When it was first announced that “The Big Bang Theory” would be getting a spin-off focusing on the formative years of Sheldon Lee Cooper (Jim Parsons), fans did not know what to expect. “Young Sheldon” turned out to be a far cry from the series that birthed it, foregoing laugh tracks and geek humor for an unexpectedly heartwarming look at the childhood of a genius kid surrounded by his more “regular” family.
Premiering in 2017 but set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, “Young Sheldon” sees nine-year-old Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) begin to attend high school as part of a special “gifted” program. Unfortunately, while Sheldon is more than capable of keeping up with the curriculum, he is baffled by the behavior of the people around him, from his teachers to his much older classmates to his family members.
Whereas “The Big Bang Theory” emphasized Sheldon’s eccentricity and disdain for human company as a comedic device, “Young Sheldon” takes a much more empathetic approach to the character and his social quirks, much like “Modern Family” does to its own characters. Euan Ferguson compared “Young Sheldon” favorably to its predecessor, writing for The Guardian, “Thankfully shorn of laughter track, it will surprise some with its (relative) delicacy, its long, nice, un-busy single-camera shots, at stark odds with its frenetic parent show.”