While The Big Bang Theorydid have a few dramatic plots, the show missed out on its spinoff Young Sheldon's smartest storytelling choice. The Big Bang Theory might have spawned Young Sheldon but the two shows are arguably equally popular at this stage. The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon have very different tones, with the former being a single-camera hang-out show in the vein of Friends or Seinfeld. In contrast, Young Sheldon is a single-camera nostalgic family sitcom that feels more like The Wonder Years or The Goldbergs. Despite (or perhaps, because of) these changes, Young Sheldon has amassed as big a fan base as its predecessor.
Not only that but dropping The Big Bang Theory's laugh track allowed Young Sheldon to experiment with darker stories than its predecessor. Like most hang-out shows, The Big Bang Theory generally stuck to romance, work, and socializing as its main themes. While its central group of friends was a lot geekier than the heroes of How I Met Your Mother or New Girl, The Big Bang Theory functioned much like those shows when it came to themes and storylines. In contrast, Young Sheldon's family-centric approach allows the show to explore darker, more serious plots and interrogate its characters more deeply as a result.
Even The Big Bang Theory's most dramatic romances can't compare to the heavier family drama of Young Sheldon. In recent seasons, Young Sheldon essentially dropped its original premise of focusing on Sheldon's childhood as the series expanded its scope and centered stories on Meemaw, George Sr., and Missy. While every member of the Cooper family has their own struggles, these three are particularly indicative of Young Sheldon's edge over The Big Bang Theory. In The Big Bang Theory, they were all one-note guest stars whereas, in Young Sheldon, each of them gets a poignant character arc that makes them feel more real.
While the friendship between The Big Bang Theory's main group ran deep, her gang never relied on each other the way that the Coopers are often forced to. As such, The Big Bang Theory's central clique didn't face issues as serious as those that plague Young Sheldon's heroes. Young Sheldon dropped The Big Bang Theory's bullying jokes, but the show replaced gags about Sheldon's childhood torment with stories about infidelity, unemployment, financial struggles, unplanned pregnancy, teenage rebellion, and mental illness. While The Big Bang Theory might have featured dry one-liners about these topics, the sitcom never took them seriously for multiple episodes at a time.
The reason that Young Sheldon can pursue plot lines about unhappy marriages, the Church's influence over the Coopers, George's upcoming affair and death, or Missy's rebellion is that the show's creators had years of experience using Sheldon to lighten up The Big Bang Theory's sadder scenes. The Big Bang Theory proved that Sheldon could be relied on to provide a moment of levity in even the bleakest scene, so the creators of the spinoff inevitably felt more comfortable exploring heavier themes as a result. When Young Sheldon copied The Big Bang Theory's decision to broaden its focus, the spinoff also tried to take its characters more seriously and succeeded.