Plot: Before he was an elite level theoretical physicist and world class eccentric, Sheldon Cooper was an elite level nine year old in high school, though some of his eccentricities had already taken root. His intelligence and straight forward persona would make him stand out anywhere, but in rural Texas, Sheldon might as well as be from another planet, but he soldiers on in pursuit of knowledge. While he navigates the trials of high school, he also has to navigate the trials of his home life, with his religious mother, oafish father, sadistic twin sister, and simpleton brother, though he finds solace in his grandmother, who he calls his Meemaw. Even at home his unique quirks cause a lot of problems, but at school things are much harder for him, especially as he struggles to grasp the importance of social skills. But he manages to make a couple friends, discover some lifelong interests, and even make his first breakthrough in the science field, all while dreaming of a computer from Radio Shack.
Entertainment Value: A prequel to the insanely popular The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon takes us back to the childhood of Sheldon Cooper, the driving force behind the main show’s success. While this show does feature some of Sheldon’s signature quirks and Jim Parsons’ narration, it feels more like a traditional family sitcom rather than a dedicated prequel. This is mostly out of necessity, as Sheldon’s character as we know him would simply shut down in this environment, so he is written more open minded and bold, to allow for more sitcom style scenarios. So if you need a slavish, accurate to the minutia take on Sheldon, this show doesn’t have that, but it does capture the essence of what makes him Sheldon. I think fans of the main show will also appreciate seeing some of Sheldon’s stories brought to life, as it kicks in some fan service and adds some context to his childhood memories. But again, this isn’t a constant stream of references and the show explores a lot of traditional sitcom narratives, so the callbacks are more of a bonus than a main focus. Even so, fans of The Big Bang Theory will appreciate those scenes and sitcom fans will appreciate the broad approach taken.
The cast of Young Sheldon is quite solid for this kind of sitcom, with some great talent in place to support the younger performers. Iain Armitage is likable as the child Sheldon, but plays it more like a broad take on a quirky kid, rather than an impression of Jim Parsons. If you didn’t know it was based on the main show, you likely wouldn’t even suspect it was the same character, but as I talked before, this is needed to give the show a wider appeal and access to more narratives. Zoe Perry manages to steal the show in most of the episodes, nailing a young version of her mother, who also plays Sheldon’s mother on the main show as well. Perry is able to convey that connection through some mannerisms and vocal cadences, but it never feels like an imitation, just a naturally similar presence that works well. The role also has a lot of what you want in a sitcom mom in general, which helps a lot here. A parade of guest stars helps to spice things up, such as Wallace Shawn, Richard Kind, Ray Liotta, and Elon Musk, while Jim Parsons provides narration over the episodes. The main cast also includes Lance Barber, Sarah Baker, Billy Gardell, Melissa Peterman, and Annie Potts.
The Disc: This first season was released on Blu-ray by Warner Archive in a two disc set, with a knockout visual presentation that boasts a remarkable bitrate, not to mention a clean, super detailed image throughout the episodes. The bright, colorful visual design shines through here and the show really benefits from the HD treatment, so fans will see a marked improvement over the DVD edition. As for extras, we have two promotional behind the scenes featurettes.