Episode 6 - The Irish Pub Formulation
30 October 2010
Synopsis: Raj's sister Priya is in town for the weekend and Raj reminds his friends to keep their hands off her. We soon learn that she and Leonard hooked up once before and intend to do so again. Leonard has to keep her a secret from Sheldon though and of course fails. Soon the betrayal spreads around the group and retaliatory revelations take place.
The Good: Bringing in family members is almost always a good idea in sit coms as it helps root that character in a real relationship we can all relate to. The writers did nothing with Priya but she may come back one day. Her leap over the couch to hide from Sheldon was a nice visual gag.
I did enjoy how Leonard's deceit fell apart just as Sheldon predicted but in an entirely organic reason. By not watching a TV show (Caprica) the others knew he would have watched Leonard immediately drew attention to himself. It was a clever piece of writing because in their insular geeky world this news marked Leonard's behaviour out as instantly peculiar.
The Bad: If you don't know what I'm going to say then you just aren't paying close enough attention.
Raj's sister comes to town, she sleeps with Leonard who is betraying Howard by doing so. Who was the plot focussed primarily on though? Yes that's right, Sheldon.
I've never quite seen a sitcom producer as ruthless as Chuck Lorre. Two and a Half Men is in its eighth season and remains the most watched comedy on TV. This is despite having a basic formula with little change in eight seasons. Charlie remains the womaniser, Alan the loser and Jake the slacker. Lorre hits those notes over and over and over and it works. Here he takes a plot surrounding the other three characters and just feeds everything to Sheldon. Every twist in the tale leads back to Sheldon being fussy, Sheldon being angry, Sheldon being silly. Just feed Sheldon is the formula and it works.
Sadly it doesn't create emotionally or intellectually or even humorously satisfying work. Sheldon continues to excel at portraying a man with unusual and particular habits and many a moment still sparkles (see Comic Highlight) with that ability to bring life out of simple ideas. But surely this story could have address some other issues?
For a start we have Raj who is able to talk in front of his sister (a woman). Yet that is ignored, as is the question of what his family think of his extended stay in the US. This could have been the right episode to have him address whether he wants to become a citizen one day and how his family would feel. Instead we got jokes about cows and Native Americans.
Then you have Leonard who last episode was exposed as feeling quite lonely and at times miserable. Here he tries to cling onto casual sex and considers leaving his country to have a meaningful relationship. But that story is shoved out of the way so that we could hear just how fastidious Sheldon is about skin cream.
Finally you have Howard who last episode set up Leonard with one of his girlfriends' friends and has now been betrayed. The whole issue of betrayal and friendship descended into the kind of manufactured shock jokes that made Friends so increasingly irritating during its last few seasons (see 704 or 809). Yes it's funny in theory that Sheldon put bugs in Leonard's food or Howard made Raj do his laundry but the fact that these incidents were so clearly made up just for that argument dulls their impact.
They are overusing the Sheldon giggle each episode. It's starting to seem implausibly forced.
Comic Highlight: Sheldon is playing an old text based game and using his imagination to get fully involved. He narrates his typing to an uninterested Leonard: "Go West. 'A troll blocks your passage.' Ok fasten your seat belts! Kill troll. 'With what?' With sword. 'You don't have the sword.' Good golly it's as if it's actually happening to me!" His enthusiasm sells it beautifully and you can completely believe he is utterly absorbed.
In Conclusion: Feed Sheldon. Feed Sheldon. Feed Sheldon.
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