Episode 23 - The Lunar Excitation
28 May 2010
Synopsis: While bouncing lazers off the moon Penny discovers that her new boyfriend is too dumb for her. She drunkenly blames Leonard and sleeps with him. He is upset when she asks him to forget it happened. Meanwhile Raj and Howard put Sheldon on a dating site and find him a match.
The Good: As we end season three I thought the writers addressed the Penny-Leonard relationship in a nice way. For both the relationship has changed their perspective on their future partners. The point was made in a somewhat subtle way that they both now have higher standards thanks to the other. I thought that was a nice message to come out of their time together. It might form the basis for their friendship to actually recover and develop over time if the writers want to go that way.
There is a comedy goldmine waiting for the show when Sheldon finally does show interest in a woman. I can only counsel them to take their time with it and make it the monumental event it should be. In the meantime they could have a lot of fun with Sheldon acquiring an asexual female companion with whom he enjoys plutonic interactions. But I suspect the writers may forget about his internet date come the start of season four.
The Bad: It's a familiar refrain but the writers still don't handle Penny and Leonard's situation with the skill they need to. Poor Leonard goes through a very relatable situation and because Penny is clearly going to move on to better things much quicker than he will the sympathy should be with him. Yet when he does come to show Penny the pain she has caused him the scene is largely played for laughs. Despite being a good actor who can easily portray Leonard in a sympathetic light the writers continue to make him a mousy figure of fun. Penny remains eternally under characterised and this episode didn't make her seem more likeable. The writers save all her affection and sympathy for the undeserving Sheldon and here she hurt Leonard but shows no regret. It was an opportunity missed to bond her to the audience.
The rest of the episode just didn't click as most have this season. Sheldon's despair over his inadequate breakfast and Raj and Howard's familiar banter failed to garner many laughs. Leslie Winkle's return felt like a waste and again squandered a chance to characterise Leonard better in exchange for dubious humour.
Comic Highlight: Howard and Raj try to convince Sheldon to go on a date and the subject turns to what drink he might have on it leading to this amusing conclusion:
S: "For the record I only drink hot chocolate in months with an R in them."
S: "What's life without whimsy?"
In Conclusion: A passable end to a really decent season from The Big Bang Theory. "Really decent" might sound like damning with faint praise but the show has got better this season. The writing went to new places and did on occasion flesh out its characters. In general the show was just consistently funny. Its final average score of a shade under 60 means that for the majority of weeks a viewer tuned in they would have been treated to a good episode.
The Big Bang Theory is the second most popular comedy in America and has been rewarded by being moved to Thursdays next year to help launch other shows. It's not difficult to see the keys to its success and that consistency is part of it. Of course the show has a genuine star in Sheldon whose performances have been stellar but the writing constantly furnishes him with funny things to say. And more than that what he says almost always fits within his established traits and behaviours. That is no mean feat and the writers should jealously guard him as the treasure he is.
I have said this many times but if not now then when. The show has four other fine actors whose characters are capable of being as funny and interesting as Sheldon if they were to receive even half the attention. The show could also spend a little money and have the cast leave the comfort of their apartment and cafeteria more often. But my realistic hope for the show is that it can maintain its current consistency next season and not lose touch with what has got it to this point.
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