There’s a saying which made its rounds in geekdom recently – “Real nerds watch Community”. Now I take issue with the idea of “real nerds” but the sentiment still stands. Whereas The Big Bang Theory sees nerd culture as an object of ridicule, Community celebrates it. Community’s laughing with you whereas Big Bang is giving you a wedgie and laughing at you. When TBBT makes a pop culture reference it uses it as a punchline, it names a show like Firefly and asks you to laugh at it. When Community makes a pop culture reference it commits. Community makes a whole episode based on a trope or a genre, it doesn’t just use paintball as a plot device it takes paintball seriously and bases two season finales around epic battles of paint. Community doesn’t laugh at the idea of playing D&D it bases an episode on it. Parallels can be drawn between the characters of Sheldon in Big Bang and Abed in Community. Abed too has trouble reading sarcasm and emotion, he has obsessions with routine and structure as well and disruptions in routine cause him considerable distress. Abed sees everything in terms of television and film tropes. This is how he understands the world around him and how he figures out how best to react. Unlike Sheldon, it is often confirmed that Abed does have mental difficulties, most likely Asperger’s Syndrome. But, crucially, the main difference between Sheldon and Abed is that Abed is treated as a hero. In the pilot episode Jeff Winger, arguably the most conventionally “cool” member of the group says this: “Abed is a shaman. You ask for bread and Abed gives you soup because soup is better. Abed is better”. In one episode Abed is literally treated as a god. Yes, his neuroses do at times inconvenience the rest of the group but his belief that they see him as a nuisance is dismissed as his own insecurity rather than the truth. Community positions us, its audience, as Abed. It knows that we are knowledgeable about the things we love, it knows that we understand tropes and genre conventions, it gives us the benefit of the doubt and treats us as intelligent human beings who will not only understand the meta pop culture references, but will find them funny and love the show for it. Community tells us it’s cool to be a nerd. If Abed is better then we are better. Community is a warm hug of acceptance whereas The Big Bang Theory is a pantsing and a punch in the face.
Could not agree more with this opinion piece. It pretty much sums up exactly why I don’t care for TBBT and why I gravitate towards Community.