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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 15 - The Benefactor Factor

11 February 2011

Credit CBS

Synopsis: University President Siebert demands the presence of the gang at a University Fundraising party. Sheldon initially refuses to go which leaves Leonard, Howard and Raj to be intimidated by wealthy donor Mrs Latham. She takes a shine to Leonard and asks him out to dinner. There she kisses him and Sheldon encourages him to exploit her lust for a generous contribution.

The Good: I liked the details of this story a lot. The guys work at a research University so they would absolutely need to be involved in fundraising. President Siebert played his role very nicely being reasonable enough to understand their discomfort but professional enough to insist they attend. I was also pleased by him claiming that the Board of Directors thought Sheldon was a genius. That was a nice bit of plausible cover for why Sheldon continues to be gainfully employed despite being so rude to everyone. That is a great example of why I take logic in my sitcoms so seriously because by virtue of that detail I could genuinely believe in Sheldon yelling (when he finally arrived at the party) "No no no, I'm just here for your money, I don't want to shake anyone's germy hands. Explain it to them Seibert!"

Mrs Latham's interest in Leonard put him in a tricky situation which was sensible writing. It allowed Howard to call him a "Lucky Duck" and Sheldon to ask "Who's crazy now?" and all the good banter you would expect. It also allowed us to glimpse a little more of Leonard's character than usual. His huge flattered grin when she tells him he is handsome was pretty charming, if only he were given more of a chance to shine.

I also liked the story being structured to reward Leonard for being agreeable and pleasant. He was rewarded for his social exploits with a big round of applause from his colleagues whereas Sheldon's cold indifference got him banned from future fundraising.

The Bad: As usual the plot wasn't quite centred on where the real story was. The real story should have been Leonard having to weigh the moral dilemma of whether to prostitute himself for the sake of the department or stick to the moral course. If the episode had been built around that we could have examined his character and those of Sheldon and Penny more thoroughly and I think more humorously.

Instead I was fairly unimpressed with Sheldon's various speeches about how Leonard should naturally trade sex for money because it would benefit Sheldon. I think the writers should go a step further and define Sheldon even more than they do. He did grow up in a very Christian household so I doubt he would really think of prostitution in such glib terms. We understand Sheldon as thinking of sex as unhygienic, unnecessarily social and intimate and perhaps serving no real purpose. It would have been nice to see him more innocently question Leonard about his feelings rather than offend both him and Penny with a string of prostitution jokes. I could quite imagine Sheldon being understanding about the horror of the act but arguing persuasively that Leonard was doing the right thing for his career.

Instead Leonard sleeps with Mrs Latham because he isn't in a position in life to turn down free sex. Hardly the best end to the story. Penny laughs at him for it which kind of missed the opportunity to shine a light on their feelings for one another but it was nice just to get an actual ending to a plot for once.

Comic Highlight: President Seibert puts his hand on Sheldon's shoulder and asks:
PS: "How are we doing today?"
S: "That depends. How much longer do you plan on fondling my shoulder?"
PS: "Sorry Dr Cooper I forgot you have a touch phobia."
S: "It's not a touch phobia, it's a germ phobia. If you'd like to go put on a pair of latex gloves, I'll let you check me for a hernia."

In Conclusion: This was a good story and the conclusion was passable. Lots of room for improvement but isn't there always?

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  • Hey, nice to hear from you again. I would be curious to know how your friend found the site too but no big deal.

    That's very interesting stuff about Lorre. As you say that could explain a lot about his style of humour and perhaps why he has been fairly lenient on Charlie Sheen the more he has gone off the rails.

    I think Lorre's production strength is producing cheap but well defined sit coms. I often wish TBBT would go on location more often and show us Sheldon having to deal with more strangers but I'm sure filming on the same sets keeps costs down.

    Good to know about Prady too and it's made the show feel authentic when the guys all get excited over thier latest experiment or discovery.

    Thanks again.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 27/02/2011 6:36pm (9 years ago)

  • PS and I will start proofing my comments--the errors I spot afterwards are just horrid.

    Posted by George , 27/02/2011 5:16am (9 years ago)

  • Hi Robin, I found the site from a friend who reads it at work and cuts/pastes it from work and emails it to me. He lives in the states and we keep in touch via email mostly.

    Anyway I wanted to finally post a comment so I actually visited the site directly this time. He is a "TV sticom addict" --but I don't know how he first found your site though I can ask him.

    About TBBT and Lorre. When I first became interested in it (after coming down from my That 70's Show addiction when it finally finished) I read several interviews of Bill Prady. Bill confessed that he is a nerd and technogeek and knew alot of computer geeks/nerds and genius types from several jobs he had. His friendship with Lorre led to him pitching this show. Lorre had the money and Prady the "nerd-geek" background. As I'm sure you know they hired an actual physcist from UCLA (he has his own blog The big blog theory) as well.

    Also, like you, I was impressed with how different TBBT was from Lorre's other stuff and I am convinced Prady is the reason why (judginf from Prady's interviews). Lorre lets him have free reign most of the time but he seems to get in there once and a while.

    Personally I don't think Lorre is a gifted writer at all but he is a clever producer--that is he nows how to pick people who are gifted and thanks to the money resources he can retain them.

    Yes, I've read all his vanity cards and followed any interviews about him I could find. From what I can patch together he's led a troubled and life "on the edge". When he was younger he was a bit of a drifter trying to make it "big" as part of a rock group, had a drinking and anger problem and terrible relationships with women etc etc. He got straightened out eventually but I sense he's still emotionally disturbed as an individual. He reminds me of the classic "black sheep of the family" wild uncle, the guy who lived fast when he was younger, gambled in vegas and chided his brother, your dad for being a "square".

