Monday brings to broadcast television two series about socially awkward, misfit young geniuses — characters “on the spectrum,” in the now much-used phrase, though only one is identified outright as such.
ABC’s “The Good Doctor” makes it specific: Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) is a surgical resident freshly arrived at a San Jose hospital, with autism and savant syndrome. Sheldon Cooper, the character played by Jim Parsons on “The Big Bang Theory,” whose early years are the subject of the new “Young Sheldon” on CBS, is never diagnosed, in either show, but he fits the profile, at least as popular culture understands it.
Getting a sneak premiere this week — the show takes up its regular post Nov. 2 — “Young Sheldon” follows the parent show’s 11th season debut, 10 years and a day after it first aired.
Though many details of the setting and characters were established in “The Big Bang Theory,” familiarity with that series is not required to understand or like the spin-off. Shot single-camera style, unlike its hectic, filmed-live progenitor, it has its own gentler, more naturalistic rhythms and pleasures.
Chief among these is Iain Armitage as Sheldon, charming and believable and just suggestive enough of Parsons. Brainy and rule-bound — he is still in the classical physics phase of life, not yet in the quantum — his Sheldon is unusual but not unnatural, and because he is also very much a little boy, less trying than the adult sitcom character he will grow up to be. The writing does not push the character’s quirks too deep into cuteness — just up to the shins, maybe just the…
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