Sheldon Cooper – the star of TV show The Big Bang Theory and also one of the geekiest geeks around (or the nerdiest nerd) uses Linux distribution Ubuntu. Is that good or bad news? Well, it depends whether you like him or not. He's known for being very harsh about some products, brands or TV shows, but on the other hand he also loves some interesting products (Chinese food, Star Trek …).
I've covered product placement in The Big Bang Theory in two previous posts: here and here. For all those readers who are not familiar with the series – it's about two prodigies (physicists) in their 20s, Leonard and Sheldon, who live across the hall from an attractive blonde waitress with show-biz aspirations (Penny). Leonard and Sheldon's geekiness and sheer intellect are contrasted for comic effect with Penny's social skills and common sense (source: Wikipedia).
In the 22nd episode of the 3rd season (S03E22) Sheldon was sitting on a sofa and casually said: “Oh Ubuntu, you’re my favorite Linux based operating system.” This was not the first time that Sheldon mentioned Linux. In 12th Episode (S03E12) Raj begged Sheldon to come with him to a college party, but Sheldon had other plans. He discovered that he hadn’t got enough room on his hard drive for a Linux partition. He then suggested they “perform a full backup, reinitialize and then reinstall all of his operating systems.”
In 13th episode (S03E13) another brand dropping appeared – Sheldon mentioned that he’s got new operating system: Windows 7.
Sheldon: “My new computer came with Windows 7. Windows 7 is much more user- friendly than Windows Vista.
I don't like that.”
Those three scenes are examples of clever storytelling and character making. Sheldon had no particular reason to mention those brands and products, but how else could screenwriters build such a character. Geeks talk about programs, operating systems, partitions, hard drives and other geeky stuff. Those examples are another reminder that The Big Bang Theory includes a unique character (Sheldon) and consequently very unpredictable outcome of every situation that include name/brand dropping or product placement. That’s great for viewers and possible nightmare for humourless marketers.