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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 21 - The Hawking Excitation

24 October 2013

Credit CBS

Synopsis: Stephen Hawking comes to Caltech and Howard is assigned to look after him. Sheldon begs to meet him but Howard decides to make him earn it. He puts Sheldon through various humiliating tasks before finally letting him meet the great man.

The Good: One thing I like a lot about The Big Bang Theory is the way certain dynamics within the show are addressed honestly. Sheldon has been insulting Howard’s status as an engineer for years. Instead of ignoring the obvious toxic effect this has had on their relationship the writers use it to forge a story. I think Simon Helberg is underused in the role of Howard. I thought he did a nice job showing vulnerability as he asks Sheldon to acknowledge that he is good at his job. Years of snide remarks take their toll no matter how silly the source.

The Bad: When I finished my episode guide for Friends I included an explanation for the word ‘cheap.’ I used it so often to describe the comedy in the later seasons of Friends that I felt the need to elaborate on what I considered to be cheap comedy. Of course if I had had this episode available I could have just pointed people to it. Sheldon faints in front of Stephen Hawking. Sheldon dressed in a maid’s uniform. Sheldon cleans pee of Howard’s belt buckles. Sheldon helps Howard’s mum into a dress. It was one utterly predictable, unimaginative joke after another.

I began to get frustrated in the early going when Sheldon begged and Howard rebuffed him. Instantly I knew the episode would be about Sheldon’s struggle and not the actual meeting with Hawking. It’s a predictable formula for the show and I’m almost always disappointed by plots built around Sheldon being irritating to his friends. The fact that Sheldon was shown up in front of his idol by a simple maths error was a disappointing conclusion. It denied us any sense of whether Sheldon really is achieving something significant in favour of a pratfall.

Comic Highlight: I didn’t think any joke worked out well here (though Sheldon in the maids outfit was too visceral not to smile at). The ‘twist’ where Bernadette threw Sheldon to the lions (or in this case Mrs Wollowitz) was the closest I came to being surprised. I liked that she had a different perspective on Sheldon. As she isn’t the target of his insults she was able to sympathise with his social inadequacies.

In Conclusion: The last seven episodes have been below par and I really hope this isn’t the beginning of the decline and fall of The Big Bang Theory. Certainly in the short term the craft has gone from the stories and jokes in favour of the most basic stories and punch lines.

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  • Disagree... the two comic highlights you mention were absolutely hilarious and rather made the episode... compared to other episodes, we rarely get jokes as unexpected 'twist'-y as these!!! My only complaint is that they did not really provide a satisfying ending with Hawking

    Viewer score: 91 / 100

    Posted by Daniel, 24/10/2013 1:17am (5 years ago)

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