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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-???


Episode 3 - The Zazzy Substitution

23 February 2012

Synopsis: Amy's presence irritates Leonard and the guys so they are relieved when she and Sheldon break up. But Sheldon then gets himself many cats and won't admit he misses her. So Leonard calls in his mother and she sees to it that he starts seeing Amy again. 

The Good: The exploration of Sheldon's relationship with Amy is a good story to tell. I don't think this was the best way to approach it but there was some good stuff in here.

The opening "Counterfactual" game is an example of what makes The Big Bang Theory pretty special. Most comedies keep conversations between characters pretty generic. Work, sports maybe, some hobbies, relationships obviously and many generic memories, stories or incidents. That is the usual collection of subject matter up for use in comedy scripting. However with the world of science and geekdom in play the writers can tell jokes that you won't hear anywhere else. The gags about a world where a piano was a weapon or a rhinoceros as a household pet aren't hilarious ideas. But they are fun and they are different and they engage the imagination of the viewer. They also create the sense that Amy and Sheldon have a real relationship, that they spend time playing games together and that they have a bond that they can't find anywhere else. So I was a big fan of that opening scene for establishing so many things at once.

It's worth mentioning that Raj's ethnicity lends itself to a similar alternate lexicon as he talks about going "boom boom" on the "potty." But back to Sheldon, this is one of the rare occasions where he has had an emotional attachment to someone or something and it made sense that he would have developed this affection for Amy. The choice of cats as his substitute was very generic but of course he played it well and as ever the incongruity of him describing something in non-scientific terms ("Zazzy!") for a change is usually good for a laugh.

Sheldon's mother coming to see him did emphasise the seriousness of the situation but I wasn't that pleased to see her (see The Bad). However I do appreciate that the writers don't want to fully develop Sheldon as a character anytime soon. By having him get back together with Amy, they were able to tell a breakup story without actually having to deal with the underlying emotions.

I liked the consistency of Raj being an ass while drunk, it's another prop to allow a certain kind of joke to slip in now and again.

The Bad: The downside to this story is what was left out. No one really pushed Sheldon to admit how he actually felt about Amy. It didn't have to touch on romance, more the acknowledgement of what her friendship means to him. It would have been nice to see Penny or Leonard try to get some real answers out of him rather than the abrupt jump to his cat ownership.

His mother's appearance to push him back into Amy's arms, just like the cat ownership felt like a shortcut. The writers didn't want to put the effort into working out how to tell the story in a realistic way of Sheldon missing Amy and then getting back together with her. So instead they brought in cats and his mum. They aren't bad plot devices but how much more satisfying could it have been to see Amy and Sheldon forced to acknowledge on some level that their friendship has an emotional element to it?

I struggle sometimes to tell if the writers have a kind of subtle mastery over Sheldon's character or whether they simply write for the punch lines and get lucky with how well he comes across. For example, Amy asks Sheldon why they have to eat with Leonard, Howard and Raj. Sheldon claims that without him they would be lost and he is the social glue which holds them together. This is clearly not true and Sheldon knows that because the guys spend a lot of time hanging out without him. So was this a clever acknowledgement that Sheldon, deep down, needs their company? Or was it just a silly punch line playing on Sheldon's delusions?

Later on Sheldon explains to Leonard that Amy once wiped jelly from the corner of his mouth - "An action we both regret to this day" he adds. Again was that just a joke pointing out their mutual disgust at unsanitary physical contact or was it a subtle reminder of their growing intimacy?

I'm not sure quite how much the writers do understand what they are doing with Sheldon. I think if Leonard had a backbone and would hold Sheldon to account more often for his hypocrisies then the show would be even better.

Comic Highlight: This wasn't a particularly funny episode. But I thought I would highlight Sheldon's mom's final line which she delivered perfectly:
SM: "He thinks he's such a smarty pants, he's no different to any man, you tell him not to do something - that's all they want to don't you move I'll bring over all the food."
L: "No no no, I can do it."
SM: (Pause) "Well in't that sweet."
Not the funniest line ever but she delivered it perfectly, with a pause to let the obvious point sink in and then a smile and disingenuous tone to drive it home.

In Conclusion: I think there were better ways to tell this story and much exploring of Sheldon's psyche still to be done. But I appreciate that the writers want to make Sheldon last and last as a comedy character and so don't want to rush into anything.



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  • Thanks for posting. It's a good thought. But I don't think the writers on TBBT are big on subtlety. So it may have been something they thought about but I sort of doubt they were trying to nod to anything. I assume they just thought Sheldon being oblivious to such cliched breakup behaviour would be funny.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 21/04/2011 6:18am (9 years ago)

  • One of the reasons for the many cats may have been a nod to Leonard's drive for cats whenever he breaks up with someone or thinks he breaks up with someone. Sheldon hates cats and tries his best to get Leonard to either be in a relationship or be stable in order to avoid the cats. Having Sheldon now grab up cats himself may have been a parallel nod to what he himself normally abhors and showing that he now knows how Leonard feels in his break ups and how he deals with them.. But that's just my take and I could well have read far too deep into it, lol :)

    Posted by Shai, 20/04/2011 9:26pm (9 years ago)

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