Is it just me, or is The Big Bang Theory not anywhere nearly as funny as it used to be?

I used to go out of my way to make time to watch new episodes.  Last season had a few laugh out loud episodes, but the majority of them made me giggle rather than laugh and there were too many that did not even make me giggle.

The first two episodes of the new eighth season had me giggling here and there, without any guffaws.  The third episode was downright painful to watch and was not funny at all.  This comedy is no longer comedic.  The seventh season finale set things up for the writers to rock the boat a bit — I was glad to see them giving themselves the opportunity to redefine the core relationships and allow Sheldon to grow as a character, especially since the multi-year renewal that they scored gives them three more guaranteed seasons to explore how these relationships can grow.  What happened after that?  The eighth season premiere effectively hits the reset button and we’re all back to the same ol’ status quo.  Now I hear an upcoming episode gives Stuart his comic store back.  Another reset button.  Yawn.

CBS moving the show to Monday nights also hasn’t helped at all because I keep forgetting that it’s on.  Old dog, new tricks: it became a family ritual years ago to sit down and watch this together on Thursday nights, so I keep looking for it on Thursday, not Monday.

A few days ago, my wife was watching a rerun of a second season episode on TNT.  Turns out it was an episode that I had never seen.  I happened to be walking through the room on my way to doing something else, but two minutes of witty dialog made me laugh so much that I had to sit down and watch the rest of the episode with her.  This is back when the writers were writing for characters, not caricatures.

The contrast between the enjoyable experience of watching that single old second season episode versus the horrible experiences of watching the three episodes of the new eighth season is so sharp that I have to wonder what has gone wrong in the interim.  Are the jokes tired?  Are the writers tired?  Has the multi-year renewal made them way too complacent?  Or have I just gotten tired of it?  As annoying as these characters can be, I used to be able to find aspects of all of them that I liked.  Now I can’t.  Sheldon and Howard were both so damned unlikeable in last Monday’s episode that I seriously considered just turning it off.  The one thing that kept my finger off the off switch was my realization that the episode was execrable enough to give me something to complain about here.  Comedies are supposed to make you laugh, not wince, and I’ve been wincing way too much.  Honestly, if last Monday’s episode was the first Big Bang Theory episode I had ever seen, I would’ve turned it off halfway through and never bothered to watch another episode.

I’ll see how I react next Monday (or whenever I remember to watch next week’s new episode), but the way this season is going I don’t have much hope for the show.  The multi-year commitment that CBS made in March means that the writers and producers do not really need to worry about ratings again until the 2016-2017 season.  That’s a damned shame, because it removes the corresponding level of pressure to produce a high-quality product.