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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 Zarnecki Incursion

2 April 2011

Synopsis: Sheldon's World of Warcraft account is hacked and all his possessions are stolen. He is furious and asks the gang to help him track them down. Leonard is keen to help and first ignores and then lies to Priya. The gang finds the culprit and drive out to his house to demand Sheldon's stuff back. But Todd Zarnecki won't give them their stuff back and their car breaks down on the way home. Meanwhile Penny is getting frustrated by Priya's presence and it is she who they call to come pick them up.

The Good: This wasn't a particularly funny or interesting episode in certain ways but I thought it was really enjoyable. The key for me was the tone. For once Sheldon wasn't a pest, annoying everyone with his selfish needs. Instead he was an innocent victim and all his friends rallied around him to make sure justice was done. Sheldon finally got to play the most likeable role I can imagine for him as he rallies the geeks against the bullies of the world.

I feel sit coms are ideally suited to having their characters be the heroes of the piece. Particularly punch-line sit coms like The Big Bang Theory. With a studio audience watching it only feels natural to create the sense that the people you are watching are worth cheering on. Having a quest or mission is also something that suits sitcoms as it gives the episode a focus and a natural beginning, middle and end.

With all of that in place suddenly all the little jokes that weren't especially funny on their own were working in service of an enjoyable plot. Sheldon using a napkin to protect himself from germs when everyone puts their hands together to signify the start of their quest. Sheldon grimacing each time Howard yells to his mother as they patiently wait for Wheel of Fortune to finish. Leonard has sitar music as his ringtone for Priya and Sheldon pointing out the accurate advertising of Shamu as "literally tonnes of fun." All these little moments just seemed so much more enjoyable to me because the plot and characters were hitting the right tone every step of the way.

I felt this tone extended to Penny too. She stood in understandable contrast to Priya in being instantly sympathetic to Sheldon for his loss. Remember that she was once hooked on online role playing games (203). So by virtue of spending so much time with the guys she understands what the loss represents and feels genuinely sympathetic. In the end of course she also completes the group. She willingly comes to their rescue and makes sure that justice is done. It's a role that suits her well.

I am also very pleased with the way Amy and Bernadette have become her new gal pals. It allows for us to finally spend time with Penny and explore her emotions in a way we never could when one of the guys was around. Her complaints about Priya were entirely relatable too. She complains about all the socialising influence that she had on Leonard and how Priya is now reaping the benefits. I believed every word of that far more than I believe in her feelings for Leonard.

To be fair the odd line was genuinely amusing too. Upon hearing Todd Zarnecki's address read out Sheldon dramatically cries "The name and the address drip with evil!" Leonard then jokes that "I bet he's some loser who lives with his parents!" much to Howard's embarrassment.

The Bad: They were all harmless on their own but the writers slightly overdid the Raj is feminine stuff with lines about pilates, dancing, Beyonce and so on.

Comic Highlight: Although the writers still reach for the cheap laugh too easily I think they are starting to get a handle on Amy's character. She seems to be playing it now as Sheldon but with a desire experience the social world. So when Penny offers her a drop of coffee liquor in her ice cream she responds "Ah! Here's the Alcohol and drug peer pressure mother warned me about. I was starting to think it was never going to happen. Yes please!" I think if they keep going down that route the results will be funny.

In Conclusion: One of the things I love about sitcoms is the shameless escapism of just cheering on goofy things. It's been frustrating to see The Big Bang Theory use so much irritation and argument in their stories when co-operation can be this much fun. With the expansion of the cast and a bit of growth from Sheldon it feels like the show is slowly embracing this a little more warmly. Its encouraging news and I hope for more of it.

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  • CBS have confirmed the storyline about Raj for Ep22 – The Wildebeest Implementation. Interesting to see how that pans out.

    An hour after I posted yesterday I was flicking through the EPG on my PVR and on a channel I never watch was listed a US programme called ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’. Oopsie… I wondered why Penny lisped when she said Cardassians and thought she had swallowed some ice cream as she was delivering her line. Star Trek references I can get, but US ‘reality’ shows never. In my defence, I was watching a 240p online video with over ½ second lipsync delay, but even in 1080p/5.1 that would have gone way over my head. Checking it out, it looks like switching over to a 24/7 paint drying channel would be a merciful release. My bad.

    Not sure I was too happy with Herb Garden Germination. Probably just Priya getting too comfortable for my liking. I will look at it again and post my comments on the right page next week.

