Can I watch Young Sheldon without seeing The Big Bang Theory?

The younger years of Sheldon Cooper are quite removed from his adventures with Leonard and Penny

Jim Parsons and Iain Armitage as Sheldon Cooper through the ages (E4, HF)

The Big Bang Theory is pretty much the biggest TV show in the world right now, syndicated around the world to millions and the stars of the geeks-meet-girls sitcom commanding hundreds of thousands of dollars for every episodes.

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Really, it was only a matter of time before it got a spin-off – so now we have Young Sheldon coming to E4, bringing us the story of TBBT’s breakout character Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) in his younger years when he struggled as a child prodigy growing up in Texas.

Sheldon’s youthful years, offbeat family members and childhood obsessions have often been grist to TBBT’s comedy mill over the years – in particular, his mother (played by Lady Bird’s Laurie Metcalf) has guest starred on several occasions – but does this mean the show is only accessible for longterm Big Bang Theory fans, keen to find out the twists and turns of Sheldon’s youthful days?

Well, no. Despite some connections to the main series – Parsons does some sparse voiceover at the beginning and end of episodes, and the younger version of his mother is played by Zoe Perry, the real-life daughter of Metcalf – Young Sheldon is a fairly different beast to its parent show.

While The Big Bang Theory is a traditional multi-camera sitcom filmed in front of a studio audience, Young Sheldon is single-camera with no audience, and utilises a lot more location shoots than its parent programme. Meanwhile, the plot – Sheldon (played by Big Little Lies’ Iain Armitage) jumps a few grades to go to high school and struggles to fit in – is easy to grasp even if you’ve never watched an episode of Big Bang.

Of course, some parts of the show are more rewarding to longterm fans of Sheldon’s eccentricities – his obsession with Bill Nye-esque TV scientist Professor Proton and fractious relationship with his sister Missy have their seeds laid in the first couple of episodes – but overall, Young Sheldon would make sense as a show even if The Big Bang Theory had never existed, so if you’re coming to this without knowledge of that show (or recent knowledge if you stopped watching a while back) you should easily be able to get it.

Whether you should watch Young Sheldon is another story – while I definitely preferred the episodes I watched to the usual Big Bang Theory, some of the gags are more likely to have you groaning than chuckling – but you do definitely have the option. Use it at your pleasure.

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Young Sheldon begins on E4 tonight (Thursday 20th February) at 8:30pm