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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 17 - The Tangerine Factor

29 March 2012

Synopsis: After another messy break up Penny asks Leonard why she can’t go out with a nice honest guy. So he asks her out. She says yes but they both feel nervous about it and go to Sheldon for advice. He has his own problems though as he is learning Mandarin in order to properly accuse his local Chinese Restaurant of serving his orange chicken instead of tangerine chicken.

The Good: Seeing Leonard and Penny together feels very natural. Considering the season was cut about five episodes short by the writers strike, this is an impressive achievement. Both the writing and the acting has been strong all season long and created the plausible situation that they could become a couple.

Leonard is an endearing character and he plays his role beautifully throughout. His nervous encouragement of Penny is as fun as ever. Followed by him summoning the courage to kiss her which is a nice moment for him and all fans of his character. It also feels like the season’s journey has logically led him to this moment. All season he has wondered if a nice guy like him could get a girl like Penny and now he finally realises he can. All credit to Penny too who plays her role well and has some nice comedy moments with Sheldon and with her comfort food.

Sheldon still holds the show together though. The writers once more show an impressive attention to detail in handing Sheldon anecdotes about psychology, grammar and nutrition, reinforcing him as a real character whose obsessive behaviour extends into all aspects of his life. He handles the comedy as well as ever, going off on his own train of thought when his friends are asking for his help.

The best scene is him in Penny’s apartment trying to find the best place to sit. For fans with good memories this beautifully recalls the pilot where Sheldon was so uncomfortable with Penny sitting in his seat on the couch. But the scene works so well because it allows him to make things funny while Penny talks and advances the plot. Sheldon’s behaviour is so consistent that it is believable and funny when Penny asks “wanna sit down?” and he replies “Oh, I wish it were that simple.” She follows up with “why don’t you just pick one at random and then if you don’t like it you can sit somewhere else next time?” to which he replies “No no that’s crazy!”

The Schrodinger's cat story is yet another clever way for Sheldon to be of some help to the other characters without him entirely understanding what they need.

The Bad: Sheldon’s mandarin plot is about the cheapest and laziest kind of joke that sitcoms resort to. It is just so implausible that in mispronouncing a simple greeting one could actually call someone a “syphilitic donkey.” Still even amongst this lazy bit of writing Sheldon manages one really funny moment when he walks down the stairs aggressively repeating the translation for “Show me your citrus peels.”

Comic Highlight: Leonard asks Penny out. They are both nervous and try not to make eye contact. She says yes and he asks “really?” She says yes, “what have I got to lose?” He replies quietly and confused “yeah, that’s the spirit.” It’s a really nice scene and it conveys both their mindsets really well, without having to spell it out.

In Conclusion: It’s been a tremendous season for The Big Bang Theory. It is not easy for a traditional live audience comedy to succeed anymore. The genre has existed for so long and the 1990s seemed to sap the public appetite for them when several shows went on far longer than an average show would (Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier). In the era since comedies have tended to fall either into the surreal category (Scrubs, Arrested Development, 30 Rock) or the supposedly reality based ones (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office). One exception to this has been the ever popular Two and a Half Men which has shown that a formula sitcom can still succeed.

And so The Big Bang Theory, led by Chuck Lorre has managed to find success in the wake of and in some of the style of Two and a Half Men. But pleasingly the show has focussed on creating a unique universe with characters that can be plausible and funny rather than just look for the punch line at every turn.

I believe that this final episode is the seasons best. It is not the funniest but it does engage the emotions of the viewer more than any previous effort. That of course goes to the core of the show which has been the patient build up to Leonard and Penny’s relationship. That patience and attention to details has paid off in Sheldon too who now stands as one of the great comic characters on television. He shines here and the show has a bright future as long as they keep him plausible and entertaining.



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