NOTE: Spoilers from throughout the tenth season of, “The Big Bang Theory” are present in this review
The Big Bang Theory has done a fairly solid job of defying its age over the past few seasons. This long-running sitcom remains the most watched sitcom in all of television for now, followed by ABC’s Modern Family in a fairly distanced second place, though despite most of the audience staying faithful, reception to the show has shifted considerably since its first few seasons. That became more evident than ever during Season Ten, a season that not only saw the show bleeding a chunk of viewers (even if it still remains the #1 most watched sitcom on TV for now), but also saw especially harsh feedback from critics.
A lot of this comes down to a simple reality that The Big Bang Theory no longer seems to be able to effectively defy by the end of its landmark tenth season; This show is getting old. The Big Bang Theory is starting to feel especially tired by the end of Season Ten, with its age now more evidently starting to show, between so many recycled storylines, unfunny jokes, forced conflicts and disappointing resolutions. The fact that CBS has renewed the show for two more seasons, on top of green-lighting a spin-off series for next season, Young Sheldon, isn’t really exciting as much as it is eye-rolling. It’s pretty obvious that the network is only keeping this sitcom on the air because of its massive audience at this point.
Now, to be fair, The Big Bang Theory isn’t on the truly ludicrous degree of life support that Chuck Lorre’s previous biggest sitcom on CBS and television overall, Two and a Half Men was by its own tenth season. The Big Bang Theory is at least still holding on to all of its lead cast, and hasn’t lost the plot to the point of its entire premise changing in its later years, making it at least more tolerable than the awful final seasons of Two and a Half Men. This doesn’t change the fact that Season Ten of The Big Bang Theory didn’t really feel like it made effective use of almost any of its story developments though. The show at least offered some new ideas with its major recurring story arcs, but the smaller details of how this show proceeds forward now seem to be on autopilot, with the creative and comedic spark that The Big Bang Theory once did so well seemingly being entirely gone now.
Let’s start with what Season Ten did right, because it didn’t fumble the ball on everything. There were some sweet story arcs from the Wolowitz family, as they gave birth to a baby girl, Halley, even if the show did ruin this a bit by forcibly giving the infant an unrealistic Mrs. Wolowitz-esque cry that’s more annoying than funny. Sheldon’s and Amy’s relationship also saw some pretty solid forward movement, namely with the two moving in together. This is especially true upon the season ending with the surprise return of Ramona Nowitzsky, who tries to steal Sheldon for herself, ironically motivating Sheldon to finally propose to Amy at the end of the season finale. Sheldon and Amy getting married is one of the final frontiers for The Big Bang Theory to explore, since it feels like Raj’s love life is too much of a lost cause at this point.
Speaking of, that was a major sticking point throughout Season Ten; The fact that the show is still unable to commit to any kind of romantic direction for Raj. Every time he whines about his love life, he practically ruins whatever episode this comes up in single-handedly. The Big Bang Theory doesn’t seem to have the courage to make Raj either a confirmed bachelor or a homosexual, which is a shame, since I think him ending up with Stuart in the end would actually be a funny twist for the eventual end of the series, one that would satisfy both characters’ romantic longings, while also justifying Stuart sticking around as long as he has. Alas, we got more throwaway love interests for Raj, and he’s still going nowhere with his love life by the end of the season. As I said in more than one review from Season Ten, it’s just too difficult to care about Raj’s love life at this point, a decade on.
The development of the guys building a gyroscope for the military had some funny moments, especially with Dean Norris playing a great guest role as Colonel Williams, but the haste with which this storyline was wrapped up was disappointing, as the guys’ work just literally vanishes one day. The series still had some notably awesome guest stars in Season Ten, namely Katey Sagal and Jack McBrayer as Penny’s newly-introduced mother and brother, respectively, Christopher Lloyd as an unwanted house guest at Leonard’s and Penny’s apartment, and the previously-mentioned Riki Lindhome as the returning Ramona Nowitzsky. Even the guest stars however feel too routine at this point. Many of them were solid, but even they can’t manage to elevate so much middling sitcom material.
That’s really the biggest problem with The Big Bang Theory by the end of Season Ten; The loss of the show’s creative spark has it feeling much more homogenized and milquetoast now. The show is more aggressively starting to develop that recognizable ‘CBS Syndrome’ in its later years, where it’s feeling almost identical to practically every other sitcom on CBS at this point (the same is true of the network’s many procedurals when they air long enough), in a quest to be as bland and inoffensive as possible, with only small exceptions like Life in Pieces currently defying the network’s boilerplate comedy standard. Who knows how long Life in Pieces and other such more creative CBS sitcoms will feel as distinct as they are too, assuming they aren’t cancelled before they can stagnate.
If you’re among the people who have since parted ways with The Big Bang Theory, then Season Ten isn’t going to coax you back. The show is doing enough to get by with its more devout audience, which isn’t exactly small, like I said, but one has to wonder what tricks the series has left for the two upcoming seasons that it was recently renewed for. Season Ten managed some good episodes here and there, but most of them ranged from passable to sub-par. It’s tough to imagine the series recovering much of its momentum at this point too, since it’s just old and tired, and perpetuated more by CBS’ profit margins than any true creative inspiration. The Big Bang Theory may still be better than Two and a Half Men, but that’s not exactly lofty praise at this point, especially when it’s no longer accomplishing much else.
- Howard and Bernadette starting to raise a baby together
- Good guest stars and supporting players, as usual
- Some good Sheldon/Amy developments, especially the surprise proposal
- Storytelling too frequently feels recycled, tired and unfunny
- Raj's love life feels like a real lost cause at this point
- Too many forced conflicts that are quickly abandoned