Kids love desserts. But when they ask for ice cream, a parent usually gives them string cheese instead. (Cut me some slack, I don’t have kids.)
Audiences love wacky sidekicks. Kramer. Erkel. Phoebe. Like the proverbial “Cowbell,” viewers want “more sidekick.” A good showrunner knows not to give the audience what they want. They give them what they need.
It’s not easy. When a new show is on the bubble, pleasing the fans you have is a powerful drug. It’s the quick fix. "Here’s some more ice cream, now please stop crying."
But it will lead to cancellation. Case in point, my favorite new comedy, The Big Bang Theory.
“The Big Bang Theory” is a traditional sitcom from the creator of “Two and a Half Men.”
They’ve written a great sidekick, Sheldon. He’s the uber-geek-super-nerd. The ultimate know it all. A cross between Niles Crane and Kramer. A very well written foil. The actor, Jim Parsons, is fantastic.
Everyone wanted more Sheldon. Since the strike, the writers are giving the audience exactly what they’ve asked for. More Sheldon.
But it doesn’t work. Sheldon is great in small doses. When he’s the focus of storylines, the stories become boring.
It’s confusing. The character is still great. The actor is getting better and better. So why are we losing interest in the show?
Because sidekick characters don’t grow, don’t learn, don’t change. We don’t care when they feel pain. We don’t empathize with him. We are not laughing with him, we are laughing at him. Sheldon’s storylines aren’t stories. They’re a string of jokes.
David Spade knew this when he joined the cast of “Just Shoot Me.” Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David waited years before giving Kramer “A” stories. Kohan and Mutchnick waited 4 years before “Will and Grace” became “Jack and Karen.” (And I’d argue that’s when the show lost it’s mojo.)
Note to all Showrunners: Guys, I know everyone is telling you their favorite part of the show is the sidekick. I agree. But don’t give us more Sheldon. My favorite part of dinner is dessert. If you give me a lot less protein and vegetables and a lot more ice cream, I won’t be happy. I’d get sick.
And “sick” gets you cancelled. Don’t do that. I like your show too much.
Who's the most underrated TV sidekick? Hey Now!