‘The Big Bang Theory’ Recap: The Hot Troll Deviation

S4:E3: Sigh.

Big Bang Theory, what happened? You used to be so clever, so well-written, and just so gosh darn funny. Yeah, I know. You’ve always been a sitcom so you’ve always relied on one liners and predictable jokes, but until this season, you understood that. You recognized your own faults, and in a way, you used all the little quips and stereotypes of sitcoms in the past (like canned laughter) to make fun of yourself. You’d deliver a bad joke, but you knew it was a bad joke. It was all one big nerd fest, and you not only made fun of your characters, but you made fun of the whole setting. And it worked. And I loved it.

But now, you’re different. Something’s changed. You’ve went from realizing and embracing your own nerdiness and lame sitcom approach to actually trying to be a sitcom. It’s like, because you’re the number one rated comedy on television, you’ve forgotten who you are. Suddenly, you want to be like every other popular television show. But that doesn’t make sense, Big Bang. You aren’t Friends. You aren’t Two and a Half Men. You’re better than that. You’re The Big Bang Theory, a show that celebrates nerds. Just be yourself!

Look, I’m not an idiot. I understand that shows grow and change over their time on the air, but typically, if it’s a good show (and I argue Big Bang is a good show), it’s done well. But, after last night’s episode, this season’s Big Bang Theory has proved it wants to go in a new direction. And it’s not a good idea.

In “The Hot Troll Deviation,” we have an episode focused on Howard. And finally, we learned what happened between him and Bernadette (something that’s been killing me since they quietly broke up last season). Turns out, Bernadette caught Howard cheating on her — with a World of Warcraft troll. Yeah, for real. Howard cheated on the beautiful, perfect-for-him Bernadette during an online game. Funny and of course, typical Howard.

But this is where the problem is, and specifically, why I think Big Bang is falling off its creative path. The show’s writers are suddenly lazy. It seems because they have talented actors and have high ratings, there’s no reason to take risks with the dialogue. They know people need to get their weekly Sheldon fix, so they’ll watch. And they know the actors will deliver the lines — whether they are actually funny or not — in a funny way. So in this weird, twisted way, the success of Big Bang is taking away from what made it successful.

For example, in the dinner date that Penny sets up for Howard and Bernadette, we’re thrown into a recycled sitcom scene that we’ve seen a million times before. The two talk about their problems, but of course, Penny is just a couple feet away, listening to their every word and jumping in whenever she’s needed. And each moment she jumps in is a completely predictable moment in the conversation: talking about sex, nerdy video games, or even explaining the menu to them (despite Bernadette working there already).

Another example of recycled sitcom scenes is in the office with Raj and Sheldon. They’re fighting and, yeah, the giant desk thing is funny. But come on, who didn’t see that coming? When we first find out that Sheldon won’t give Raj a desk, we can only assume that Raj will push this to the limits and get a bigass desk. And honestly, what Raj decided to do wasn’t the disappointing part. What’s disappointing is that the writers decided to rely on such a cliche and standard plot. He had no other choice but to make the desk big, and so forth.

It’s just frustrating, because it’s not like I didn’t laugh at these moments. I did. They were all funny and the show, like it always does, gave me the opportunity to tune the rest of the world out for a little bit. But there’s something missing from The Big Bang Theory this season. That spark. That difference. It’s gone. It’s no longer laughing at itself. And rather than being one of the funniest shows on television, Big Bang has fallen trap to its own success and become a shadow of what it once was. Hopefully, the nerds can solve the problem.