If I had to give a one-word review of Young Sheldon I would have to say “disappointing”.
Don’t get me wrong here… It’s a very well-written, well acted, well produced program. It just isn’t what I expected. I am a HUGE fan of “The Big Bang Theory”. I’ve seen every episode some of them multiple times. It is currently my favorite sitcom on TV right now. It probably ranks in my top three or four sitcom favorites of all time alongside such classics as Seinfeld and M*A*S*H. So when I heard they were going to make a spinoff series based on the early life of Dr. Sheldon Cooper I was really excited.
I think my biggest problem with it is I’m not entirely sure it’s a comedy. While it did have a few funny moments there were more parts that could be better described as poignant, sentimental, heartfelt or many other adjectives not necessarily comedic.
The adult Sheldon comes across as eccentric and at times childlike but because he’s an adult your approach is to laugh at him. The other characters put up with his eccentricities with an attitude of “Oh well… that’s Sheldon. You take him as he is flaws and all.” And it’s easy to laugh at him. But in many ways he really is sort of a pathetic character. You take that same pathos and apply it to a preteen child I’m not sure it’s so funny. You end up feeling more pity for him and it’s harder to laugh at him.
Given the tone of the series, I applaud the fact that they are not doing it as a typical three camera sitcom taped in front of a live audience. It’s a single camera edited program with no live audience and no laugh track. That was a good choice. Again especially because I’m not really sure it’s a comedy.
I’ve heard people compare it to shows like “The Wonder Years” but I never saw that program. So I can’t really comment on that. Many have suggested that Sheldon Cooper is an excellent example of someone with Asperger’s syndrome. I think the young Sheldon perhaps confirms that diagnosis. So appropriate comparison among TV families would be Max Braverman in Parenthood. Although that show did have its funny moments spread throughout, you’d have to call it a drama for the most part.
If we take Sheldon’s Asperger’s as a disability, one could draw comparisons to the cerebral palsy character JJ DiMeo in “Speechless”. But that character is not at all deeply flawed in his personality as is Sheldon. You can sympathize and empathize with him and the show is definitely played for laughs even though it does contain some poignant moments. In Speechless you can laugh at the situations that JJ encounters without laughing at him personally. You’re not making fun of him or his limitations. That formula just won’t work with Sheldon.
Zoe Perry does a reasonable job as Sheldon’s mother and her characterization matches well with the portrayal by Laurie Medcalf. I saw one reviewer suggest that the show would be better if she was the focus of the show and they had Medcalf do the voiceover instead of Jim Parsons as the adult Sheldon. I think I might agree with that. His twin sister provides a few comedic moments with her snarky comments. His older brother and father sort of cruise through the show without contributing anything useful to the story.
One of the things that makes the adult Sheldon not be totally pathetic and unlikable is the way that his character has evolved in recent seasons mostly through his relationship with his girlfriend now fiancé Amy Farah Fowler. The problem is we don’t have an opportunity for young Sheldon to grow because we already know what a deeply flawed person he was in the early seasons of Big Bang.
We know that at some point along the way his dad is going to die so that’s going to be a real downer. Annie Potts has been cast as his MeeMaw for future episodes so she may add something interesting to the mix.
I hate to say it but I think the whole concept behind the show is deeply flawed and I’m not sure what can be done to fix it.
For now I’m giving it a very mild rating of “Could be watchable”. I will continue to give it a chance for a few episodes but I’m not very hopeful.