‘The Big Bang Theory’ Recap: The Irish Pub Formulation

S4:E6: I’m starting to wonder when The Big Bang Theory is going to change its name to The Zaney Adventures of Sheldon Cooper.

So far, this season hasn’t been the same as previous ones. Something’s off. The cast hasn’t gelled as effectively in the past, and often times, episodes this year have felt like one long running gag to put Sheldon in awkward or silly situations so he’ll do something odd. And we’ll laugh.

I thought that changed last week, when the writers finally seemed to get their act together, and my reasoning? Kaley Cucco‘s — a.k.a. Penny — broken foot. It forced the crew to rethink their plot lines because one of the key members of the ensemble would be gone for a few episodes. But last night’s episode, the second in the broken foot saga, found itself returning to the clumsy, Sheldon-heavy ventures of this season. And honestly I must say — I’m annoyed.

Here’s a quick rundown of what happened. Raj’s sister Priya came to visit, and she’s a beautiful, smart woman (she’s a lawyer at a top firm in India). Obviously, both Howard and Leonard are interested in her, but they made a pact five years ago when they first met her that they wouldn’t pursue her out of respect to one another and to Raj. But, as we can predict, that was thrown out the window. We learn Leonard and Priya have a secret relationship and they get it on whenever she visits.

Let’s be real here, this isn’t the most groundbreaking storyline in TV history, but for a typically funny, well-rated sitcom, the premise of it works. My initial thoughts when Priya first showed up (and by the way, props to guest Aarti Maankad for a solid performance) was: how in the world does Raj deal with having a sister? I mean, this is a guy who has a medically diagnosed disorder that makes him a mute in front of women. And I know you’re thinking, “Gross, that’s his sister,” but look at his situations in the past. He can’t talk in front of Sheldon’s mom or Leonard’s mom. Those are women who he is not sexually attracted to, but still struggles. So why can he handle his sister?

And unfortunately, I can’t give you the answer. Because Big Bang decided to be stupid and totally ignore everything they set up with this plot premise. Instead of focusing on how Raj handles a sister, or how Priya’s relationship with Leonard affects Raj, the writers use Raj simply as a way to get Leonard a woman. And once we get past that part in the plot, the rest of the episode is spent dealing with — guess what — Leonard’s crazy roommate Sheldon. How can Leonard get her in the apartment while Sheldon stays up late playing an old ’80s video game? How will Sheldon respond if he finds out? How can Sheldon keep a secret? Blah blah blah. These are the same questions that have been asked in numerous other episodes, and the gag is getting old.

I’m not saying this episode wasn’t funny, because it definitely had its moments (“Ta dah. It’s short for “da da ta dah!”). Jim Parsons is hilarious as Sheldon. Despite the rest of the Hollywood.com office disagreeing with me, I think his Emmy win this past year was well-deserved. And I really love it when Sheldon makes jokes, because his character is really, really funny. But I’m just frustrated now because the writers seem to be making every single scene they write as a setup for a Sheldon joke, and through that, ignore other comedic potential from the other characters. This can only go so far before it becomes redundant. Big Bang works as an ensemble. Look at that scene last night when the four guys all admitted to different levels of betrayal to one another. Each comment was funny, and although the punchline ended with a Sheldon joke, each member of the ensemble got to throw their weight in the scene. And then, Sheldon’s mothy-food experiment on Leonard is a great payoff. That’s what makes Sheldon is so funny, when he works with the ensemble. But if everyone else doesn’t have anything funny to say and all the comedy relies on Sheldon’s kicker line, it falls flat. Like with anything, if you put too much weight on one part of something, it loses its balance.

I’m going to continue to watch Big Bang regardless of the direction it goes, because Sheldon is always funny to me — no matter what. And I guess that’s why the writers can get away with being so lazy. The viewers will watch and the ratings won’t drop, but it’s sad because Big Bang’s earlier seasons (specifically season 2) are really good. I hope the writers can get back to those days and get away from this mentality of making the show just “good enough” to get by.