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Is Community better than The Big Bang Theory?

Which is better: 'Community' or 'The Big Bang Theory'? If you answered, 'Community' you're right! So, why does the 'BBT' get all the ratings and 'Community' the cold shoulder?

Katie and I compared the two 8:00 shows on Thursday night: Community and The Big Bang Theory (BBT). As you might guess we’re furious that one show gets the ratings and the other the shelving. Do you agree that The Big Bang Theory sucks?

Katie: Just last night, my boyfriend and I were talking about how the character on BBT haven’t really grown as people through the four seasons on the air. On Community, you really feel like these comedic characters are complex characters with real bond while still being very, very funny. One of the best examples is Jeff calling the gang “knuckle heads” in the first 2010 episode … lesser shows would have him go back to his less caring ways, but not Community!

An: I’ll be honest. I never liked BBT when it first came out. People liked it because it was the first sitcom since Friends featuring non-Friends knock-offs. But, I hated the slowly paced dialogue and the blatantly brightly colored clothing.

Of course now I enjoy BBT‘s nerd-geek charm, but it’s still very two-dimensional compared to Community. And, I still find it doubtful that Wallowitz (a guy that lives in a comic book store) didn’t know Wolverine had bone claws to start.

Katie: I really had (and in many ways, still have) a big problem with Penny. Yes, I know there are women like her in the world and there’s room for all sorts of characters, but for a long time she was more or less the only female character on the show. She wasn’t smart, she didn’t have a good job and she wasn’t into quirky nerd stuff … she was just pretty. She was like the booth babe of nerd television (by the way, I actually wrote a post about this very fact back in January and got totally chewed out by fans).

What I like about Community is how they are very good about showing three very different women who are all funny in their own way while still maintaining dignity. They’ve even handled Shirley’s rather conservative religious stance with a careful touch.

An: I don’t think Penny is stupid anymore. She’s changed from the ditzy, stupid, pretty girl in the initial seasons. I like seeing her eat Chinese food and geek out with the guys. However, she hasn’t grown. I’m tired of the failed actress, unhappy with her cheesecake factory waitress job. Honestly, if she really wanted to make it, she’d try out for dinner theatre, student films, or unpaid avant guard projects. It’d be funny watching her audition for renaissance faires, and local comic cons, which would geek the guys out, but also show her dedication to her craft.

The Big Bang Theory is afraid of letting its characters grow. It has a formula which it knows works, which is different from the best 80s sitcoms. The Cosby Show and Family Ties had a formula, but the characters grew. Community grew outside the rebel, cool white guy; the pretty blonde girl destined to date him; and the whiny minority losers formula. The minute Dan Harmon realized a template didn’t work and started treating the characters like people, he started branching out and letting them grow.

I loved seeing Britta and Shirley bond in the car. I love that Abed and Troy have become a one-man unit. I love that Jeff realized that the group’s bond is stronger than him. They can live without him. Can he live without them? I love that Chang changes personalities each seasons but manages to seem realistic and funny.

I always hated the BBT‘s glaring, deliberately bright primary colors geared to attract the audience yet simplistically reflect the characters’ personalities. It’s clever if they’re trying to recreate a comic book feel, but it isn’t if they’re just using bright shiny objects to make it seem “jazzy,” a la most teen sitcoms.

Katie: I think you’re on to something with Penny … it’s less about her being uneducated as it about her not going out and doing more. If anything, it would be cool for her to show the other characters (who all have college degrees at least) that it is possible to do what you love outside of academia. Instead, she’s kind of the butt of the joke when it comes to jobs, and the joke has gotten old.

More than that, I’m furious that we haven’t seen a pop culture nerd girl on the series. All of the smart girls that have been on the show have no sense of nerd culture. Where’s the girl that quotes Princess Leia or plays Portal or geeks out when she sees Summer Glau on a train? We exist and yet on a show that is supposed to be all about nerdy stuff, we are nowhere to be found!

You know, Community started with a pilot full of stereotypes … I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the theme of the pilot was The Breakfast Club, a movie with character defined by social roles. And like you said, Harmon and his writers are smart and brave enough to see where the character led the stories instead of the stories leading the characters. Can you imagine if they hadTroy’s main motivation be football? Or if Britta was still the perfect bland love interest?

An: You’re right, the other girls do lack the geek bone. It doesn’t bother me because we already have four uber-geek characters and the girls balance them. I feel the show broadened since adding the female cast members. However, I could see Amy as a female geek. Either way I liked her quote about wanting to find a comic that used a woman who couldn’t be used as a floatation device.

