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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 3 - The Gothowitz Deviation

27 March 2012

Synopsis: With Penny in his apartment all the time Sheldon resorts to conditioning techniques to try and modify her behaviour. Howard and Raj dress up and head to a Goth club to try and meet women.

The Good: This is a really fun episode, the jokes flow nicely from the understandable intentions of all involved.

So Leonard and Penny are finally a couple and enjoying some domestic time together. What would be the first issue they would encounter? Of course it would be Sheldon’s response to this change in his own lifestyle. The writers get the characters spot on here and the opening scene is a joy to watch.

Sheldon’s only concern is his own well being and continued and uninterrupted routine. Penny’s opening offer for him to come and dance with her was a hilarious moment in itself. Kaley Cuoco has really grown into playing Penny and this moment really was sit com gold. Not because it was that funny but because it was so true. Perky and happy to awake in the morning she dances around and when she sees Sheldon she has no reason to be anything but friendly. Yet we all know Sheldon so well that the mere offer of a dance to him is inherently funny.

Unlike so many other scenes with Sheldon, this is perfect for eliciting humour because the new domestic arrangements are something any viewer can relate to. Rather than just be insufferable for no good reason, this disruption to his life is a perfectly reasonable excuse for Sheldon to feel put out. He wants oat meal, not the French toast which Penny had made. “Next French toast day I will make you oat meal” she offers cheekily. With real feeling Sheldon takes her literally and exclaims “Dear Lord, are you still going to be here on French toast day?”

Leonard enters the picture and tries to encourage Sheldon to get on with Penny. “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” he points out. But the literal minded Sheldon simply says “You catch even more flies with manure, what’s your point?” Sheldon then admits the French toast smells good before dropping into the garbage. Again a perfect illustration of who Sheldon is. It’s his way that matters. He had worked out how the universe should operate, any deviation, however well meaning can not be tolerated. After all that would be to imply he wasn’t right in the first place.

Soon after Sheldon begins to treat Penny with much more consideration and when she does the same he offers her a chocolate. It is so out of character that the audience and Leonard soon realise something is up and the consistent offers of chocolate become increasingly amusing as we realise what he is up to. In another inspired bit of writing Sheldon has decided to condition Penny to behave how he wants her to. It’s the kind of science most viewers will have heard about in school and pop culture and it fits Sheldon to a tee. It’s a really clever and enjoyable story and it leads to the best joke of the episode. Sheldon’s attempts to change the register of Penny’s voice are all the more funny once Sheldon has Leonard as an audience to impress.

Meanwhile Howard charges in all gothed up for his latest scheme with women. While the story doesn’t go anywhere particularly interesting it does provide several pleasing giggles along the way. As ever Howard is one of the best sit com performers around, throwing himself into every line with convincing enthusiasm. Raj thinks he has finally understood an expression but Howard points out that “Yes she’s pushy and yes he’s whipped but that’s not the expression.” Witty stuff. Then once at the club it’s always fun to see characters scrambling to keep up with their own lies. “Blackened salmon?” Raj suggests as a possible goth food.

Once their plans have turned to dust once more Howard suggests they make up a story to tell other people. It’s a nice moment actually as the two of them get wrapped up in their complicated delusion and satisfy themselves with that rather than any real success. The next step to make this show great would be to actually show them changing but I suspect we are in for many more amusing delusions.

The Bad: As hinted at the Howard and Raj story doesn’t really go anywhere. We know they are losers and their plan will ultimately be exposed. I am obviously in favour of either exposing it in the most amusing way possible or showing some character growth. Neither happens but it was a fun ‘B’ plot nonetheless.

Comic Highlight: Leonard figures out that Sheldon is conditioning Penny and tells him to stop feeding her chocolate. “Are you saying that I am forbidden from applying a harmless scientifically valid protocol that will make our lives better?” Sheldon asks. When Leonard confirms that he is Sheldon picks up a spray bottle and sprays water on him saying “Bad Leonard!” It’s so unexpected, yet so plausible it really was a beautiful thing.

In Conclusion: A really enjoyable episode. With the focus of the story on Leonard and Penny’s relationship the writing gets the absolute maximum out of Sheldon’s character. The audience has a reason to care about the story and Sheldon’s behaviour has a clear motivation. It helps that the jokes throughout are strong and well written.

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