Sheldon Cooper Makes The Big Bang Theory Genius

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It may have taken Sheldon Cooper until series two to utter his first bazinga (signifying that someone had fallen for one of his “classic pranks”), but we’ve known since the beginning that this spindly geek was a comedy whizz as well as an academic one. Sheldon, played by 37-year-old Texan Jim Parsons, is one of four of loveable nerds who inhabit The Big Bang Theory, currently America’s smartest, funniest sitcom. Over here, series four airs on Thursdays at 9pm on E4.

The usual BBT themes are present and correct: Leonard (Johnny Galecki) continues to moon over his failed relationship with Penny, Howard (Simon Helberg) tries to get a girl--any girl--to sleep with him while Raj (Kunal Nayyar) swigs booze to switch off his fear of talking to women. But as ever, it’s Sheldon’s literal logic and acute neurosis that trigger the giant laughs. His quirks and routines are like catchphrases: he has his sacred spot on the sofa, he knocks three times when he wants to enter a room, while also repeating the name of the person he’s there to visit three times, and he’ll only eat certain meals on certain days. While Sheldon’s hang-ups and idiosyncrasies provide an amusing baseline, it’s his note-perfect comebacks and Parsons’ full-body responses that mark him out as a genius.

Evolving a character with rigid boundaries is tricky and it’s tempting to keep them in cartoonish suspended animation, but with Sheldon the writers clearly felt his could handle some light tweaking. So they’ve given him a significant other, of sorts. Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik, Blossom) is girl Sheldon, sharing his aversion to everything normal humans relish--from conversation to copulation. “Before we proceed,” she warns when they first meet in series three after Howard and Raj secretly sign Sheldon up for Internet dating, “I must warn you that all physical contact, up to and including coitus, is off the table.” With that, Sheldon is smitten and they start texting like bunnies--and even manage a date.

Every part of Sheldon Cooper has been lovingly sculpted into a complicated whole, making him so much more than a collection of geek clichés. He’s a seven-year-old in an award-winning physicist's shell. He fantasies about comic books rather than girls but also covets a Nobel Prize. If there was a category for comic geniuses he’d be a shoo-in.

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