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There are few network comedies that have been quite as successful as The Big Bang Theory. The CBS sitcom is currently gearing up to its whopping 11th season, and the millions of weekly fans remain just as enthralled as day one. So it's almost strange that it took the network this long to provide a companion series, but this fall brings the premiere of Big Bang prequel Young Sheldon. The budding series follows Jim Parsons' Sheldon Cooper as a nine year old boy in Texas, and the first glimpse into the series show features its fair share of laughs, and plenty of heart.
Young Sheldon is yet another sitcom creation created by Chuck Lorre, with help from Big Bang Theory producer and writer Steven Molaro. The series follows a young Sheldon (Big Little Lies standout Iain Armitage) and his immediate family in East Texas. This includes his kind and patient mother Mary (Zoe Perry, Laurie Metcalf in Big Bang), football coach father (Lance Barber), older brother and twin sister. The pilot picks up on the first day of High School for Sheldon and his older brother George Jr. (Montana Jordan). Sheldon is the odd one in his family, and can't seem connect with George or his twin sister Missy. And when the brilliant but socially unaware kid starts accidentally insulting the staff at school, hilarity ensues.
Young Sheldon is taking a different creative and cinematic approach than its predecessor. While still a comedy, the series is shot much more like a typical TV series than a multi-camera sitcom like Big Bang Theory or Will and Grace. Additionally, there's no laugh track, allowing for moments of silence in both comedic and heartfelt beats. This is particularly effective in the show's touching moments, which I'd say is the high point of Young Sheldon.
Because while Sheldon is still hilarious and quippy with both his family and the people he interacts with on a daily basis, his relationship with his parents really tug at your heart strings. It starts with his extremely supportive Mother, who has his best interest at heart and knows how to navigate her son's quirks and challenges. But Sheldon's relationship with his father George isn't quite as warm, and we see him attempt to connect with the boy genius. And by the end of the first episode the two share a tender moment that feels both earned and easily relatable.
The performances by the Cooper family are pretty solid, and don't feel over the top or cartoonish. Obviously the shining star of the series is Sheldon himself, played by the remarkable Iain Armitage. Armitage is perhaps best known for playing the slightly troubled Ziggy Chapman on HBO's Big Little Lies, which won big at this year's Emmy Awards. He was one of the more featured child actors, and it's no wonder that he managed to book another major gig, given his talent. He delivers an affect and stance that is reminiscent of Jim Parson's characterization, without feeling like an all-out impression or caricature. The other half of the series is focused on Zoe Perry's Mary, Sheldon's mother. Perry provides a sweet characterization that manages to have enough edge to keep her interesting.
The rest of the Cooper family could be fleshed out a bit more, which hopefully will occur as the series progresses. Both of Sheldon's siblings give him a hard time are funny enough, but don't have enough distinguishing traits to stand out from each other. Lance Barber's George Cooper has some strong moments, but he could be beefed up a bit too by the writers. If the show is going to focus on this zany family, each member needs to have their own character and plot.
Jim Parsons narrates the episodes, which is a lovely way to keep the core audience delighted each time exposition needs to be delivered. Parsons is also an Executive Producer, and it seems like he's been fairly involved in crafting the new series. Additionally, he's given some advice and coaching to Iain Armitage, which no doubt helped the young actor nail Sheldon's speech pattern and deadpan delivery so easily.
Young Sheldon is a series that you don't necessarily need to be a Big Bang Theory fan for. The show certainly has the odd reference to Professor Proton, but it feels almost nothing like its predecessor. And while new viewers may be less invested in the character Sheldon than the core audience, the story of a slightly dysfunctional but loving family is something we can all get. And with Iain Armitage's performance leading the way, the new show is very user friendly.
Young Sheldon will have a special premiere on CBS on September 25, 2017, although the series won't be running weekly just yet. The series proper will begin on November 2, 2017, as it settles into its Thursday evening slot.
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