    Posted by Malcolm, 09/04/2011 1:05am (9 years ago)

  • Yeah I liked the silent walk gag too. They have found creative ways to make use of the stairwell.

    And I agree entirely about Raj. I think he could carry standalone stories if they developed his character a little. I like that he is the least brow-beaten by Sheldon. He doesn't seem afraid to stand up for himself and I think there's a lot they could do with him as an immigrant character who has adapted so well to the USA.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 08/04/2011 12:23am (9 years ago)

  • This latter half of season 4 is coming up with some fun episodes, and the absence of Sheldon’s rants and selfishness has gone a long way to improve the tone. I also agree that the introduction of Amy and Bernadette has been a positive asset to the show, but not just in the welcome addition of giving the writers the scope to let Penny explore her feelings in the privacy of a gal’s night (Did Leonard really giggle and say “Oh boy, my breast friends” whenever Penny took her top off? Yikes!). Amy now has a role as Sheldon’s confidante, whom he accepts as his intellectual equal. Because he will listen to her, she has the ability to tone him down and point out his errors, e.g. in the Benefactor Factor (Ep15) where she was able to persuade him that it was in his interests to attend President Siebert’s fundraising party to try and ensure any donations were coming the Physics department’s way. Bernadette has also changed Howard’s character, although after the Cohabitation Formulation (Ep16) it looked like their break up was pretty final unless Howard is prepared to change a great deal more. From the CBS story outline, it seems this will be one of the themes of tonight’s new episode. I hope the gals are not written out, as I really enjoy their get-togethers.

    The writers have continued their tutorial on why ‘nice’ Penny is more suitable than ‘not nice’ Priya as a partner for Leonard. We learnt that Penny knows what it means to be robbed of a bunch of imaginary crap that’s useful in a make-believe place. Priya doesn’t. We learnt that Penny could name all the Cardassians. We suspect Priya would ask, “What’s a Cardassian? We learnt that Penny would come to the aid of her guys when they are faced with a mean teenager. We are certain Priya wouldn’t. Penny might have thought it sad that all this geek stuff has rubbed off on her, but she knows this is an important part of her friends’ lives and does not condemn them for it. Penny understands Priya’s insecurity, such that she will tiptoe around her even though she does not like it. She also accepts it is not right for her friends to be mean to Priya.

    Having his sister as Leonard’s girlfriend has widened the comedic scope for Raj (e.g. “Bros before… er, my sister” and his half-hearted attempt to back up Leonard’s lie to her) but I have long thought he is underutilised. I read on the IMDb message boards that there is a storyline about Raj getting proper medicine to cure him of his selective mutism without the side effects we saw in S1Ep15, but this was not sourced. I hope they are right because I am finding his inability to talk to women a rather stale joke. We have seen a bit of growth in Sheldon, as he recognises sarcasm better than Leonard now. In the first episode after the pilot, it was Leonard who had to hold up a sign to let Sheldon know Penny was being sarcastic.

    My comic highlight - Penny and Priya having to walk up the stairs together in awkward silence. We know those stairs intimately, as every week we see the stair walk-and-talk used as a device to move the plot forward. Here, the director gave us almost a minute of silence (a brave move in a punch line sitcom) as the two traced every uncomfortable step from the entrance lobby to apartment 4a, interspersed with insincere smiles and Penny checking her phone. It just got funnier and funnier.

    Posted by Malcolm, 07/04/2011 8:00pm (9 years ago)

  • I am glad that my feeling was right and you also liked this episode.
    Lately I often recognize that my focus on and my expectations from good entertainment differ from the "mainstream".

    The shallow quicky is more desired than the character development, a "one night laugh"-world.

    Gladly most of my "expert places" are housing mostly people who are pretentious in the best sense of the word.

    Read you next episode!

    Posted by Michael, 03/04/2011 8:31pm (9 years ago)

  • Hey Michael, I agree with you!

    Posted by The TV Critic, 02/04/2011 3:03pm (9 years ago)

  • Ok, this time I will keep my first comment rather short:

    I really liked this episode, everything and everyone seemed to be "in place", all of the series good cards were played well and there was real progress.

    But at my german TV sub forum, most of the comments are bad, so without any further detailed input from my side, I will just await your opinion, maybe with a few more hints of lacks I missed...

    Posted by Michael, 02/04/2011 9:29am (9 years ago)

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