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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 4 - The Luminous Fish Effect

29 March 2012

Synopsis: Sheldon offends the new department head at the University and gets fired. He begins adopting a new obsession each day and refuses to leave the apartment. Leonard calls Sheldon’s mother who comes to stay. She forces him to go and get his job back.

The Good: The theory behind this episode is solid. The theory being that we will get a better look at Sheldon’s character and understand what makes him tick. By bringing in his mother we do get a glimpse of what he was like as a child and so how he became who he is. She plays her role well and one or two jokes may make you laugh.

The Bad: In practise though there are a number of weaknesses with this story. The writers seem to assume that we know the characters better than we do. There is no thorough explanation given of what Sheldon’s job is. We know he does research at the university but it is not clear what he is working on or who with or for what purpose.

Even though Leonard refers to Sheldon as a brilliant physicist, it is not clear that everyone sees him that way. So when he swiftly offends Dr Gablehauser and is fired, we are missing some important pieces of the puzzle. How is Sheldon viewed within the university? What will happen to what he is working on? What kind of man is Dr Gablehauser and how serious a situation is this?

None of these questions are addressed and the focus doesn’t seem to be on Sheldon’s real emotions. It is clear enough that he is not dealing with his dismissal well but we jump three weeks in time to his mother arriving without a real understanding of his emotional state. Once his mother is there the focus of the show moves to her character and jokes rather than what Sheldon is really like.

Finally as she is the one who forces him to go and apologise we don’t really learn anything about him or how he thinks or feels about work. Sheldon’s mum is a fun character but the humour is disconnected from the plot and never really hits a target.

Sheldon’s conversations with Penny are full of humour which walks the fine line between Sheldon’s poor understanding of social situations and poor writing. His question to her whether her body mass is connected to her self worth is very odd. In the previous episode he lectured Leonard about which girls he could or could not date. There he was demonstrating a perception of which women were available and their level of sexual attractiveness, so to act like he doesn’t understand how weight could affect a woman’s self esteem doesn’t ring true. Similarly his questions to Penny about her period are pretty direct and the humour is a little forced.

Comic Highlight: Sheldon resents Leonard calling his mother to come and look after him because he doesn’t think he is behaving strangely. Leonard asks when he last left the house.
S: “I went to the market with Penny.”
L: “That was three weeks ago.”
S: “Well then buckle up. In the next four to eight days she’s going to get very crabby!”

In Conclusion: A strangely written episode. The story is passable as are the jokes but the focus is all wrong. The story should be about Sheldon’s place in the world and how he feels about it and yet we learn very little. The writers don’t seem to know what they were trying to achieve.

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