'30 Rock', 'Family Guy', 'Felicity', 'Happy Day's', 'Laverne and Shirley', 'Mork and Mindy', 'The Big Bang Theory', Felicity Effect, Haircut, JJ Abrams, Kaley Cuoco, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Mork and Mindy Syndrome, New York, Robin Williams
Season eight of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ kicked off last week. So far everything you read about this new season concentrates on just one aspect. Not the stars new $1m an episode wage packet, that has been mentioned only in passing. The only thing anyone is talking about is Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s short hairstyle.
Cuoco cut her hair directly after the end of Season Seven, and appeared on ‘Ellen’ the next day to show it off. So people have had months to get used to it. However many assumed she would wear a wig as Penny on ‘The Big Bang Theory’. To avoid the ‘Felicity Effect’.
The ‘Felicity Effect’ is so named for the short lived JJ Abrams created show ‘Felicity’ that followed the life of the titular character, a mid westerner making her way through the University of New York. It was corny and sentimental and a surprise hit. At the start of the second season star Keri Russell cut her hair short. The ratings declined and people blamed the hairstyle. So much so Warner Brothers installed strict new guidelines about haircuts. It also entered pop culture being parodied in ’30 Rock’ and referenced in ‘Family Guy’.
‘Felicity’ limped on for three more years but did the haircut harm the show? Probably not. The show also changed tone, style and added in new characters to try and boost ratings. In fact the slump in ‘Felicity’ when analyzed is closer to ‘Mork and Mindy Syndrome’.
‘Mork and Mindy Syndrome’ is where a surprise hit show is tweaked to bring in a key demographic, fails and then loses its original audience. ‘Mork and Mindy’ was a surprise hit show built around a character Robin Williams had played in ‘Happy Day’s’ and the spin off ‘Laverne and Shirley’. It was a charming gentle comedy and amazingly a huge hit.
So for season two it got a disco theme, new characters to target the 18-30 demographic that replaced two loved characters. It back fired. The ratings were terrible. The supporting cast was reshuffled and, it didn’t work. ‘Mork and Mindy’ is now held up as an example of how to ruin a sitcom.
So will ‘The Big Bang Theory’ suffer the same fate. It’s already long in the tooth, and the hair style change is one of many changes. Including a change in time slot. In fact with the exception of the ponytail she wore when shown working as a waitress, Cuoco’s character Penny has gone through around a dozen hairstyles over the last seven years. None of them mentioned on screen or off.
What has upset fans more over the last few years is the change in focus, it is now more or less a standard relationship comedy. This and a cast reshuffle could see ratings fall. The haircut won’t.