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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 11 - The Maternal Congruence

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Leonard’s mother comes to visit at Christmas time. Leonard hasn’t told her about Penny and she hasn’t told him anything. She has however confided in Sheldon. When Leonard learns of his parents divorce and the death of his old dog he is really upset. Penny takes Beverly out for drinks to get to know her.

The Good: Once more the writers pick the correct story and execute it badly. But for once they really execute this badly, no saving grace this time.

However it’s worth saying that the story is a good one in theory. Beverly is a good character, who acts the part really well. The idea of Leonard’s mother being cold and logical and thus Sheldon being like a surrogate parent to Leonard is interesting. It’s as if Leonard couldn’t fit in in the real world and found comfort with a best friend who replicated his familial experience.

Beverly certainly has her fun moments with some good drunk acting (see Comic Highlight) and embarrassing Raj and Howard by bringing up their potential homosexual feelings for one another. When Howard asks Leonard to confirm that he now has a girlfriend Leonard shows a sense of humour by saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Beverly kissing Sheldon was also a nice moment. Partly out of the novelty of seeing Sheldon’s first kiss and partly because it was correctly blown off. There was obviously unspoken potential sexual tension in their mutual admiration but I think the day Sheldon falls in love is the day this show either becomes great or jumps the shark.

The Bad: Before I point out, what I always point out, I think there is something wrong with this episode which is pretty simple. Beverley and Sheldon are mean to Leonard. The revelations about the divorce and the dog are made in front of all of Leonard’s friends. Sheldon rubs it in by not making him tea, claiming he isn’t happy to be Leonard’s surrogate family and of course by not passing on the news at the time.

At each stage of this Leonard is treated badly. Of course the divorce and dog news is an exaggeration in order to get Beverly to get to know Penny. But poor Leonard has been treated in an appalling way. The end of the episode should have been Beverly apologising. Even if their relationship makes no progress at least that should be resolved.

As for Sheldon, I think this is a big mistake by the writers. Sheldon not understanding social protocol is fine. Sheldon failing to be comforting is fine. But Sheldon saying after all that that he isn’t happy being Leonard’s surrogate family. That is not. If serial killer Dexter can find love for his adopted family then Sheldon surely can. Over and over again Leonard and Penny have ended up feeling sorry for Sheldon and helping him out when he has a crisis. The least the writers could do is show the tiny glimpse of Sheldon’s humanity in some affection for Leonard. Otherwise they risk making him seem unlikeable and Leonard a big wuss for remaining in this friendship.

It would have been nice to see Penny comforting Leonard. I don’t think they show enough physical affection to be a convincing couple and this would have been a nice time to show some. The final point to make about this is that the humour suffers because of the meanness. Sheldon’s “comforting” isn’t very funny. Beverley’s attempt at a hug falls flat. Largely because these attempts to make things right come across as insincere.

So, with those flaws to one side, what was wrong with this? Well there are sit com clichés for a reason. The obvious end to the story would be Sheldon saying he likes Leonard, Beverly apologising and Penny hugging him. The plot doesn’t really have to change to achieve that. You can still have all the awkwardness and all the jokes; just make it a happy ending.

Why am I so adamant about that? Because people watch comedy to feel good sometimes and this is a traditional studio audience sit com. Its set up to deliver happy ending TV and it would be so easy and so satisfying to do it. The show doesn’t benefit by having unresolved endings and relentless coldness from Sheldon. Showing a little humanity is what they occasionally do, all I am asking for is for it to be as well thought out as Sheldon’s monologues are.

Comic Highlight: Drunk acting is a key skill for a sit com actor. Christine Baranski is a veteran of this having played a semi-alcoholic on Cybill for years. Once more she shows that skill and the writing backs her up by not having her slur but just have a one-track mind.
Penny: “I’m sleeping with your son.”
Beverly: “Really? Which one?”

In Conclusion: It’s like The Big Bang Theory and I are an old married couple and we have the same argument every week.

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