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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-???

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Episode 1 - The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation

8 January 2017

Synopsis: The guys return from the North Pole and Penny welcomes Leonard home in style. They are interrupted by a hurt Sheldon who learns that his friends lied to him about his experiment results in order to stop him from annoying them. Sheldon resigns from the university and heads home to Texas. The guys head there and between them and his mother, convince Sheldon to come home. Leonard and Penny finally sleep together but both feel weird afterwards.

The Good: Sheldon was well within his rights to feel betrayed. It was nice to see him show some feeling for once and actually acknowledge the effect which his friends’ behaviour has on him. His mother was characterised very consistently with her last appearance (104) and their science-religion banter was fun.

Leonard bringing Penny a snowflake was pretty sweet. Good old Wollowitz tries his best with the cowboy getup to inject some cheap laughs into proceedings.

The Bad: Other than those few moments, this was bad. It was a pandering to all the elements of the show which make it less interesting and less fun.

First and foremost was Penny and Leonard’s relationship. The writers did a solid job of building up their affection for one another in season one and then backed hurriedly away from it in season two. It seemed like they had decided to delay the inevitable relationship for a while. But here they just blow through their first time together with no comment at all. Penny seemed conflicted at the end of last season but suddenly she is all over Leonard with no build-up which is such a waste of innumerable potential plots.

It’s so damaging because their relationship is practically the only ongoing story which the show had cultivated. And I am not a fan of the “friends sleep together and talk about how weird it is” storylines. I hated it in Friends (when Joey and Rachel get together) because it seems so inauthentic. When things become weird between two people in real life they more often than not avoid talking about it. Or they find other, kinder ways to express their disappointment or confusion. People who have had sex don’t lie together and go “it was weird!”

So having wasted that story thread we of course got the Sheldon show as the other half of the episode. It seems to me that the writer’s have fallen in love with the Sheldon character. What they are missing is that his interactions with strangers are great fun but his relationship with the regular characters has become tiresome (more on that in a second). He is a character capable of carrying the show but he needs fresh stimulus to maintain the comedy. This episode was further evidence that the writers think they don’t need to write good stories for his humour to work. I am here to argue that they do.

I know for many viewers The Big Bang Theory is a throwback to when sit coms just trotted out the exact same paradigm every week and that the stories are essentially irrelevant. But that seems such a waste and such a turnoff to anyone watching and wanting some character development or at least some logic. I’m not asking for a lot, just a little attention to detail.

For example, Sheldon was awarded a grant for the North Pole expedition. That means an organisation put down lots of money expecting some kind of useful scientific research. When they hear what happened their reaction would be fury. Not, as the episode asserts, at Sheldon but at his three friends. By ruining the experiment they were the ones who wasted the grant money. Howard, Raj and Leonard might be kicked out of UCLA for such unprofessional behaviour. It also makes them look pathetic (as it always does) when they can’t stand to be around Sheldon. If they had any backbone they would stand up to him or find a different way to deal with him.

The real underlying problem with this whole story is of course that the writers don’t care. They made up the story in order to create a conflict which Leonard would have to solve. Their contempt for the details of their own story will bleed through to viewers, whether they care much or not. Despite a pretty serious betrayal and no real remorse, Sheldon forgives them swiftly. There’s no mention of whether his resignation will stop him from getting his job back either. Again underscoring the lack of interest in the plot. Though to be honest, seeing Sheldon go on interviews for regular jobs would be fun.

There weren’t many funny jokes in this episode which of course didn’t help. I wasn’t thrilled to see Kripke return with his incredibly cheap lisp.

Comic Highlight: Leonard is frustrated not to be able to finally sleep with Penny. She promises to be waiting for his return – “We waited a few months, we can wait a few more days.” They kiss and Leonard retorts “Maybe you can!”

In Conclusion: I don’t think this show is in terminal decline just yet. Of course my standards for it and desires for it are different to its producers. But I still think it will stay fresher for longer with a little more care and attention than it currently receives.

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Comments

  • I think you misunderstood the experiment and the resulting foul play. They kept the original data and since it wasn't proving their theory they fed Sheldon what he wanted to keep him happy. They didn't actually sabotage the experiment as they kept the original results and just distracted Sheldon.

    BTW, I am just watching the show and your reviews are a great!

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Vivek, 06/01/2017 4:50pm (3 years ago)

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