Typically, we wouldn’t think of a film that came out in 2007 as being ahead of it’s time, but given events that happened immediately after its release and subsequent seasons, the CBS smash hit sitcom, The Big Bang Theory is one show that can easily be on a list of TV shows to do just that.
In 2007, CBS took on another Chuck Lorre project, which was somewhat capitalizing on the success of his other project at the time, the very funny, yet sometimes controversial, Two & a Half Men. Many people said The Big Bang Theory was too niche to succeed, as it only catered to what some would call “nerd culture,” but in reality, it was so much more.
Great writing, well-timed puns, a standout cast, and a superb lovable, emotionless Sheldon Cooper all combined the keep the show running from 2007 to2019. In a day and age where cancelations are more the norm, The Big Bang Theory was able to ride off into the sunset on its own terms, giving it a proper ending while also leaving room for that door to be reopened. When the show ended, it’s first, and as of now, only spin-off, Young Sheldon, was also airing to help expand the world that TBBT was able to create.
Many factors truly did help make The Big Bang Theory great, and one may not think that a simple sitcom was before its time, especially one that aired in 2007 — but it truly was. Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Balik, Melissa Rauch, and many others from the cast combined to create a world filled with love, laughs, and nerds. These are four ways the show defied expectation and was ahead of its time.
It Brought Pop Culture to the Forefront
The Big Bang Theory aired in 2007. Comparatively, the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man, was released in 2008. Until that time, audiences had, of course, been introduced to some characters from Marvel and D.C.: The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Deadpool, Batman, Superman, Blade, as well as a handful of others.
When the show aired, other, lesser known characters of these comic companies were mentioned and brought into the limelight. Some of their artists were even given their time to shone and had cameos: Iron Man, Captain America, The Transformers, Aquaman, Flash, Neil Gaiman, and, of course, the legendary, late Stan Lee.
All of these were mentioned and discussed in The Big Bang Theory, tuning audiences for a cavalcade of film, led by the MCU, over the next 12 years while the show ran concurrent with these events. The CBS series even did an episode where the gang was standing in line to view The Avengers.
It Brought “Nerd” Archetypes Into the Lead
Typically, characters portrayed as nerds or highly intelligent were characters that were taken advantage of by main characters on a secondary level. The kid that would take the girl out only for them to rendezvous with the bad boy, the kid that would get beat up only to make the jock look cool, the weird kid with the bug collection — all of these stereotypes occurred in past projects to a side character, mostly even one on a tertiary level.
The Big Bang Theory changed that up. All of those instances occurred to characters on the show, but the twist is: the jocks weren’t the focus. Leonard and Sheldon were pants-ed in the first episode. Howard had a bug collection that he labeled in Latin. Raj’s struggle with women took the forefront of his storylines and made him both lovable and kind of creepy. The characters that used to not matter as much now were at the focal point, and they did matter because their struggles with who they were, their hearts, and their stories matched those of a hugely unrepresented portion of society: the normal, every day, mainly lovable nerd.
It Put Science at the Forefront
A little known fact: the science that The Big Bang Theory spent many episodes championing was fiercely fact-checked. Who had heard of String Theory, Occam’s Razor, Dark Matter, and about a million other scientific principles before the show aired? Additionally, the show featured several appearances by well known, and even lesser-known, real-life scientists, many of whom had won the Nobel Prize, but weren’t household names: George Smoot, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Kip Thorne, Frances Arnold, Bill Nye, and several others all made appearances on the show, all to promote science.
Science was at the front of everything the gang did. The only main character who had nothing to do with science, Penny, eventually wound up as a pharmaceutical saleswoman, who helped to sell the medications that science helped to create. Science was the inspiration behind the show, and it worked, turning names that were very niche indeed into household conversation points when friend and co workers discussed the weeks episode at the water cooler.
It Inspired Real Science
While some moments of The Big Bang Theory mainly focussed on concepts that had some scientific merit and weren’t too outlandish, some parts of the show leaped off the screen and truly inspired work in the scientific community. You may think that surely Super Assymetry, the reason that Sheldon and Amy won their Nobel Prize, is one of those concepts that was correct, right? Well, not exactly. A ternary compound called barium zinc gallide was created, and although it has no real scientific outreach or use associated with it, it was tested through high temperatures to see if the compound was conductive or could become conductive. While those tests ultimately failed, the chemical was given a name that will be easily recognizable for fans of the show: BaZnGa.