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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

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‘Young Sheldon’: It’s time to grow up

“Young Sheldon” is perhaps the funniest name for a television show I’ve ever seen, with only “Young Rock” as its competition. This title contains multitudes of levels, yet on the surface there is nothing but truth in it. The main character is named Sheldon, the same Sheldon from the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” and he is, in fact, young. But there is more to “Young Sheldon” than the titular young Sheldon. 

Over the course of “The Big Bang Theory,” we see Sheldon evolve from a cold, distant individual into a loving husband and genuine friend to the rest of the cast. That being said, if “Season One Sheldon” is so rough, how bad is he as a kid? It turns out, it’s hard to write a prequel that can provide depth, character growth and surprising storylines when the audience so clearly knows how the character will turn out in the end. So “Young Sheldon” side-steps that by focusing on everyone else in Sheldon’s life. Sheldon is still undeniably a focal point, but the show is built on his family and the adults in his life more than anything else. At this point, I don’t come back each week to see how Sheldon is doing, but rather to see how his grandma’s illegal gambling ring is operating, or if his rebellious twin sister will actually try to drive cross-country at the age of 14. Both of those are real plotlines in the show. It gets really crazy sometimes.

While I figured the writers would somehow make the prequel go on indefinitely, surpassing the time Sheldon would actually be on “The Big Bang Theory” a la “Better Call Saul,” the show is coming to an end. Season 7 finds Sheldon and his mom in Germany, while his siblings, dad, grandma and nephew all adjust after a natural disaster puts them all under one roof. The show has a lot to wrap up in one season, and that’s not even addressing the fact that the season is shortened due to a later start time because of last year’s Hollywood strikes. As any devoted “Big Bang Theory” fan would tell you, Sheldon has intense, deep-seeded trauma because he caught his father in an act of infidelity. Then, his dad dies that same year. Rough year for a young Sheldon to go through, but fortunately he’s fictional. While I am fully convinced that this plot point was written into “Big Bang Theory” with no expectations that “Young Sheldon” would run long enough to be forced to address it, the original show explicitly states this happened by the time Sheldon is 15 years old. That leaves a problem for “Young Sheldon” and its writers.

My friends and I joke that at this point, the show is more of a family drama than anything. With teen pregnancy, illegal gambling rings, child runaways and a surprisingly delicate take on mental health issues, the show doesn’t shy away from heavy topics. But how are they going to handle all that happens to Sheldon’s father, George? Past seasons have established his flirtation with their next-door neighbor, but firmly established that George is loyal to his family. How can you have a show about this character’s childhood and omit two of the most central events they went through in that time?

What’s the end of “Young Sheldon?” Easy. He stops being young. And while it’s been reported that a spinoff centering on Sheldon’s older brother and his son is being developed, this might be the end of the Sheldon character for a long while. Sheldon is defined by being young, but he’s got to grow up some time. Season 7, the last season, will finally force the writers and Sheldon to lie in the bed “The Big Bang Theory” made for them.