Hmm, when comparing Community to Big Bang, Community is the superior show because the writing’s smarter and the characters are far more developed. However, BBT is growing, but at a MUCH slower pace. So, why is the show with the least amount of plot development, character growth, variety or experimentation getting all the ratings? What if more people actually watch Community than the BBT, but those people don’t have Nielson boxes? Any final thoughts?

Katie: Looking back, I don’t think BBT is a bad show by any means. In many ways, it does a decent job at showing nerdy people … it’s just sad ladynerds are absent. Community, on the other hand, has a variety of characters that are vivid and dynamic and often very nerdy in their own right. On top of that, the writing is better, the characters have more depth and the show is daring enough to play around with the format. I’ve heard comments about Community not being relatable enough for “normal people,” which is odd considering so many different kinds of people are featured on the show compared to BBT, which just features scientists (including the two minor love interests) and one “normal” woman.

I guess what I’m saying is … if you haven’t watched Community yet, just give it a try. It’s good … really good, and we need the really good shows to stay.


Photo Credit: CBS

25 Responses to “Is Community better than The Big Bang Theory?”

November 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Um, Community is not better. At all.

November 22, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Gotta love the maturity of these tags “the big bang theory is terrible” “the big bang theory sucks” blah blah blah really? And “if you answered Community, you’re right!” by what standards? Your personal opinion? Stop trying to pull your opinion over as fact. And stop hating on another show to make your show look better-I can list a million reasons why I like all of my shows without putting down other ones.

March 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM

They are on at the same time, that is why they are being compared to one another. The writers are having a discussion about which one is better and community is the clear winner. If you can’t see that for reading the article actually watch the show and see for yourself. Think before you complain idiot

November 22, 2011 at 3:21 PM

This is the same crap when people complain about Call of Duty and how it sells millions but everyone on the internet says that it sucks. Someone must like it because of the ratings that its getting, they’re just people who don’t visit or comment on tv blogs. I personally like both.

November 22, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Both of you have valid points to both shows, however, I feel that you forgot about the nerd-girl side character Leslie Winkle (played by former Roseanne cast member Sara Gilbert). Her character was basically a Leonard with boobs; smart and easy to geek out about stuff, but still able to make a smart-ass comment when one is needed.

About the only character that has shown any growth in the series is Amy Farrah Fowler. She started out as Sheldon’s equal; one who could match wits and banter logic with him. As the last season and a half have progressed, I’ve seen a larger influence on her character from Penny and she has gone from being intellectual equal to being more like Raj; needy, hungry for attention, and overly lonely. Having said that, her character didn’t grow as much as regress.

Overall, I enjoy the sharp wit that comes with Community. The jokes are complex, yet simple and can carry over from season to season without becoming stale (like your example of how Chang never seems to have the same personality each season). The characters are extremely complex in many ways; such as last week’s episode that explored the dean’s character more while still developing the main cast members. Community is by far the more superior show in terms of writing, character development, and comedic timing; but BBT has its moments of glory with its believable social awkwardness and one-line zingers.

November 22, 2011 at 3:44 PM

You are so right about Amy. I couldn’t stand the character when she was first introduced and now she’s one of my favorites. Heck, she might just be my favorite of the bunch.

November 22, 2011 at 3:48 PM

I watch both shows and enjoy them, but I will rate “Community” much higher than TBBT simply because I find it to be a more creative show, which is probably one of the reasons it doesn’t get the ratings. It seems people prefer their shows to be more…I don’t know exactly how to phrase it; I guess formulaic and/or clone-ish (hence the immense popularity of procedurals that drag on for decades yet have enormous audiences).

I don’t begrudge anyone’s opinion if they believe TBBT is the superior show because it’s a matter of taste. It has always been the standard that whatever I enjoy on television is almost certainly unpopular with the masses so I’m used to it, although I don’t have to like it.

November 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM

Wow, you guys pissed some people off with this one.

I watch both shows. I like both shows. Community is a far superior show. It just is. It’s gotten to the point that if I don’t watch BBT before Community, I can’t watch it the same day because it’s just so disappointing in comparison. And now, I’ve become hooked on the Vampire Diaries, so Thursday night DVR space is at a premium.

I wish the powers that be would embrace putting Community on Hulu or Netflix or some online medium. I think it would greatly increase its exposure.

November 23, 2011 at 7:36 AM

Umm, Community IS on Hulu. Or are you just talking about seasons one and two?

November 23, 2011 at 2:24 PM

My bad. It’s not on Hulu Plus, which is what I use so I can watch shows on my TV since my laptop doesn’t transfer sound through HDMI for some odd reason.

