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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 15 - The Large Hadron Collision

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Leonard is offered a trip to visit the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and wants to take Penny as it is Valentines Day. Sheldon of course wants to go and goes to great lengths to change Leonard’s mind.

The Good: Sheldon has his moments (see Comic Highlight) including a witty retort to Penny calling him an alien “Extraordinary intelligence might well appear extra-terrestrial to you...” The conclusion of the plot had a kind of justice to it with Raj getting a good valentines day for once and Sheldon not being rewarded for his bad behaviour.

The Bad: However this was not a good episode. Left unchecked the writing turns this from a sit com to a sketch show, where each scene is just another excuse for Sheldon to annoy someone. The worst example was a very short scene with the guys having lunch which existed entirely for Sheldon to drop off thirty pieces of silverware to Leonard, about as lame a betrayal joke as you will see.

The thing is that the writers spend practically every episode showcasing Sheldon. I don’t mind when the plot is about him but when the focus should be elsewhere he grates. His character, as versatile as it is, will inevitably become annoying in a situation like this where he is being unreasonable in scene after scene. The plot could have focussed on Penny and Leonard’s relationship and how they were going to cope on their first holiday together. But no, instead we got Sheldon trying to enforce rules, to butter Leonard up and then to convince Penny not to go. Perhaps this would have been more bearable if someone had tried to explain why it was so important for Leonard to take Penny somewhere exciting. Or what the meaning of Valentines Day is or why romantic relationships have value. But instead the focus was on the sketch show. Complete with the convenient and cheap ending of both Sheldon and Penny making vomiting noises.

As annoying as some of these scenes are they are no more annoying than the average scene in the average episode of the show. What actually does damage is that Sheldon looks heartless and Leonard looks like a spineless douche. I don’t use that word lightly. Leonard brags about having a girlfriend to poor Raj and mocks Sheldon for essentially being socially stunted (in the opening scene), which really didn’t make him look sympathetic. Then it was revealed that Leonard actually signed a specific agreement about taking Sheldon to see the Hadron Collider. Of course he might expect a reasonable person not to enforce this rule but it didn’t make him look any better. Finally as I have said, he doesn’t try to explain anything to Sheldon, he just bats him down. Their supposed friendship is becoming less and less believable over time.

Not that Sheldon does his character any favours by stating point blank that he doesn’t care about Leonard’s well being. Again it makes Sheldon look thoroughly unlikeable. I believe his character desperately needs a touch of humanity so that we can go on laughing with him and not find his behaviour obnoxious. After claiming that he doesn’t care about Leonard as a friend, there is no way Penny should have given in to his guilt trip.

Comic Highlight: Sheldon makes his dramatic entrance to tell Penny that she won’t be going to Switzerland. He of course chooses to do this in a know-it-all fashion by claiming she shouldn’t get her Rääbeliechtli ready yet. This is a lantern made from root vegetables used at some Swiss Festivals. He of course wants to point this out as she won’t be going to Switzerland. But on the way there he feels the need to point out that “These festivals occur in the fall.”

In Conclusion: Sheldon is unlikeable all the time but he is funny. Leonard comes across as an irritable coward most of the time which isn’t likeable. I believe the whole show would benefit from addressing these character flaws. Otherwise we will get more episodes like this where there is no one to like.

 

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