of the series is Big Little Lies’ Iain Armitage in the title role. The 11-year-old already proved himself in HBO’s Emmy-winning miniseries, but switching to comedy Armitage shows us that his talents are real and this is one rising actor to definitely keep an eye on. Fans of Big Bang will immediately recognize Sheldon’s mannerisms and body language, but Armitage brings his own level of sympathy and heart to a character who was so long thought of as incapable of understanding either. It’s an impressive performance, and one almost has to feel alarmed at how much Big Bang he may have had to watch as research for his starring role.
Once Sheldon enters high school, he is dropped into a world he never expected. His immediate reactions to things like students breaking the dress code or a pregnant girl are where the show’s humor is at its weakest, at times being just as awkward as many believed the series would be. But Armitage’s charisma is present and these moments fortunately do not last.
But Young Sheldon is already so much more than merely watching a 9-year-old trounce around set scientifically condescending to various teenagers and adults. What came as a delightful surprise was how strong the family dynamic seems to be in this series. The show is not just about how obnoxious Sheldon could be as a child, but how raising or growing up with a child genius affected the people around him.
On the one hand is his Dad, George (Lance Barber) and older brother, Georgie (Montana Jordan), who reject Sheldon’s eccentricities and for appearance reasons want Sheldon to just be normal. But on the other hand is his mom (played wonderfully by Zoe Perry) doing her best to accommodate her son and make sure he doesn’t feel ostracized or rejected. The relationship between Sheldon and his mom is already one of the series’ strongest attributes and I look forward to seeing it develop, especially as anyone who watches Big Bang knows George Sr. may not be around very much longer.
And then there’s Sheldon’s twin sister who might turn out to be the devil. It’s too early to know for sure.
Tying the whole show together, Jim Parsons narrates some key scenes and gives us some very funny insight into Sheldon’s inner monologue. Hopefully this trend continues as these moments provided some of the strongest comedic beats in the pilot.
The tone and setting of the series does beg the question what direction this will go and how far will it take it? Because this is a prequel, Sheldon unfortunately can’t develop too much lest he be disparate with his older self, and that may end up weighing some of the storytelling down. And because the series’ star is so young, we can’t expect it to lead us to Sheldon’s move to California and his eventual move-in with Leonard, so one has to wonder how far the show’s creators have thought ahead.
Regardless, under the right circumstances Lorre and Steven Molaro have the makings of something inspired, and hopefully we get to see some more of what made this such a strong pilot in the weeks ahead.