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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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60
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Episode 4 - The Pirate Solution

20 March 2013

Synopsis: Raj's research runs into a dead end and he fears he will be deported. The only other job he can get is working for Sheldon with inevitable consequences. Howard is now all alone and so tries to spend more time with Penny and Leonard who would rather be alone.

The Good: This episode exposes one of the flaws with the writing of The Big Bang Theory. Albeit the least of their weaknesses and that is simply that nothing much happens. Often the writing sets up an intriguing situation and then simply relies on Sheldon talking about it to create an episode.

More on that in The Bad. In premise this episode is ideal, we finally get to see Raj at work and explore his character a little further. His two attempts to get a job both supply some nice laughs. First he tries to join a research team (see Comic Highlight) but his fear of women scuppers that. Then he goes to work with Sheldon and thankfully the writing doesn’t rely solely on Sheldon being unbearable. Instead the “Eye of the Tiger” montage of both men just staring at white boards was pretty funny. It poked fun at their work while pointing out the obvious about what theoretical physics work would look like. Sheldon rejecting all of Raj’s reasonable demands was a nice cheap laugh and in keeping with his character. In the end Raj proved to be good enough at what he does to get one past Sheldon, no mean feat.

Meanwhile Penny and Leonard continue to grow closer with Leonard amusingly grateful to Penny for being with him (entirely believable). Howard is left out by Raj’s new work and so Penny and Leonard take pity on him. I guess they are nice people. I did like Penny eavesdropping on the guys after they made her leave the room so that Raj could talk out loud. It was an indication of her caring about him and also just wanting to circumvent his inconvenient “condition.”

The Bad: I often reference other TV shows in my reviews. I do this to try and add to my arguments. I hope that by showing you something has been done well before, it will add weight to my critique. So in this case, an Indian man wants to stay in the United States but immigration is threatening to deport him. The obvious TV predecessor for this is The Simpsons with the Apu-centric episode “Much Apu about Nothing” (723). In that instance we learnt about Apu’s reasons for coming to the States in the first place and a detailed explanation of why he wanted to say. We saw him try some desperate and illegal attempts to stay before finally working within the system and being rewarded for his love for his adopted country. That episode managed to poke fun at the whole issue of immigration and throw in some serious slapstick with Homer and a bear. By comparison this episode is pretty lightweight.

Once more the writers lean on simple conversation to carry the whole show. The guys discuss Raj’s situation at home. They discuss it in the cafeteria. He tries one attempts to get a job and then ends up in endless conversations with Sheldon. The show just doesn’t seem to want to write many sketches involving other characters to create a memorable story. The Leonard-Penny-Howard plot was entirely superfluous and that time should have been spent on Raj trying to get other work.

Comic Highlight: All seems to be going well for Raj at his interview with Professor Laughlin. Unfortunately he then meets Dr Milstone, a woman, who he will have to work with. He smiles warmly as she asks him questions and slyly walks over to Dr Laughlin’s bottle of sherry and pours himself a large drink. He quickly downs it and is able to reply. He takes a second gulp and then adds “Would you like to hear more about it in my hot tub?” It’s a well delivered line and the scene plays well on the audience’s knowledge of Raj’s “condition.” Of course Raj’s condition is not exactly plausible when one gulp can make him able to talk and two makes him damagingly sleazy. It’s a nice microcosm of the shows issues: a well delivered joke but one which should have been written differently in the first place.

In Conclusion: An episode where very little seems to happen. If the show is going to pair Sheldon and Raj at work from now on then this could have amusing consequences but we shall have to wait and see.

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  • Violet, the whole point of criticism is to place something within a wider context. If you like an episode then what I say about it shouldn't in any way diminish your enjoyment.

    I completely disagree with you though. There is no reason that The Big Bang Theory should be so slow and lacking in actual stories. It's a choice by Chuck Lorre that creates mediocre, repetitive television.

    And The Simpsons is an amazingly influential show that broke a lot of the rules of comedy in the early 90s with knock on effects for pretty much every sit com. Comparing practically any modern comedy to early Simpsons is relevant.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 20/03/2013 9:30am (7 years ago)

  • If this is a geek comedy, which it is, then nothing much SHOULD happen. It IS a show about nothing, and it IS conversation driven, which is what we geeks tend to hang out and do. You keep trying to get the show to step up and be like other comedies, and measure it against shows that it isn't, and against your own preconception of what a sit com should do. A sit com should make me laugh. This makes me laugh. This show works for its own premise, and its own culture of comedy. Really-- the SIMPSONS?! That is an entirely different culture of comedy that this show, and its humor comes from a very different space. Quit trying to put all sit coms in the same box. THAT would NOT be funny, and would render most sitcoms typical.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Violet, 20/03/2013 1:26am (7 years ago)

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