November 22, 2011 at 5:07 PM

If I had to choose between the two to laugh i’ll choose Community, if I choose which has the most awkward char’s that I like i’d go with TBBT just for Amy around Penny, and Sheldon around people outside of the group

November 22, 2011 at 5:56 PM

An and Katie, while I agree that Community is a better show in terms of writing and creativity, I don’t think it’s at all fair to pit it against TBBT or somehow imply that if you support TBBT that you don’t support Community. Like Tom, I enjoy both shows. I think both have major geek-appeal, even though they are quite different.

As comedies, both shows employ plenty of stereotyping. This is often pointed out as a flaw of TBBT, but Community does it too. The gay dean is portrayed as effeminate, cross-dressing, and sex-obsessed (to the point of harrassing a student, Jeff). The Christian woman is protrayed as ignorant and judgmental. The liberal chick is also portrayed as ignorant and judgmental. The older white male is rich and racist. The black kid is dumb. The Jewish girl is neurotic. The brown kid is a weirdo/nerd. Of course, none of this affects the quality of the show. Stereotypes, aka caricatures, have always been a part of comedy. The characters on Community are quirky and funny and delightful, but they are as cartoonish and 2D as TBBT’s characters. I still love them.

As for character growth, you’ve shortchanged TBBT. Howard was the hapless wannabe womanizer in Season 1 – he’s changed quite a bit since falling in love and getting engaged to Bernadette. Penny has picked up some of the guys’ nerd knowledge; she actually has a couple female friends now; and as for her career, we recently saw her get a part in a commercial. Sheldon has a freaking girlfriend, and he’s adapted to Penny, Bernadette and Penny being in his life – that’s major progress for him. Those are a few examples of character growth. Leonard and Raj have changed a little but not much. Let’s compare that to Community. All of the characters are essentially the same people, but we’ve seen them become more attached to each other. Jeff actually likes the group now, Abed and Troy are friends, Annie has a crush on Jeff, and Pierce has become slightly less offensive. There is some character growth, but not much. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Pierce is still going to be offensive, Troy is still a child, Abed is still Abed, Britta’s still an annoying wannabe hippie, Jeff’s still a self-absorbed metrosexual, Shirley’s still a nice but overbearing Christian, and Annie’s still a neurotic highschool girl.

You specifically mentioned TBBT’s lack of good female characters and said that Community has three unique ladies who are each funny in their own way. I could say that very same thing about Penny, Bernadette, and Amy – they are very different from each other, while each being hilarious in her own way – think of Penny’s wry humor, Bernadette’s voice (which can go from sweet and tiny to growling like Howard’s mom), Amy’s inappropriate bluntness. Penny is not a dumb blonde – when it comes to social interaction, she is way ahead of the other characters. And even if you are offended by Penny, the rest of the female characters on TBBT have all been portrayed as very intelligent – Bernadette, Amy, Priya, and Leslie. I agree that the show does not have a female character who is into comic books and sci-fi like the guys, but episode 7 of this season introduced Alice, who is exactly that kind of girl. From what I read, her character might be recurring.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that TBBT is better than Community, but I’m just pointing out that TBBT does not suffer from stereotyping, lack of character growth, or lack of good female characters – it’s on par with Community in those areas.

What makes Community better is the cleverness of the writing. TBBT has plenty of hilarity, but Community’s dialogue is so slick and witty, its stories so intricate and well thought out, that it leaves your head spinning. That’s pretty much the difference between Community and any other comedy on TV – not just TBBT. I guess what I’m trying to say is, TBBT is not a bad show at all – Community is just really, really brilliantly written. So instead of taking shots at TBBT, which is a good comedy, I would rather see you complaining about the truly CRAP shows out there (I’m looking at you, Whitney).

November 22, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Those were some very insightful observations Ruby, and you make excellent points. However, you have an unfair advantage because after that comment it’s blatantly apparent you’re not watching the show while drunk.

If you can’t get completely sauced like the rest of us I’m taking my remote and going home.

November 22, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Tom, I’ve gone Vulcan. Who needs booze when you’ve got logic?

November 23, 2011 at 1:34 AM

Funny you should say that when I’ve often said just the opposite! Logic is less fun, but it won’t leave you feeling like roadkill in the morning.

November 22, 2011 at 9:25 PM

Ruby, it will take me 5 hours to finish reading your post. Once I finish, I will respond appropriately :)

November 23, 2011 at 1:06 AM

I don’t believe Community stereotypes the same way ‘Glee’ or ‘BBT’ does. Katie and I admit the show started in that staid black housewife and racist old man, etc. stereotype, but it’s grown past that. Whenever it uses those stereotypes it’s deliberately ironic. Like Katie pointed out, Shirley isn’t the one-dimensional Christian from season one anymore that forced everyone to celebrate Christmas. I loved watching her bond with Britta over the racist Christian hippie hitchhiker recently. And, Britta’s no longer the stereotypical, blonde love interest, she’s a twisted, crazy creature that everyone loves to mock.

