Martin Carr reviews the second episode of Young Sheldon…
At just over twenty minutes the makers of Young Sheldon are vastly underestimating the attention span of their audience. This window into the formative years of a Big Bang alumni is engaging, strangely nostalgic and anchored by an understated performance from Iain Armitage. Ably supported by Zoe Perry and Lance Barber it allows events to develop naturally, using voice over, observational humour and measured delivery.
Key to the primary success of this pint-sized episode two relies upon being concise. You are never asked to digest too much information and in fact are given virtually nothing. In return these showrunners allow us to sit back and observe from a distance as Sheldon negotiates high school. Armitage conveys the adult trapped in a pre-pubescent body with subtlety without falling back on any obvious acting tricks. If anything his role is based around the ability to react off his adult counterparts without being either condescending or annoying.
Being bite sized in length also gives Young Sheldon the advantage of never needing to establish and wrap up a crisis within its run time. Conflict resolution is normally key to any long running show but here the normal protocols are jettisoned because of The Big Bang Theory. Such is the devotion and loyalty of that fan base that people will continue to watch irrespective of any narrative progression.
Beyond Armitage and with the knowledge that eighty-five percent of its audience share comes from Big Bang followers, Young Sheldon has carefully cast each principal player in order to maintain perfect tone. This feels more and more like a homage to The Wonder Years with a substantially geekier version of Kevin Arnold in tow. Historically topical without crossing the line into tasteless territory it garners humour from a continual culture clash. Intellectually superior yet blissfully ignorance Armitage mirrors the childlike qualities of Parsons without resorting to copycatting. His older brother and younger sister might be a touch side lined right now, but you get the impression they will each get their moment to shine. Their introductions and development will be sneaked in under the radar while we are busy looking elsewhere.
One of the greatest tricks done so far is making people believe that this show revolves around Sheldon Cooper. Which is not only missing the point but also short-changing its potential to endlessly entertain. What they are selling here is nostalgia, escapism and optimism in a time when everyone could do with some. Solid character acting done to support rather than grandstand is a special skill brought out through good writing. What they appear to be doing here is laying groundwork with every intention of playing the long game. Mark my words Young Sheldon is looking for longevity and on this evidence it feels likely.