Summary Young Sheldon has diverged from its original premise and now focuses on the entire Cooper family, exploring their individual storylines. The show no longer relies on fish-out-of-water jokes as it portrays all the Coopers as being unique and ill-suited to their small Texas town. The spinoff's decision to focus on the family's bond and support for each other has created a warm tone and improved the overall series.
While the Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon might be very successful, there is no denying that the sitcom prequel has diverged wildly from its original premise. Young Sheldon started life as a prequel to The Big Bang Theory, but the show has since expanded its horizons. When Young Sheldon debuted in 2018, it would have been hard to predict just how popular the series would eventually become. While The Big Bang Theory was extremely successful, the potential of a spinoff that only featured the show's main character — and a younger, recast version of him at that — seemed like it could be limited.
However, Young Sheldon went on to surprise commentators by becoming as popular as its predecessor over the years. Now that Young Sheldon season 7 nears, the show is almost as well-loved as The Big Bang Theory and has one of the largest audience shares on network television. This success is due in large part to a canny decision by Young Sheldon's creators. While the show still owes an undeniable creative debt to The Big Bang Theory, the spinoff has branched out to explore other stories and has grown into more than merely the story of Sheldon's childhood.
Like The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon gradually started to focus more and more on Sheldon's close associates as the years passed. Initially, the primary appeal of the series was right there in the title, and season 1 of Young Sheldon offered viewers little more than cute stories wherein Sheldon caused chaos in school and at home thanks to his advanced intelligence. However, as Young Sheldon dropped its original premise, the series' story became stronger. The struggles that Sheldon's mother Mary had with her faith, George Sr.'s attempts to salvage his marriage, and the teenage rebellion of Sheldon's older brother Georgie all became worthwhile plots in their own right.
By Young Sheldon season 6, Georgie was engaged with a baby, Missy was starting a teenage rebellion of her own, and Mary and George Sr.'s relationship had become the central focus of the series. However, the Cooper family muscling Sheldon out of the spotlight wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The singular focus on Sheldon was fun for a few episodes, but as viewers of The Big Bang Theory can attest, the character can get tiresome when he is running the series. Sheldon is an absurd, cartoony figure, so he works best when he has more reasonable co-stars reining in his wacky misadventures with more grounded stories.
The main premise of the series was that Sheldon was a fish out of water in his small Texas hometown, and he often embarrassed his family and got into scrapes thanks to his child-prodigy status. However, as Young Sheldon continued, the spinoff proved that all the Coopers were uniquely ill-suited to their hometown in their own way. Young Sheldon season 6 still makes jokes about Sheldon seeming out-of-place in small-town Texas from time to time, yet from Meemaw running a secret gambling room to Georgie getting Mandy pregnant before marriage, it doesn't seem like any of the Coopers other than Mary prioritized concerns about what their neighbors thought.
While Sheldon's status as the biggest genius in a small town held a certain appeal, another huge part of the show's draw was the idea of Sheldon navigating childhood. The question of "What was Sheldon like in middle/high school?" was central to the appeal of Young Sheldon and the first few seasons explored this idea at length. However, this plot was rendered irrelevant when Sheldon began attending college only three seasons into Young Sheldon. This put the character back in the same setting where he spent The Big Bang Theory. Fortunately, Young Sheldon dropping The Big Bang Theory's laugh track ensured the shows still felt different.
In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon wrote off his siblings as "mouth-breathing idiots," had a contentious love/hate relationship with his mother, and outright loathed his late father. However, particularly in the later seasons of Young Sheldon, Sheldon gets on surprisingly fine with his family. He may have his occasional bust-ups with his siblings and parents, but by and large, the Coopers do their best to support each other when they can. This was a savvy choice for the spinoff's creators since, while the idea of an adult Sheldon bemoaning his lonely childhood is funny, seeing a child stuck in a loveless home would be a lot sadder.
If Young Sheldon kept Sheldon's bullying backstory from The Big Bang Theory and maintained that he never received much support or understanding from his family, the spinoff would have been unwatchably bleak. Instead, Young Sheldon borrowed the premise of Malcolm in the Middle, wherein the fact that one child in a small-town family was a genius was not enough to stop his family from treating him as one of their own. The bond between the Coopers became central to the warm tone of Young Sheldon as the series dropped The Big Bang Theory's constant sniping, meaning the family's discomfort with Sheldon eventually faded into the background.
It is strange that a show called Young Sheldon focuses on Missy and Georgie for entire episodes at a time. However, this approach fleshes out the world of The Big Bang Theory's main character and proves these characters are worth exploring in their own right. Young Sheldon season 7's George Sr. plot is arguably more exciting and impactful than Sheldon's plans for the coming outing, and this is a good thing for the show. It ensures that Young Sheldon doesn't run out of steam and over-rely on one character.
This also means that Sheldon's purpose in Young Sheldon remains the same as his role in The Big Bang Theory. With his family taking up a lot of the show's narrative focus, Sheldon can once again be the standout comedic character who offers comic relief during darker stories. This is a vital role in a sitcom filled with all manner of relationship issues, romantic breakups, and work woes. Thus, Young Sheldon dropping its original premise ironically made the Big Bang Theory spinoff a stronger series.