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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-???


Episode 13 - The Bakersfield Expedition

13 January 2013

Credit CBS

Synopsis: The guys head off to Bakersfield Comic Con while the girls stay behind. The guys go to an old Star Trek location on the way to take photos and Leonard’s car is stolen. Meanwhile the girls decide to read some comic books to see what their men are into. They soon get into a heated debate about how Thor’s Hammer works.

The Good: I really appreciated the effort made to tell actual stories in this episode. They weren’t as strong as they could have been but they were enjoyable and used the theme of Comic Con very nicely.

The girls story was a good idea as they decide to investigate what comic books are all about and don’t enjoy the experience. They conclude that the guys are foolish for getting so wrapped up in them before falling into an intense argument about Thor which was meant to undermine their own disinterest. The structure of this was just fine with the girls taking a fun trip to the comic book store and then inadvertently learning how addictive comic book discussions can be. However the choice of their argument was not great. The way they bickered over the logic of Thor’s hammer said more about human pedantry than it did about the real escapist appeal of super heroes. I would have preferred it if the writers had found a way to tap into that.

The guys posing for Star Trek photos was really funny. It does hinge on you having watched The Next Generation to fully appreciate the sight gag but I think anyone could enjoy the silliness on display. The story which followed was uneven.

The Bad: I liked Sheldon’s suggestion that they were finally living out their fantasy of being in a Star Trek-like scenario but immediately he was undermined and everyone (him included) had entirely given up on the idea by the time they reached the diner. Sheldon then complained of feeling silly and wanting to go home which was in its way an extraordinary moment. You would expect him to be unperturbed by the stares of his fellow diners and to hear him express genuine sadness actually hit me. It goes to show what can be done with such a consistently portrayed character but it didn’t really develop from anything. I’m sure he was tired and miserable but it didn’t feel like the moment it could have been. Instead we were meant to laugh along with the other diners who thought they were freaks. That kind of comedy seems obtuse to me because these are our characters. Half the episode was dedicated to supporting their love of comics so why would we laugh at simplistic jokes about how silly they looked to outsiders?

The conclusion of the plot annoyed me because it was such a good idea. Upon hearing the girls debating Thor, Sheldon suggests that it is another mission they need to undertake and they all get wrapped up in role playing. It would have been a lovely final moment if they had actually had a chance to play Star Trek earlier in the episode. But they never did and so it felt like a false call-back. It was hardly bad television but just a missed opportunity.

Similarly I really liked the idea that Sheldon’s annoying voice (recorded onto the car’s GPS) would get some revenge on the men who stole Leonard’s car but instead they were delighted with the trivia which was fine but surely a weaker punch line.

The one thing I thought was bad was the girls mocking Penny for reading slowly. It didn’t seem believable that she would read so much more slowly than them.

Comic Highlight: Undoubtedly the photo shoot was the best moment of the episode. But I also enjoyed Stuart taking care to recommend a comic which wouldn’t objectify women (for the girls to read) and then Penny exclaiming “Oh Thor, he’s hot!”

In Conclusion: This is an episode where my review structure is slightly misleading. I thought this was a better than average episode but in creating something with a real structure and some emotion it allowed me the chance to see all the myriad ways it could have been improved.



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  • I had in mind that they would debate something about the story or character that they would then get wrapped up in debating. Preferably with reference to how they "imagined" the character felt or thought because that's kind of the essence of comic book escapim.

    Debating how Thor's Hammer works is fine but that's a pedantic technical discussion not something which explains how one caan get invested in comic books.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 13/01/2013 12:27pm (7 years ago)

  • Good points about how the ladies found out how easy it is (at times) to get carried away by the perceived minutia of comic books - and a shame that it really was trivia they argued over (as the guys frequently do) rather than something "more important."

    About Sheldon and the guys sticking to their Star Trek quest and making the best of it - if I understood you correctly - I think that would have been even funnier. I did like that rare moment of ordinary human emotion from Sheldon when he abandoned the role-playing at the diner. It felt genuine and appropriate.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Jonathan Strange, 11/01/2013 9:27pm (7 years ago)

  • Hi Robin, I was also rather struck with Sheldon's comment in the diner about being tired and wanting to go home, and people thinking they were idiots. I think it is the first time in 5 1/2 years that we've heard him express normal human emotions of sadness. Which, I guess, goes to show in their way, the creators of this sitcom have achieved something here. I remember there was an exchange earlier where Sheldon says he feels sad about something, Howard says "He can feel sadness?" and Leonard says "Not really. It's what you or I would call condescension."

    Like the girls, I also find it difficult to believe our heroes would be so interested in comic books. Though I probably shouldn't talk. :-) I actually watched the Avengers film recently, and therefore already knew the issue about Thor's hammer, which actually comes into the film in a small way... Regardless, there are lots more interesting things out there, and superhero comics books, and often, the movies from them, are often pretty terrible. The Avengers was not bad, though. Actually, I can't think of a more interesting topic than Thor's hammer off the top of my head. What did you have in mind?

    I agree that they gave up on the Star Trek fantasy rather quickly, but I thought we were supposed to infer they were traumatized by having their car stolen, having a drink thrown at them, and being laughed at. Though Star Fleet officers should be made of sterner stuff.

    Posted by Faheem Mitha, 11/01/2013 5:20pm (7 years ago)

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