Golden Age of Television, My Ass


Over the past few weeks, television news has consisted primarily of stories about series cancellations or renewals, and pilot pickups or failures. The basis behind all these network decisions—as it is for most decisions in a capitalist society—is whether or not the series will provide a return on investment. Will these shows generate a reliably large audience, which in turn allows networks to sell ad space? If the answer is “yes”—or even “maybe”—the show gets the green light. If the answer is “no,” then it’s bye bye, show!

Those of you who care about television know this. You expect good shows that no one watches to be cancelled. It’s sad but it’s business. You expect bad shows that tens of millions of people watch to be renewed. It’s irritating but it’s business. But you also expect networks to make decisions so baffling that “it’s business” doesn’t cut it. Decisions that suggest CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC are run by actual Boss Babies. Remember Cavemen? Animal Practice? Imaginary Mary? These shows have no reason to exist—and seem doomed for immediate failure—yet they pop up year after year.

Though based on existing (and wildly successful) intellectual property, CBS’s upcoming Young Sheldon appears to be one of the shows in that final category. An origin story about The Big Bang Theory’s most famous character, Young Sheldon stars that one kid who may or may not have bullied Amabella on Big Little Lies as the wholly insufferable science genius back when he was merely a wholly insufferable boy genius in small town East Texas. This sounds bad enough on paper, but trust me—it’s even worse on video.

In the 5-minute trailer, we see the titular young Sheldon condescend to the middle class Texas family he’s considerably smarter than, point out rule-breakers in the 9th grade class he’s just joined, and speak to everyone in that disconcertingly emotionless tone that made The Big Bang Theory impossible for me to ever find entertaining. The confident majority of myself thinks will be canceled after one season. An anxious minority worries it will infect TV screens for years.

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