The CBS comedy may be the least polarizing show on TV
It may not be your favorite show. And you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who claims it's the greatest show of all time.
But as CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" airs its 100th episode tonight, you're probably just as unlikely to hear anyone express a hefty dose of disdain for the series about two geeky, videogame and pop culture-obsessed roommates, their comely neighbor across the hall, and the many, many geeks who populate their world.
Fellow CBS hit "Two and a Half Men" draws derision for lowbrow jokes even as it dominates in the ratings. On the flip side, AMC's "Breaking Bad" draws a relatively small number of viewers — many of who proclaim it to be the greatest show ever.
"Big Bang," co-created by "Men" co-creator Chuck Lorre, earns high ratings while offending almost no one. Popular in syndication as well as on CBS, it earns plenty of affection for its characters — without anyone getting too obsessed with them.
The sitcom's Q Score — which measures a show or star's familiarity and appeal — is the fourth-highest among all primetime comedies and dramas.
Part of its charm is offering jokes about work, romance, sex and geekdom, without falling back on stereotypes.
Head geek Sheldon Cooper (two-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons) thinks more highly of himself than anyone else, which makes him more or less immune to becoming the butt of everyone else's jokes, as the geek character would be on almost every other show.
Parsons' Q Score puts him second on the list of the most popular male primetime stars, just behind "NCIS" star Mark Harmon. The other male "Big Bang" cast members — Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar — are "well above average" with their Q Scores, while the show's female lead, Kaley Cuoco, has a score that makes her one of the 10 most popular females in primetime.
The Q Scores Company says the show is also the highest-scoring sitcom among males age 13 and up and is the second-highest scoring sitcom among females age 13 and up (just behind "Modern Family").
"(It's) a combination of viewer satisfaction — which is an indication of saying the show is one of my favorites — combined with how frequently (people) view the show in a given month, and (a measure of viewers') commitment to watching the show into the future," says Q Scores Company executive vice president Henry Schafer.
CBS has given the show time to reach that level of likability. Its ratings have risen over five seasons, even after CBS made the risky decision last season to move it from its original Monday night timeslot to Thursdays — where it sometimes competes with "American Idol," television's most popular show.
"Big Bang Theory" averaged a little more than eight million viewers for its first season, and now averages 14.8 million. The show's most recent new episode, the Jan. 12 installment, drew 16.13 million viewers, the series' highest ratings since season three.
And with tonight's milestone 100th episode focused on the on-again, off-again romance between Golden Globe nominee Galecki's Leonard and Cuoco's Penny, the show's most popular geek love pairing, Nielsen numbers should be high once again.
Meanwhile, in the most recent syndicated ratings, "The Big Bang Theory" is pulling in 10.9 million viewers and is the third-highest series in syndication, just above fellow CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men."