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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 16 - The Tangible Affection Proof

21 February 2013

Credit CBS

Synopsis: Valentine's Day sees Sheldon struggling to think of a gift for Amy. While Leonard plans a romantic night for Penny and Howard tries to get back in Bernadette's good books. Raj and Stewart throw a party for all the single people they know at the comic book store.

The Good: To my surprise the writers seem to have finally moved Penny and Leonard toward a more committed state this season. It's been something of a mini arc with Penny thinking about breaking up with him (601-02), realising the depth of her feelings when Alex showed interest in him (604), taking an interest in his work (605), his comics (613) and now finally admitting that she could see herself marrying him. We saw last episode that she is a long way from that point but they have been seemingly happy for the past couple of seasons and maybe this is the new normal. It was about as sweet a scene as I can remember them sharing when he realises that she is happy with where they are.

Amy and Sheldon also took another step forward but at their own ultra slow pace. The fact that he was willing to buy her a gift says something and the emergency contact was a very nice idea. While it is a sign of intimacy and commitment it leads to her becoming his mom in the final scene as his hypochondria kicks in. Her tearful gratitude was sweet though and his attitude to the gifts Alex had selected was fun (see Comic Highlight).

Howard and Bernadette should have the best adjusted relationship given their marital status. I liked how their simple plot resolved itself quickly in the face of Penny and Leonard's more serious bickering.

The Bad: As for Raj, what can you say? The arc of this season continues to suggest that Raj is going to come out and that a startled Stewart will either be the catalyst or the recipient of unexpected affection. The writers pushed things as far as they could (at least verbally) here with Raj pointing out how great it would be if Stewart was his girlfriend. But each time they reach the precipice they pull back and instead he meets a girl and undercuts the lovely speech he'd just given about community. The writers continue to treat Raj like a one note joke and yet his story could be the heart of the show if they'd let it develop.

I was confused by Sheldon handing over two thousand dollars for Amy's Valentine's presents. We've seen Sheldon be careful or at least possessive with his money before. Was this simply a misplaced joke about Sheldon not understanding the value of money (which would be dumb) or a suggestion that he will pay whatever price necessary to keep Amy quiet for another holiday?

Comic Highlight: Despite being unimpressed with Alex's first two brilliantly thoughtful gifts, Sheldon does like her third offering. It's a hand drawing of a brain cell by the Father of modern Neuroscience. Sheldon calls it "truly remarkable" and decides to keep it for himself. This amazing selfishness was a good punch line in itself. But later on Amy offers to not go out for Valentine's Day to make him happy. Sheldon is genuinely touched and says "This is the most thoughtful gift that anyone's ever given me. And that's including an amazing gift I gave myself earlier today."

In Conclusion: This was very sweet and pleasant stuff.

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  • I guess simply on the issue of her employment - we don't know what kind of agreement has been struck. If she signed a contract that says that he can give her any job he likes then she will have to choose to walk away when it becomes clear that she is just a PA. If he signed something which either explicitly or implicitly agreed to give her research work to do then she can take legal action. As she did over the sexual harassment issue.

    Otherwise, I don't think he is abusing her by treating her like a PA. It's a misunderstanding on his part of what role she was applying for but she needs to speak up...

    Posted by The TV Critic, 21/02/2013 5:51pm (7 years ago)

  • JStrange, Robin,

    I'm not sure whether it is really worth beating this dead horse much, but my point was just it is worse to treat someone badly when you have some power/control over them. Yes, Alex could walk. So could Sheldon's friends and acquaintances. In the real world they would have done so already, in my opinion. I.e. Leonard could easily move out.

    We don't know the exact circumstances of Alex's employment, but it is harder for her, psychologically and practically, to tell Sheldon to go screw himself than it would be for someone not working for him. And it isn't necessarily so easy to walk away from a job.

    I agree with JStrange that Sheldon is not often Really Not Nice. I think that is a problem with the show. But apparently it doesn't affect viewing numbers, which all the makers of the show care about.

    Posted by Faheem, 21/02/2013 12:48pm (7 years ago)

  • Yeah I can't say Sheldon's treatment of Alex bothers me too much. She is free to leave and should have worked out by now what kind of work he is going to ask of her.

    The problem with saying Raj is just metrosexual is that the writers repeatedly hit the same note again and again: he is lonely, he is scared of women, he is very comfortable around his male friends. They are pushing the idea that he might be secretly bi or homosexual for the purposes of comedy. When you keep pushing something you can't expect your audience to not assume it's going somewhere.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 21/02/2013 10:14am (7 years ago)

  • Raj is metrosexual; I think it's more interesting that he be a heterosexual man unafraid to have some non-traditionally masculine interests and views.

    I've long been a fan of Leonard and Penny though it's been a rough road for those misguided fans who thought their romance would be "the heart" of the series.

    I can't get much worked up about Sheldon's treatment of Alex; he's been far, far more insensitive and, yes, cruel to his roommate and friends over the years.

    He's forgiven because he frequently the greatest source of humor on the show. I think the reviewer has often pointed out something Sheldon's said or done as the "Comic Highlight" - and if you see the scene in question, you'll often find a very cutting observation or behavior by Sheldon immediately preceding. But it's rarely pointed out because, I think, we'd have to acknowledge how truly callous or mean it was.

    It's safer to criticize Leonard or ridicule Howard than to admit the funniest character on the show is also quite mean. Let's pretend Sheldon doesn't know what he's saying.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by JStrange, 21/02/2013 5:46am (7 years ago)

  • I think Sheldon's treatment of Alex deserves a comment. Yes, I know it is only a sitcom, but this kind of abuse goes on in universities all over the world, and I didn't really find it an amusing subject for comedy. The thing is that a real-life Alex would probably not have taken the job in the first place. Asking around would presumably have led her to discover that her prospective boss was a narcissistic nutjob. Or, had she taken the job, she would have screamed and run when it became obvious what she was dealing with.

    Anyway, I don't have much of a point, but just wanted to say that abuse of an employee is disgraceful behavior, and perhaps a darker place than the screenwriters should be going. Sheldon is frequently a giant pain in the neck, but usually we see him confine this behavior to people he has no hold over.

    Posted by Faheem, 18/02/2013 6:09pm (7 years ago)

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