It takes more than a sprinkle of geek culture to recreate the mix of humor, heart, and science that made BBT a phenomenon.
1. "The IT Crowd" (2006 – 2013)
Now, don't get us wrong, "The IT Crowd" has its fans, and it's got some genuinely funny moments. This British comedy series, created by Graham Linehan, sought to bring tech humor to the forefront, much like "The Big Bang Theory. "
However, the British style of humor and the ultra-niche tech focus made the show less accessible to a broader, US audience. While our favorite Caltech nerds of "The Big Bang Theory" tackled relatable themes with a sprinkle of science, the "IT Crowd" often isolated viewers with deep-dive tech banter.
Still, "The IT Crowd" gave us immortal "Have you tried turning it off and on again," and for that, we'll always be grateful.
2. "Scorpion" (2014 – 2018)
"Scorpion" wasn't a sitcom, but it was a show about geniuses, much like "The Big Bang Theory." This CBS series, loosely based on the life of self-proclaimed genius Walter O'Brien, followed a team of super-smart misfits solving global crises.
However, instead of the BBT's nuanced and humorous approach to the interplay of genius-level intelligence and daily life, "Scorpion" often leaned too heavily on its dramatic action sequences.
It failed to hit the same notes of comedic timing and relatability, even though its Rotten Tomatoes audience score (79%) suggests some viewers enjoyed the ride after all.
3. "Beauty and the Geek" (2005 – 2008, 2014)
What do you get when you blend a reality show with the premise of "The Big Bang Theory"? You get "Beauty and the Geek," however strange that sounds.
The show featured pairs of 'beauties' and 'geeks' who competed for a cash prize. The intention might have been to emulate BBT's charming dynamic between Penny and the guys, but in reality, the forced coupling of strangers turned this into a cringe-worthy endeavor.
Instead of highlighting the harmonious co-existence of different personalities, the show often reinforced rather painful stereotypes, failing to deliver the humor that "The Big Bang Theory" mastered.
4. "The Neighbors" (2012 – 2014)
"The Neighbors" was a sitcom about a family that moves into a neighborhood populated by aliens disguised as humans. Sound fun, right? And much like "The Big Bang Theory," the show tried to find comedy in the clash of different cultures.
Unfortunately, unlike BBT, which grounded its humor in relatable, every day social situations, "The Neighbors" veered way into absurdism. Its humor often fell flat, and the series was canceled after two seasons to no one's surprise, despite featuring a guest appearance from none other than George Takei himself.
5. "Silicon Valley" (2014 – 2019)
"Silicon Valley" tried to take the tech humor of "The Big Bang Theory" and add more of a satirical spin, setting it in the world's tech capital.
While it did find critical success, its viewership never reached the heights of BBT. The show did well with critics, boasting a high Rotten Tomatoes rating (92%), but it seemed to struggle with broad appeal.
Despite its witty writing and amusing plotlines, "Silicon Valley" never quite managed to replicate the 'everyone's welcome' feeling that "The Big Bang Theory" had.
6. "The Big Brain Theory" (2013)
Reality TV has a way of trying to capitalize on every trend, and "The Big Brain Theory" was no exception; basically it was an attempt to bring BBT's geek appeal to the reality competition format. Hosted by Kal Penn, of all people, this series saw contestants face off in engineering challenges.
It aimed to mimic BBT's appeal by blending intellect with humor, but in the end, the spark of charming characters and relatable relationships was sorely missed. A mechanical crane just doesn't quite have the same charm as Sheldon Cooper explaining the Doppler effect.
7. "Intelligence" (2014)
CBS's "Intelligence" took a shot at blending the brainy charm of "The Big Bang Theory" with a dash of action drama.
The plot revolves around Gabriel, a high-tech intelligence operative enhanced with a super-computer microchip in his brain. Although "Intelligence" explores the 'super-genius' trope, it missed the warmth and humor that BBT brought to the table.
Ultimately, the series' blend of action and intelligence lacked the heart of BBT, leading to its cancellation after just one season. Today it seems nobody even remembers "Intelligence" actually existed.
8. "Pure Genius" (2016-2017)
Yet another attempt to pair up intellectual prowess with drama, "Pure Genius" followed a tech titan and a surgeon who team up to build a hospital that merges cutting-edge technology with a new way of practicing medicine.
The attempt to create a BBT-like genius character in the form of James Bell, the tech billionaire, could not save the show from a critical bashing, leading to its cancellation after the first season.
9. "APB" (2016-2017)
"APB" was another series where a tech billionaire, in this case, Gideon Reeves, tries to save the day, this time by essentially privatizing a police precinct. The series tried to capitalize on the nerd culture glorified by "The Big Bang Theory" and push it into the action-drama sphere.
However, without the comedic warmth and relatability of BBT, "APB" couldn't keep its head above the ratings water, leading to its cancellation after just one season, just like "Pure Genius".
10. "Chuck" (2007 – 2012)
"Chuck" revolves around the life of an average computer-whiz-next-door who receives an encoded e-mail from an old college friend now working in the CIA; the message embeds the only remaining copy of the world's greatest spy secrets into Chuck's brain.
Although "Chuck" has a dedicated fanbase and a unique charm, it never quite reached the widespread appeal of BBT. Be honest: did you even hear about it?
Despite the similar theme of 'nerdy guy becomes unexpected hero,' the lack of a relatable ensemble and everyday humor found in BBT left "Chuck" as a different breed of show.