Martin Carr reviews the thirteenth episode of Young Sheldon…
We are back on familiar ground this week as Molaro and Lorre tap into a Sheldon specific phobia which begins with the common cold. Taking their cue from his lack social skills, abject fear of bacteria and a single-minded sense of self-preservation, Young Sheldon makes illness entertaining. Aided in no small measure by Iain Armitage’s embodiment of our title character.
Sterile environments, Texan heritage and a healthy disregard for authority all work together to make ‘A Sneeze, Detention and Sissy Spacek’ nostalgically light-hearted. There are moments of circumstantial lunacy, teenage exploitation of a situation combined with rites of passage whimsy that make this infinitely watchable. Call backs to Big Bang hit their peak when Perry sings a song which all fans will recognise and every t-shirt manufacturer has cashed in on.
Beyond that this is business as usual in which every adult either copes, is confounded by, or simply resigns themselves to being second guessed by a child genius. Perry, Barber, Potts and company play carefully constructed second fiddle to the flaws, foibles and findings of Armitage in understated mode throughout. For anyone who has watched more than two episodes of Young Sheldon you might think the shine might have worn off. That somewhere around episodes four or five interest levels might have waned and attention spans drifted onto something more appealing. However the fact remains that these twenty minute vignettes are custom-made and concisely designed for commercial consumption.
It remains a fact that attention spans tend to drop off after twenty minutes whereas most television shows clock in around forty. Furthermore people like the illusion of closure meaning that constraints end up truncating storylines which morph into situational segues with minimal narrative progression. Set up can be no more than five minutes, conflict no more than ten before resolution and conclusion tie things off. Try giving each character enough screen time to develop then couple that with a necessity to entertain and your job just got a million times harder.
What audiences, critics and networks as a whole forget about is the real effort that goes into hitting all those marks within a nineteen minute show. In Gotham for example you have twice the time but no fewer problems as your fictional word is larger and therefore your issues are multiplied. With Young Sheldon they have pulled off the trick of convincing audiences that progress has been made when in fact very little happens. By prioritising character over story things somehow seem more fluid and by extension more entertaining. A fact which Channel 4 are doubtless aware of having picked up this show for broadcast in the UK very soon.