The TV landscape is chock full of comic book shows. However, the most successful one is not on The CW, ABC or Netflix. It’s not even a drama. Yes, the most successful comic book show on television is The Big Bang Theory. The long-running sitcom about a group of geniuses obsessed with comics, sci-fi and video games is extremely popular, and literally always on. The numbers don’t lie, it’s consistently the highest rated and most watched show on TV. Do you think TBS would show the reruns three hours every night if people weren’t watching?
Its panel is also always a fan favorite at comic-con. The truth is Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj have opened up the nerd world to a whole new group of viewers. While these characters are over the top stereotypes, they also represent someone we’ve met in line at a con or screening, while Penny, Amy and Bernadette are the long suffering girlfriends and family members who get dragged into comic book stores, midnight movies and signings. Whether nerds want to admit it or not, The Big Bang Theory is the best comic book show on TV. Before the riots start, take a look at our list of reasons why.
Despite the fact that Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj are obviously over the top characters, there’s a certain level of honesty in how much they love their comics, movies, TV shows and games. On Star Wars day, they have a movie marathon, because that’s what real nerds are doing. Every wednesday they visit the comic book store because it’s new comic book day.
When Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, the guys stressed about whether it would be any good. Just like the rest of us. When a popular show is unexpectedly canceled, Sheldon gets upset about it and spends the rest of the episode complaining. It’s these little touches of authentic nerd life that make the show work between all the ridiculous jokes.
14 REAL WORLD NERD PROBLEMS
There is an episode where the guys get stranded in costume and remember that the whole world doesn’t appreciate their love for Star Trek. They are mocked and made fun of by an entire diner full of people. Throughout the early part of Penny and Leonard’s relationship, he was often reminded that he was no match for the handsome jocks she was used to dating.
Amy frequently makes sad jokes about what a lonely childhood she had because she was so different. It’s in these situations that the series drops the comedy and explains some of the real world problems that fans face. These moments may not seem important to casual viewers, but for a big part of the audience they remind them that someone gets them.
13 ANALYZING COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS AND STORIES
During their frequent trips to the comic book store, the guys can often be heard discussing current comics storylines. Sometimes it’s in passing and sometimes it’s a real analysis. This not only keeps the show fresh and up to date, but it also adds another layer of authenticity to the characters. The show’s opening scenes at the university and transition scenes on the staircase often feature deep discussions about superhero traits and why they take certain actions.
Everyone from Batman to Superman to Aquaman has been discussed and psychoanalyzed. These are usually based on common debates among fans and feel very true to life. This level of deep dive into comic books and their characters is not something found on most network shows and is one of the things that sets Big Bang apart.
12 SUPERHERO T-SHIRTS
T-shirts may not seem like a serious issue on a comedic TV show, but nerds take their shirts seriously. Have you ever seen a nerd pack for a convention and try to figure out which shirts to take? It’s like they’re choosing between their kids. When it’s time for a new movie to premiere, opening night attire is a fan’s signal to everyone else how deep their knowledge is. T-shirts are basically nerd armor.
The fact that the show talks about how Sheldon has a schedule for his shirts is hilarious and true. You know some of you reading this have your week planned already. There’s also the factor that once a new shirt appears on the show, it becomes an instant best seller. It’s just another real aspect of the series that makes it so endearing.
Perhaps the only thing more important to fans than the actual comics are the collectibles that go along with their favorites. From expensive statues to small household items, every piece owned describes what kind of fan someone is. On the show, various pieces, like a limited edition Iron Man helmet, classic Spock toys and Jon Snow’s Game of Thrones sword have featured prominently in episodes. Even the ones that just sit in the background of the apartment have become an important part of the series, as they are part of the characters’ background stories.
A flashback to Leonard and Sheldon’s early days as roommates showed a nearly empty apartment. Now, it’s bursting at the seams with stuff. This shows that over time, they have added to their collections in both value and size. A natural progression for any grown up nerd.
Like everything else in his life, Sheldon takes his cosplay seriously and as usual the rest of the guys are forced to follow along. Everything must be perfect and authentic down to the last detail. This is obvious when every year’s Halloween episode rolls around. For example, when Amy wants him to wear a couples costume he can’t be anything other than a sci-fi or comic book character. When Penny accompanies them to a New Year’s party at the comic book store, she must wear Wonder Woman’s black wig, no excuses.
Maybe, the best explanation of how important cosplay is to the fan community, when questioned about having two Star Trek uniforms, Leonard responds that he didn’t wear them for Halloween because they’re uniforms not costumes. This pretty much says it all. For fans, they aren’t in costume, they’re becoming their favorite character.
9 NERD CAMARADERIE
They call each other names and drive one another crazy, but at the end of the day Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj are the best of friends and wouldn’t be the same with anyone else in the foursome. When Howard’s mother died, the gang helped him through it and showed up to honor her without hesitation. When the comic book store burned down, they rallied to help Stuart reopen and get new business. There’s a level of understanding that they can’t find anywhere else.
