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The Kings of Freeview
on 20 February 2009
If, like me, you don't trust yourself to get Sky because you're scared you'll never leave the house again, so you thought Freeview was a good alternative but now find it really isn't, allow me to introduce one of the few gems you can actually get on Freeview.
Squeezed in between E4s almost incessant diet of, like you know, teen dramas (One Tree Hill, The OC, 90210 and even Reaper on poorer episodes), lurks the fabulous Big Bang Theory.
Describing it as a series of 19 minute (yes, seriously folks - it must be good if the US networks figure they can squash 11 minutes of ads around it and still keep their audience) episodes in the life of two geeky scientists who live opposite a blonde waitress is as inadequate as saying Fawlty Towers was about a cross bloke in a hotel.
Firstly, the character of Dr Sheldon Cooper really is up there amongst the all-time great comic creations. Coupled with his much put-upon flatmate Leonard, they are eerily reminiscent of the great line in master and servant comic double acts from Laurel and Hardy to Steptoe and Son (but with better teeth). I don't know if the creators always intended it this way, but I suspect they suddenly found they had this unbelievably eccentric, idiosyncratic, gauche character with a brain the size of a planet and simply knew they had to wrap the whole series around him. How else can one of the funniest episodes be simply about all the other characters avoiding him because he has a cold?
Then, the four supporting characters are all well realised and much more than just foils for Sheldon, which is where so many character driven comedies fall down. I particularly love Howard, the seven stone jewish Love God and his very shouty (but never seen) mother.
Best of all, though, is the incredibly tight script. For those of us who mourn the passing of the great US TV wordplays - The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, NYPD Blue, Deadwood and even back to the likes of Murder One in the mid 90s - this is a real breath of fresh air. Not a word is wasted, not an inflection missed and occasionally even the line not spoken is very, very funny.
As the box blurb says, this is comedy with affection, where no-one is especially mean to anyone else in the search for funny lines and where you will probably recognise and identify with bits of each of the characters. So, if you're scanning your Free-To-Air TV schedule with dismay that there's no Shameless or Dexter on, ignore the Mock the Week repeats on Dave (how many times can you watch them???), give Big Bang Theory a try and discover another rare Freeview gem.