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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 19 - The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition

24 February 2014

Synopsis: A new tenant, Alicia, moves in to the apartment above the guys. Sheldon’s only concern is with the noise she might make. Where as the other guys are all too quick to help her out with all her needs. Penny becomes increasingly jealous of the way they treat her and the fact that Alicia is a more successful actress than her. She warns Alicia not to take advantage of the guys and when Alicia points out the hypocrisy of that they end up fighting.

The Good: Hallelujah! It feels like an age since I saw a straight forward character sit com episode. It’s a formula which worked for years on other shows but the attempts to reinvent the wheel in modern sitcoms has robbed us of this joy for a long time. A new character is introduced into a group. The jokes flow from the established characters reacting logically to the new arrival. Then the character that the episode focuses on reveals something about themselves and comes to some sort of emotional realisation or change. It’s a formula which has been ignored by many shows and although The Big Bang Theory has come close on many occasions to replicating it, it wasn’t until now that they nail it.

It’s Penny, the most “normal” character on the show who gets the focus here. It’s the first time we have seen her get a plot to herself. Until now the writing has pushed her to react to Leonard and Sheldon but has never shown us her life and feelings on their own. The setup is so simple but is ideal. Alicia is a new version of Penny, also newly moved in, also blonde, also an actress (utterly plausible in LA). Alicia’s behaviour is a mirror in which Penny can see who she once was, who she still sort of is and ultimately how she has grown through her friendship with the guys.

The conclusion to the story is spot on. Alicia stands up for herself, not just pointing out the hypocrisy of Penny’s behaviour but asking what’s wrong with what she is doing? As she says, the guys get something out of it and so does she. When they offer to drive her to an audition she offers to buy them Chinese food afterwards. She is hardly ripping them off. But Penny defends the honour of her friends and calls them “special.” In a lovely touch to show how they have influenced her she makes a Star Trek reference to try and explain their vulnerability. This plot will make viewers like Penny more, it makes the group friendship more believable and of course these two facts make for better television.

And the build-up to that conclusion is ideally plotted. Sheldon is king of comedy once more as he is serviced with lines to explain his emotional state at each stage. He also plays the role of sounding board to Penny nicely because he doesn’t care about Alicia, only about the noise. He is neatly characterised when he decrees “change is never fine” and goes on to liken the previous tenants to a “family of cats jumping around from drape to drape.” An amusingly ludicrous analogy for how silent they were. He then grills Alicia on how noisy she will be, asking her “Are you fertile?” in anticipation of screaming children. As everyone else reacts to Alicia’s arrival he remains blissfully undisturbed (see Comic Highlight). This means he misses the point of Penny’s jealousy entirely and instead indulges in amusing Star Wars impressions. He also talks about bees, beautifully drawing an analogy for Penny’s situation without having the faintest idea he is doing so.

The other guys slide right into the plot perfectly too. Howard sleazily bookends the episode by complimenting Penny. She is of course disgusted at the start but almost relieved when he does it at the end of the episode. Prompting Howard to confide to Raj “You’re right this filly’s been broken.” Howard also holds Leonard back to pre-emptively prevent him from breaking up the fight between Penny and Alicia (which he is of course very excited about).

Leonard drools all over Alicia in amusing fashion and tells Penny not to nag him, again reinforcing the shift in Penny’s status. Raj pops up to try it on with Alicia only once Penny has brought round a bottle of wine (consistent and a fun moment). And he amusingly asks Howard both what “pish posh” means and whether Penny is on her period when she suddenly starts cosying up to the guys to win them back.

There are so many other good jokes thrown in which warrant a mention. Geek joke for the week is another good one as Raj speculates on being able to take out the Green Lantern with nothing but a yellow pencil. Leonard’s fawning over Alicia includes him commenting on her potential role as a murdered hooker on CSI – “I’d watch that!” Then you have Sheldon commenting on the noise from upstairs "Listen to that.  Stomp, stomp, stomp. It's Wolowitz and his stacked heels that fool no one." Again it’s such a plausible idea that Howard would wear them and it’s funnier to hear about than see.

Finally Sheldon’s one track mind is exploited to full effect when Penny claims it is typical that the guys are all upstairs at Alicia’s: “It’s axiomatically atypical. Up until recently they did not know Alicia and had no encounters with her in her previous location. They never went upstairs to visit the former tenants. Your characterisation of their behaviour as ‘typical’ is demonstrably fallacious.”

The Bad: Howard not wanting to leave home is actually a big story and gets bypassed here. It makes him look very pathetic so hopefully it will get addressed down the road. Leonard being a complete sap is a little demeaning for his character. It makes it look like he hasn’t grown at all since he met Penny, but we know that he has.

Comic Highlight: Penny leaves Alicia’s place annoyed about the new turn of events. She walks into Sheldon’s apartment and plonks herself down on the couch. Sheldon looks disturbed by this and looks toward the door “Who is it? Oh hello Penny, its open, come in.” Then a long pause and out of the side of his mouth he says “Sarcasm.”

How I rate your episode: Excellent stuff. It’s sad in a way that it has taken two seasons to finally produce a proper character episode for Penny. But when it is this good, I won’t complain.

 

 

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  • Best line not mentioned: OK, now I see the squid head.

    Viewer score: 100 / 100

    Posted by ejs, 24/02/2014 12:10am (3 years ago)

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