We admit that BBT grows, but it does it slowly. While the scenarios in BBT might change, their personalities rarely follow. Howard has a girlfriend, but he’s still a creepy stalker. Sheldon has a girl who’s no longer just a friend, but he’s still anal retentive. In BBT, it’s always the same old same old with the same apartment/lab and the same character traits acting out week after week. Like we said, Community changes that formula. You DON’T know how Troy will act or what new pairings will spring up.

We’re not taking shots at BBT so much as noticing it just isn’t as good. And, that’s the point. It’s a questions of why certain shows get ratings. Community’s characters have developed AND it’s cleverly written. Although I like BBT’s geek humour, it’s a show I can just watch without thinking. But, that’s the point. I don’t just want to watch TV without thinking anymore, which is why I love Community.

I just wish more shows didn’t fear challenging its viewers. The more TV producers realize they don’t have to stick to one cookie cutter template, the more exciting TV becomes.

November 23, 2011 at 9:55 AM

So you weren’t taking shots at TBBT when you wrote, “Do you agree that The Big Bang Theory sucks?” ;-) Hey, it’s okay if you feel that way. My problem is just that your post seems to imply that we have to make a choice between TBBT and Community, as if TBBT is responsible for Community’s ratings. You wrote at the end, “…we need the really good shows to stay.” I agree – and TBBT is one of the good shows that I want to stay, in addition to Community. Why force a choice between a good show and a really good show? We should be trying to get rid of the really bad and mediocre shows, so that the good and really good shows can stay on the air, no?

November 23, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Aside from the fact that I enjoy TBBT a hundred times more, I agree with you. *nod*

November 22, 2011 at 6:26 PM

TBBT is really formulaic and a lot of its humor comes from just adding references. Oh look! He just said “Klingon!”, or he just said,”Cthulu” or something like that.

Community, on the other hand, defies formulas. Each story works on two levels: 1) what the characters are actually doing on a mundane plot level; and 2) the archetypal references in cinema/tv that it’s playing on, whether that’s claymation specials, zombie movies, or my dinner with andre.

the writing to pull off something like that is outstanding. add in the fact that the characters change and grow, that it’s an amazing ensemble of actors, and it’s always shot well visually (for what it is), and the show is one of the best on tv.

that can’t be said of TBBT.

November 23, 2011 at 4:42 AM

I find that amuzing and flattering for Summer Glau that seing “Summer on a train” (reference to Summer’s guest spot in TBBT) is the ultimate geek reference; especially if you consider that these shows are full of pop culture references but the columnist choosed that one to illustrate their comment.

It’s (almost) like Summer Glau, having played River Tam and Cameron, is on a par with Princess Leia in the geeks mind.

November 23, 2011 at 5:14 AM

BBT is fun. It’s a good lot of nerdy 2D fun. Which is good to watch. My only quip is thw writing seems to have slacked off lately. Communit, though. :D

November 23, 2011 at 5:30 AM

Have loved TBBT since the pilot. Community was appealing in the beginning, but lost me somewhere in season 2. Can’t comment on which is better/smarter/funnier due to insufficient data points. I do agree with some above that this post does seem overly confrontational, though I suppose it’s understandable that Community‘s online fans have increased their postings greatly ever since NBC’s midseason schedule omitted the show.

November 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

I also got turned off by Community in season two. The Zombie episode? Complete turn off. I just can’t watch that kind of stuff in a realistic setting. Now, it’s all a matter of taste, but TBBT appeals to mine a heck of a lot more.

November 23, 2011 at 8:04 AM

I love both shows, and have hated that they air at the same time ever since The Big Bang Theory moved to Thursdays. I tend to watch TBBT live since I enjoy watching shows on Hulu more than on And, since I don’t have a Nielson box, at least Community gets a trackable viewing that way (even if it doesn’t seem online viewing is doing much yet).

I agree that Community is more intelligent and wittier, while TBBT suffers from bland gags and an annoying laugh track, but stack a season of each against each other, and TBBT makes me laugh more. I think it’s because it’s more accessible. Many aspects of Community episodes require you to be “in the know” about the pop culture references to really appreciate them. (For example, “Critical Film Studies” didn’t seem very funny to me since I’ve never seen Pulp Fiction or My Dinner with Andre.) TBBT presents its geeky references in such a way that even non-geeks or newbie geeks get the humor.

Two other reasons why TBBT is killing Community in ratings: TBBT has had two more seasons to build an audience, and CBS does better cross-promotion. I’ve seen dozens of promotions during other CBS shows for TBBT, but the only ads for Community I remember coming across on NBC for Community are the quick ones that combine 4 Thursday night comedies (usually for Halloween episodes and the like).

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