Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show was created and written by Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro, who executive produce along with Bill Prady (all of The Big Bang Theory), as well as Jim Parsons and his husband Todd Spiewak. The pilot was directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man).
The Cast & How You Know Them: Iain Armitage (Big Little Lies) stars as Sheldon, along with Zoe Perry (Scandal), Lance Barber (Faking It), Annie Potts (The Fosters), Montana Jordan (The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter), and Raegan Revord (Modern Family) as his family.
The Premise: This prequel to The Big Bang Theory is about 9-year-old Sheldon starting high school in 1980s Texas as he and his family try to deal with each other.
What Works: This sounds like damning with faint praise, but I at least came away from the pilot thinking, “This was made by people who are basically competent at making TV shows,” which is always a reassuring reaction. Sheldon and his family members all seemed like complete, believable characters from the start, which is rare. And while I haven’t seen enough of The Big Bang Theory to say whether this Sheldon plausibly grows into the existing adult Sheldon, I did think he was quite plausible as a precocious, socially oblivious kid. I really liked how the mother fought for her son even when she didn’t really understand him. And there was a moment with the father at the end that made me say “Aw.”
What Doesn’t: I wasn’t expecting to like this, but I found it was different enough from the original that that wasn’t really an issue: instead it was just run-of-the-mill blah. As I said, I’m not a TBBT fan, so while I found Jim Parsons’ voiceover to be annoying and distracting, your mileage may vary. Everyone was so immediately and uniformly hostile to Sheldon (except for his mother) that it seemed like a lazy writing choice — there are so many more interesting things to do if you complicate those dynamics a bit. If nothing else, in any school I’ve seen there would be a few girls who would at least try to take the little kid under their wing; instead of seeing how the other students reacted to Sheldon we cut right to teachers complaining about him.
Our Favorite Line: “That’s enough. No one’s adopted.” “I wish I was.” “That can still be arranged.”
You Might Like This if you like eighties-set family sitcoms like The Goldbergs (or the actual ones from the eighties, I guess). I’m not sure if The Big Bang Theory fans will necessarily like this — aside from the Jim Parsons voiceover, there aren’t many direct connections — but completists will of course want to watch it to learn more about the character.
(Photo courtesy of CBS.)