    I actually have an uncle like that believe it or not (and he lives in Vegas).

    Lorre strikes me as somebody whose had an especially hard time with women: he needs them but he hates himself for it too. I think that plays into his easy sexual jokes.

    Now I don't mind jokes like that if they are part of the charactar (like Kelso on That 70's show --the male bimbo) but Sheldon is a far far different animal. He is a true super genius child who won major physics awards at 14 and seems to have so much brain power focused on his field that lesser things like sex and social relations "continue to baffle and repluse me" as he said in the episode where the asian North Korean nemesis falls for a girl. I think you so right on the money when you say he is a character who needs to be protected because he is not arrogant and mean all the time. He honestly doesn't "get it" as when he insulted Penny in the Amy-falls-for-Zack episode and says "what insult" when Penny points out he insulted her. (I have to memorize the episode titles!)

    Thanks for making me feel welcome on your site. Ill try to comment on the TBBT episodes but others as well (I love the office too).

    Best,
    George (from Canada!)

    Posted by George , 27/02/2011 5:11am (9 years ago)

  • Hey George, thanks so much for writing. Out of interest how did you find the site?

    I think you make an excellent point and good on you for reading those vanity plates. In fact I went into IMDB to see if your theory was correct. Now I should stress that there is a team of writers and so we can’t prove who was responsible for individual jokes. However both this episode and the episode you reference “The Loobenfeld Decay” from season one have a specific credit to Chuck Lorre for writing the story. He doesn’t get specific writing credits for every episode so you may well be exactly right.

    I have watched Lorre’s other current shows “Two and a Half Men” and “Mike and Molly” and so know full well how he likes his easy sex jokes. Both shows use such clichéd humour so often that I remain impressed with how different TBBT generally is.

    I think Sheldon needs to be protected. It would be so easy to turn him into someone who was simply arrogant and mean all the time. But that isn’t who he is. Obviously I agree with you entirely about the Green Lantern scene. Sex is a subject he chooses not to think much about, so encouraging Leonard into prostitution just seems odd.

    Thanks again for posting, I look forward to hearing from you again.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 25/02/2011 11:51am (9 years ago)

  • correction" group in a religous home " --> grew up in a religious home.

    --
    PS pardon my spelling etc. Its 1 am here and I should be sleeping!

    Posted by George, 25/02/2011 6:00am (9 years ago)

  • I really enjoy reading your reviews, especially about the big bang theory. This episode really bothered me. I agree with you regarding Sheldon's reaction as being out of character ( due to his distate for physical intimacy and the fact he group in a religous home would).

    I have a theory: whenver we see really heavy sexual or inapproriate sexually deviant type chatter on the show it smacks greatly of Chuck Lorre's heavy hand in that episode. I base this on the fact that in the vanity card of the show (sorry I forget the episode title) where Sheldon hires an actor to portray his drug addicted cousin "Leo" --Lorre complains (or is it whines?) that CBS prevented him from having the Leo character say it was a catholic priest who raped him and not merely a "pastor". My point is Lorre is admitting he had a hand in this weird sexual joke (i thought it was disgusting personally) and so I believe that when Sheldon acts too 'charlie sheenish' ala two and a half men regarding sexual jokes it means Lorre has barrelled into the writers meetings in a way he doesnt do in other episodes (just my guess). I'd like to know what you think about that?
    I personally thought that the highlight of Sheldon and sex was the episode where he had a girl on his bed willing and eager and he merely wished her a good night and said he'd sleep in Leonards room and then he walked off into the hallway with his green lantern lantern (THAT is Sheldon on sex, not telling his friend to give it up like some cheap tramp).

    Also I agree with you that because of his upbringing he should have a different response to the whole sleeping for money thing. I remembe in one episode Sheldon actually said "growing up in a Christian household I feely uncomfortable with the language Leonard used" (ie the episode where he and amy first go on a date). I would think if he was uncomfortable with mere swearing he would not be so comfortable with wanton sexual escapades even if it was for money for the university. I can see Sheldon trying to get the money out of the old bat with some sort of deception to spare his friend having to have sex.

    I wish the writers cared more. I know they don't get paid half as much as the actors. But honestly if they did would they try harder?

    Again, I love your reviews please keep writing.
    best,
    George from Canada

    Posted by George, 25/02/2011 5:57am (9 years ago)

  • It's never boring for me :-)

    Very true about Friends. Those first few seasons bonded you to all of the characters.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 12/02/2011 10:49am (9 years ago)

  • I know it might get rather boring, but I do agree with you again.

    I really liked this one, because not only where Sheldons lines nicely acid-tongued due his social unawareness, the story "worked out" this time.

    there were no strange Bollywood dream sequence and jigsaw-like plot pieces like the last time, and the "subcharacters" were reduced to a necessary minimum.

    I especially liked the way to solve the plot in a way that is not only plausible, but also funny, understandable for all involved persons and without the loss of moral boundaries or the need of getting out of character.

    Nevertheless I do hope, Penny just made jokes of Leonard although she still has feelings, because I want the only possible "meaningful" lovestory of the series to work out in the end,

    And, while still rewatching "Friends", a little more emotional bonding with the viewer would be nice. Although the 7th season isn't as good as the first ones, when the least stable character Phoebe has to go through an emotional kind-of breakup, I'm with her at once.
    A connection that most other sitcoms still fail.

    Posted by Michael, 12/02/2011 5:13am (9 years ago)

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