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The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory is a comedy about two physicists Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper who live and work together in Pasadena, California. They live a comfortable geeky existence until attractive wannabe actress Penny moves in across the hall. CBS 2007-???


Episode 2 - The Big Bran Hypothesis

29 March 2012

Synopsis: Penny asks Leonard to sign for a piece furniture while she is out. But when he puts it into her apartment, Sheldon sees what a mess it is and insists on tidying up. Penny returns soon after and so Sheldon breaks in at night to tidy.

The Good: The main premise here is that Sheldon is so anal, eccentric or borderline autistic that he can’t see the problem with violating Penny’s privacy to bring his order to her apartment. In order for that story to be plausible the writers needed to establish a strict constitution for Sheldon. One that makes viewers believe he couldn’t see what was wrong with his behaviour. And I have to say they do a very good job.

From very early on in the episode they establish that Sheldon will go to great lengths to prove that he is right. The discussion about the physics of the Superman movies establishes his personality firmly while also providing a funny bit of dialogue. It is impressive dialogue, not only for serving two purposes at once, but also for creating an unusual and creative way of being funny. This continues later when Sheldon explains to Leonard that he needs to whisper in a lower register in order not to wake Penny. His understanding of evolution leads to another creative way of making a scene funny as he and Leonard whisper in mock macho voices.

The next day Sheldon’s good night of sleep further emphasises his contentment with being right and his inappropriate apology is fun and demonstrates that he still doesn’t understand why he was wrong. The writers do a good job of showing Penny’s thought process in forgiving them and getting a cheap joke out of Rajesh’s hug with her.

Not only are the science based jokes clever but the writers manage to mix in some traditional sit com humour as well with Leonard carrying a light sabre and holding up a sarcasm sign (see Comic Highlight). Howard also begins to take shape as a fun character with his lines here. His sleazy Russian line is fun as is his “men at work” dismissal of Penny. But rather than be the token jerk character there is a hint of more depth when he amusingly says “Been there” with genuine feeling after Sheldon explains that Leonard’s imaginary girlfriend dumped him.

The Bad: The main problem with the episode is that Leonard doesn’t drag Sheldon out of Penny’s apartment during the night. As the main sympathetic character on the show he needs to stand up to Sheldon’s antisocial behaviour and show us that he understands how normal people live. The story resolves itself pleasantly though, so it’s not a fatal wound to his character.

There are times when Sheldon creates plenty of conflict with his attitude but not much humour. It’s not a serious problem but it could become annoying if he is constantly contrary without any let up. As with the pilot there are times when Leonard says things to Penny which sound implausibly silly like describing her job as a waitress as “ like a carbohydrate delivery system.” But fortunately these lapses are few and far between.

Comic Highlight: Leonard is frustrated with Sheldon for not understanding his sarcasm and why it is appropriate. He says he ought to have a “sarcasm sign” to show him when they are talking. Soon an angry Penny bursts in to ask why on earth they cleaned her apartment during the night. Penny asks Sheldon “What kind of doctor removes shoes from asses?” He looks distastefully at her and replies “Depending on the depth that’s either a proctologist or a general surgeon.” From behind Penny Leonard pops up holding a piece of paper on which he has just written “SARCASM.” A very well crafted joke, which runs through the scene and makes ideal use of all three characters.

In Conclusion: A really enjoyable follow up to the pilot. Sheldon’s convictions create a plausible and funny source of conflict for the newly forming group of friends. The writers work really hard here to build a credible world for the characters which feels real and is funny. Long may it continue.



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