Uh-oh. Someone’s trying to sit in Sheldon’s spot.
NBC has announced it is developing a comedy called “The Squad.” The premise: A group of friends and enemies find companionship and common ground in their mutual love of esports. It will, according to the Hollywood Reporter, also explore the importance of finding what network officials call "your tribe" after years of feeling like an outsider.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, right? At least NBC makes no pretenses about the new show, considering it’s bringing together the big guns from “The Big Bang Theory,” including writer-producer Anthony Del Broccolo and actor Johnny Galecki. Galecki, in fact, is expected to serve as both executive producer and likely as an actor as well. And with “The Big Bang” having just wrapped, a show about a buddy group of tech-savvy-loners-turned-friends might be able to fill that void – assuming it can gain the right foothold.
The fact that it’s one of the buzziest concepts out there is no surprise. Over the past few years, plenty of people have been jockeying – with varying degrees of success – to tell the story of esports. Last fall, “The Gaming Life,” a reality TV show, followed a group of gamers through a Fortnite competition. The show, which was broadcast on YouTube’s Overtime channel, was not picked up for a second season. And over the summer, Peach Media Productions put out an APB for gamers who would be interested in starring in a separate TV show. There has been no word since then on whether or when it will air.
In the futuristic book, Ready Player One, a tech-savvy teenager and his like-minded friends are scrambling to find three keys that have been hidden somewhere in a virtual universe. The individual who manages to complete the quest first becomes the sole heir to the fortunate of the deceased creator. The book uses multiple references to everything from arcane arcade videogames to massively multiplayer online games, leading one critic to call it “Nerdvana.” Unfortunately, the book – which was excellent – was adapted into what might kindly be described as a so-so movie – and viewing it did little to endear esports to a wider audience.
Which puts even more scrutiny on the new television season. If “The Squad” is a success, it will go down in history as one of the first scripted esports television shows for mainstream audiences. But as Variety notes, it's not going to be alone, since CBS recently put in a pilot order for a show about a retired basketball player purchasing an esports franchise for his estranged son. (That show is said to be inspired by the life of Rick Fox, founder of the esports organization known as Echo Fox – but few other details have been released.)
If “The Squad” goes for stereotypes and laughs, The Esports Observer notes, it’s likely it won’t be well-received by core esports enthusiasts (in which case, we can expect entire online forums devoted to error-spotting and complaints). However, should it have the same cleverness as “The Big Bang,” that won’t matter, since it will regain that show’s original audience – who will be willing to watch at least the early episodes, hoping to find a substitute for the comedy they just lost.
And there’s an ancillary benefit. While “The Big Bang Theory” provided a funny picture of STEM professionals, it also made them relatable and even cool. If a new esports show could work the same magic, its benefits could go beyond even being a top-performing TV phenom.