This is the epitome of what it’s like for nerds. We may fight amongst ourselves about Marvel vs DC or Star Wars vs Star Trek, but no one else can come in and attack our friends. The way the group looks after each other is one of the best elements of the series.
8 CELEBRITY GUESTS
In addition to notable appearances from scientists like Stephen Hawking, Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, anyone who’s found fame with sci-fi or comic book fans has guest starred on the show. Star Wars’ James Earl Jones did a hilarious guest stint as an overblown, party boy version of himself. His episode also featured a fun Carrie Fisher cameo, and even the late, great Leonard Nimoy lent his voice to a Spock themed episode.
Viewers have also been treated to cameos from Nathan Fillion, Katee Sackhoff, Summer Glau and Adam West. It’s not just the fact that the show can get these stars to play up their famous roles, it’s that the characters genuinely love and appreciate seeing them the way real life fans do.
7 COMIC BOOK STORE CULTURE
So much of The Big Bang Theory revolves around their time at the comic book store, just like in real life. They go every Wednesday because it’s new comic book day. They show up for card tournaments and parties. There was a Stan Lee signing. They even helped Stuart reopen after it burned down. It’s almost another character on the show.
Yes, Stuart and the other patrons are over exaggerated caricatures, but we’ve seen a Captain Sweatpants at our local shop. That’s not the point though. The idea that they even made the store a central location that appears in alot of episodes goes a long toward showing that the writers and producers understand how important the comic book shop is to fans.
6 POP CULTURE ENTHUSIASM
One of the things that keeps viewers invested in the show, is how it keeps up with the real world. When a new movie or game comes out, the guys are just as excited as real life fans. When casting news or movie announcements hit the internet, there they are having endless debates about how Ben Affleck will do as Batman. The opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was just as emotional for the TV friends as it was in real life.
Knowing how important they are to their viewers, the show also honors the losses of legends. The episode celebrating the impact of Leonard Nimoy was a nice tribute that encompassed what viewers were feeling. The main characters enthusiasm for their favorites, mirrors that of viewers and creates a bond that draws audiences deeper into the world the show has created.
5 FANDOM LOYALTY
No trait defines nerds more than their loyalty. Once they like an actor or show they will support them forever. The show captures this in its portrayal of the guys sincere and undying loyalty to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Game of Thrones. They quote the franchises, dress like their favorite characters and use lessons from the the movies and series in their ridiculous sitcom situations.
In life imitating art, fans of the show have also begun to have the same level of loyalty to the stars, so it seems it’s all part of the circle of life. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s just another level of connection between the show and the viewers it is portraying and celebrating.
4 UNAPOLOGETIC LOVE OF COMICS
Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj are nerds and they don’t apologize for it. Not only do they not apologize, they celebrate it -- it’s who they are. It’s the knowledge of history, comic-con references and enthusiastic fandom all rolled into one. This is one of the most important aspects of the show. It may have taken them awhile to get there, but the foursome knows who they are and accepts it. Frankly, they revel in it.
They understand the value of rare and special issues. They take care of their collections and keep them protected. They take their comics seriously and treat the characters like real people that they know, because they’ve followed all the events of their lives. Sound familiar. Yeah, they really are all of us.
3 COMIC CON REFERENCES
The first few seasons the guys would talk about going to comic con all the time. There were constant references to wild events that had happened at the con. Like any serious fan, it takes up a significant portion of their life. The last few seasons, as comic con tickets have become more like hitting the lottery, they don’t always get in. It would be very weird if they just automatically got tickets every year.
Sheldon got to hang out with party animal James Earl Jones in an attempt to start his own con. So now the story has shifted from what happens when they get there to how are they going to get tickets. It’s a true story and often leads to crazy shenanigans.
2 COMIC BOOK HISTORY
On The Big Bang Theory big events are often marked and celebrated with comic books. When Howard and Bernadette got married, he gave the guys Fantastic Four Annual #3, the book where Reed and Sue get married, as a groomsman gift. When a bet is made, the guys don’t wager money, they bet Howard’s Fantastic Four #48, first appearance of the Silver Surfer vs Sheldon’s The Flash #123, "The Flash of Two Worlds" issue.
When Sheldon lost the bet to Howard he had to get his losing issue from his safety deposit box. Not only do these characters know their comics history, they drop it into dialogue so fans know which issues to look up later. The series is like a nice reference guide at times.
1 ACCEPTANCE AND UNDERSTANDING OF NERDS
Sure comic book movies and TV shows are all the rage now, but most nerds remember a time not so long ago when everyone thought it was weird to collect comics and dress as your favorite characters. More than any Marvel movie, The Big Bang Theory has made the life of nerds mainstream.
Now everyone has a geeky group of friends. They understand why these movies, shows and books are so important. They can’t say they don’t get it because Sheldon and Leonard are on their TV every night explaining it to them. There are rumors the show may end next year with its 12th season. If that’s true, the series’ lasting legacy may be that it has helped a few young nerds feel more accepted and less like outsiders. That alone makes it the best comic book show on TV.