S4E12: After a midseason break, The Big Bang Theory returned this week. And, unfortunately for us viewers, decided they would return to the problems -- and keep in mind, these problems were fixed heading into the break -- that plagued the beginning of the season. The jokes were unoriginal. The characters did typical things. And the writing was boring. Should I be surprised by this? Eh, no, not really. The season seemed to be heading down this path, despite its few glimmers of hope. But, even though I saw it coming, I am saddened by the fall of one of my favorite shows.
"That's a Hanukkah present you're regretting, huh?"
In the same way the rest of the episode sucked, the cold open this week was pretty lame. Howard's talking with his overprotective mother again? Oh, okay! Cool! We haven't seen that before! Oh wait, yes we have. We see that at least once a week. So, I apologize if this seems a bit harsh, but I think the cold open was a very telling factor of why this season of TBBT has been such a drag. It's simply unoriginal.
I'm not asking or expecting tremendous new ideas from this show. But, what I do expect is that the writers push the characters they've created. Sure, a running gag throughout the series between Howard and his mother is funny sometimes, but that's only if it's not mentioned every single episode. Personally, I've never been a huge fan of Howard's character, but at times, he's bearable. And sometimes, just sometimes, he gives me a laugh with some one-off perverted comment or with an absurd outfit he's wearing. But now it's to the point where any time he's on screen, that's all gone. I consistently feel myself saying, "Welp, how long before they make a crack about the relationship with his mother?" And usually, before I can even finish that thought, they go ahead and sneak one in. This week, it was during the cold open. And after a couple week hiatus from TBBT, this was definitely not how I wanted to be brought back into the world of my favorite nerds. But, alas. It happened. Let's move on.
"The stars at night are bring and bright deep in the heart of Texas!"
"Let's see you come up with an explanation as to why this woman hangs out with us all the time."
This week's plot wasn't anything groundbreaking, but I liked the premise -- especially for a show about nerds. Leonard came up with the idea for a smart phone app that, when you took a picture of a math equation, told you what said math equation was (they worded it in a more complicated way on the show, but that's basically what it was). Sheldon loved the idea, and that's where the quote above comes into play. In the gang's excitement, Leonard talked about the project in front of an "outsider" (Penny) and Sheldon didn't want him to give it away, so he kept interrupting him, specifically by singing about Texas.
This all worked fairly well. Sheldon is always at his best when he's doing absurd things, so seeing him channel all of his home state pride just to keep distract Penny was pretty funny. (Also, fun fact of the day, Jim Parsons is actually from Texas.) Plus, the idea that Penny is hanging around the nerds so she can get rich is an interesting concept as well, and actually is something I've never thought of before. Maybe this is something the writers could pursue in future episodes? Anyway, in a dull episode, this was probably one of the funnier moments.
"They are pants one wears over one's regular pants when one sits on bus seats that other people have previously sat on."
As you can imagine, Sheldon got a little over-bearing for the rest of the group as they tried to create this app. So, he got fired. Of course, this pissed him off and put a strain on his relationship with Leonard. And since Leonard is his ride to work, it led to the above quote, which was really, the funniest part of the episode.
"A disappointing drink for a disappointing day."
Like I stated earlier, Sheldon is at his best when he's doing ridiculous things and making ridiculous assumptions. The fact that he thinks he needs to wear pants over his normal pants just because other people sat on the bus before him -- that's funny! And that's the type of humor that works with Sheldon. But, what doesn't work is when the writers think it's a good idea to turn him into a dick. Because honestly, I don't think Sheldon is inherently a mean person. He just doesn't understand people and how they work. And everyone knows that! Hell, that's one of the very first things we learned during TBBT's first season: Sheldon doesn't understand human emotions, but because he's this weird, almost alien creature, it's funny. But it's only comical if he's not a mean person.
For example, the first stab he took at Penny for failing as an actress was funny. And mainly, it was funny because he was referencing the gang. Penny failed as an actress and is now hanging out with nerds to get rich? Yeah, that's funny. But then later in the episode, when he made another comment about her failure as an actress, it wasn't funny. It was just dickish because he was attacking her.
"You've taken the most important step on the road to success: learning what not to do. Now, let's start fresh. Howard, we'll need some tea."
This may seem odd, but Sheldon needs to be self-centered. In order to be funny, he needs to think about how the world affects him, and then reveal that to the rest of us through his crazy antics and ideas. When he takes the focus off of himself and applies it to others, he doesn't think of them as good people. Instead, he just sees how flawed they are in his eyes, and proceeds to belittle them for it. There's nothing funny or lovable about that.
So that's why, even at the end of the episode when he rejoins the team and says the above quote, it's just not that funny. The characters circled back to where they were in the beginning of the episode. Sheldon's a dick. The guys are mad at him. Penny is mad at him. It's just one big clusterfuck of pissed off-ness. And seriously, who wants to watch that? These characters work best as an ensemble that pokes fun at each other, but deep down, we know they love one another. But this episode lacked those redeeming qualities. And because of that, sadly, this episode just wasn't all that funny.