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When it comes to epic TV comedies, we all know the The Big Bang Theory will go down as one of the most epic of all times. There’s really no other way to describe a series that’s been on the air for over a decade and has basically reinvented the way we see “nerd” culture. Whenever the show does end (and that doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon), it will inevitably be linked to classics like Seinfeld and Friends in terms of its success and impact on entertainment forever.

Which brings us to the new Big Bang Theory spinoff series, Young Sheldon (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET on CTV). We love the Sheldon Cooper character (there’s a reason Jim Parsons has been so acclaimed in the role), but sometimes we find that a little of him can go a long way. He kind of needs that supporting cast to elevate his awesomeness. So naturally, we were a little concerned that a spinoff revolving around a nine-year-old version of “Shelly” growing up in East Texas with his family would maybe be a bit… much to handle.

As it turns out, we really needn’t have worried. Having see the pilot in advance of the premiere, we have to say that even though the central character is one and the same, this is a completely different (yet–we’re calling it– equally epic) show. In many, many ways.

The tone has changed

Behind the scenes, the showrunners of both series (Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro) are the same, which is how the spirit of a young Sheldon Cooper (played here by Big Little LiesIain Armitage) is so dead on. But aside from character traits, the tone itself is completely different. This series is a single-camera comedy rather than a multi-cam, which means that it isn’t shot in front of a live studio audience and there’s no laugh track. As a result, it has less of a jokey, set-up kind of feel, something that really works well with this sort of a setup.

It’s a family comedy

The Big Bang Theory revolves around a group of misfit friends who love and support each other no matter what. (Even when they drive each other nuts, as Sheldon tends to do.) This series takes the opposite approach, and puts the focus on family first, led by Sheldon’s mom Mary Cooper (Zoe Perry). In the first episode it’s easy to relate to Mary as she struggles to help her son fit in, despite his obvious differences, and to feel for her in her struggle with her not-so-understanding husband (Lance Barber), and other children (Reagan Revord and Montana Jordan).

It’s got a movie-star director

The Big Bang Theory has certainly had plenty of episodes (the season premiere is episode number 232, in fact), but most of them have been directed by Mark Cendrowski. So in order to help create a completely different feel in Young Sheldon, the producers recruited movie star, and director Jon Favreau to help set the tone. We think he’s a brilliant choice. After all, the man clearly knows how to make us laugh, with classic comedies like Elf, but he also nailed the childhood spirit via The Jungle Book and the TV pilot of About a Boy.

It’s a period piece

Since Big Bang is set in the present-day, it only makes sense that Young Sheldon heads back a few decades to a time of less technology, no cell phones and plenty of high school bullying. All of those things add up to a classic coming-of-age story that feels just a little nostalgic, kind of like The Golbergs or The Wonder Years. Of course, the fact that Jim Parsons narrates the episodes certainly helps with that tone and feeling.

You just want to hug the kid who plays Sheldon

Let’s face it: we all teared up a little when Sheldon hugged Penny (Kaley Cuoco) during that epic Spock-napkin Christmas episode, because Sheldon hugs are so rare. In the case of Young Sheldon though, all we want to do is hug little Shelly. A large part of that is because Armitage is so freaking cute in his little bowtie, but it also has to do with the innocence that he brings to the role. Sure, Sheldon can be lovable in his own strange way, but there’s something universally appealing about a kid who is different and struggling to fit in, with no real friends in the world but his mum.

Well after everyone else sees this pilot, we’re sure there will be plenty of people lining up to be his friend — whether they were fans of the original Big Bang Theory or not.

 

You can catch Young Sheldon every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET on CTV.