Martin Carr reviews the premiere episode of Young Sheldon…
Anyone old enough to remember The Wonder Years will feel a pang of nostalgia having finished the Young Sheldon pilot. Narrated by Jim Parsons this coming of age prequel was always going to live or die on that key casting call and thankfully Iain Armitage gets it spot on. Intellectual without sounding arrogant, blissfully unaware without being condescending and more importantly instantly watchable.
His family from twin sister Missy through to older brother Georgie are also pitch perfect within ten minutes making the whole pilot enjoyable. There are familiar faces from the original Big Bang and enough throwbacks to Sheldon specific quirks to make you smile. However what became apparent very quickly is that this is no laugh out loud comedy. This is an origin story to test the water, hence its truncated running time of twenty minutes and economic set up.
Beyond rounded introductions, his first steps into high school and quick but effective character moments there is little time for anything else. Sheldon’s mother played by Zoe Perry is Laurie Metcalf’s daughter in real life, making that a serendipitous piece of casting. While both Raegan Revord’s Missy and Montana Jordan’s Georgie play off Armitage well adding a believable dimension to things. Written by Big Bang creators Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro it is gently shaped observational humour which takes time to bed in.
Issues of culture clash, age discrimination and intellectual isolation have all been signposted even if they are yet to arrive. This is a carefully crafted situational comedy focused on the age old fish out of water scenario, yet subtlety tinged with educational and paternal poignancy. Of all the things you guessed might be coming these moments truly manage to surprise adding dramatic edge into a series not without its detractors.
However the strength of this show lies squarely with its casting in Iain Armitage. Having studied enough of Parsons in the role he is sure to have picked up mannerisms, body language and attitude aplenty. Being a fan of Big Bang for some time I was convinced they would never find an actor to fill the role. Parsons performance week in week out for eleven years consistently walks a tightrope between ludicrous and borderline arrogant. That he consistently makes Sheldon likeable despite every intellectual flaw dealt him makes the show work. With Armitage they seem to have found someone younger with an equal grasp of what the role requires. This is still early days and only a pilot after all, but on the strength of this opener I would tune in again.