The Big Bang Theory: Bang, You’re Dead


Thanks to a minor yet unpleasant disruption to sleep, I wound up downloading and watching the final two episodes of The Big Bang Theory before 6.16am. Twelve years ago, in another world, I caught either the second or third episode on Channel 4. It was a comedy that might have been made for me, geek humour, about loneliness and isolation and the things I loved myself, and understood.

After twelve years, it’s not that programme anymore, but I still love it and it’s been the most consistent source of laughter, uproarious laughter, throughout all that time. Now it’s over.

It’s over because Jim Parsons wanted to leave, and do other things. Understandable, if dismaying. Good luck to him and all of them. Parsons has been the star, around which all has revolved, but in the process has drawn some of the attention that Kaley Cuoco has deserved. Of course I like her: she’s blonde, beautiful and sexy, but so much more important, she’s a gem of a comedienne, with timing that’s so absolutely to the point.

But I like them all, and I liked them for twelve seasons, which is not natural, especially for me, and now I’ll never again feel the fun of a new episode. This Friday ritual will never take place again.

The Big Bang Theory season 11


An enormous number of people love The Big Bang Theory.

An enormous number of people hate The Big Bang Theory.

A lot of them hate it for being slick, professional and very popular. Others for laughing at, instead of with the geeks and nerds that form its bedrock. And others for betraying the science, fantasy, comics and SF of its earlier seasons by turning into a comfortable, domestic, relationship comedy, just like Friends.

All of these reasons are true, or at least undeniable.

Take the end of season 10: Amy has gone to Princeton for a Research Project. Riki Lindholme, who guested long ago as student Ramona Nowitsky, who was obsessed with Sheldon, reappears and tries to take up with him again. When she unexpectedly kisses him, he leaves the room, flies to Princeton, knocks on Amy’s door and, when she opens it, he’s there on one knee, holding up his grandma’s engagement ring, which was used as the season ending cliffhanger a couple of years ago.

Season 11 began last night in America (the show has been renewed through season 12). It picked up instantly from the previous season’s end. Amy’s answer is interrupted by Sheldon’s phone going: it is Leonard and Penny trying to find out where he is. He explains what he’s doing an that he’s still waiting for Amy’s answer…

So she says yes. There’s a comic but still touching moment when Sheldon blithely tells her that when Dr Nowitsky kissed him, he realised he only wanted to be kissed by Amy for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Bernadette can’t celebrate the good news like the rest because she’s just discovered she’s pregnant again. This freaks out both her and Howard, who try to lessen their own worries by persuading Leonard and Penny to get pregnant too.

Raj, on the other hand, is bitter and twisted that everyone’s getting hitched but him. He expresses his concerns to Stuart at the Comic Book Shop. At least they’re in the same boat: but no, Stuart has a date tonight.

This is what the majority of the episode is about: relationships, domestication. There are only a handful of moments that go beyond this. Sheldon joins Amy and her microbiologist colleagues for a meal but is miffed that they only want to talk about her brilliance and developments, not his. Which is not about the science of either of them, but about Sheldon being Sheldon.

And there’s a bit where Sheldon consults Professor Stephen Hawkings by Skype – but it’s about his hurt feelings at being ignored in favour of Amy (Hawkings really is a sport about appearing in The Big Bang Theory, and he’s usually an absolute scream, being automatically deadpan).

An there’s a geek joke, which entirely justifies the objections that the geeks are now being laughed at. Raj is at the Comic Book Shop initially to buy an engagement gift for Sheldon and Amy, but changes his mind. What, he asks Stuart, do you have for someone lonely, bitter and twisted? Stuart sweeps his hand around: practically everything.

So what they say is true.

And yet I laughed immoderately all the way through.

Because it’s not the show it was in the first few series. Because it’s not geek oriented any more, and it’s softened and become more conventional. The socially inept geniuses have got together with a couple of gorgeous blondes. The fantasy/comics references have been greatly reduced.

But I still know these characters. I understand them and their concerns. The humour is still my humour, more so than any other comedy I’ve seen before, because I’ve been laughing at this programme for a decade now and I’m not tired of it, I’m not bored, it’s not as good as it used to be but it’s still better than anything else out there.

I know a lot of people hate the show, and they can do so for all I care. Offer a reasoned argument, stating why you think it’s not funny, and I’ll discuss it with you, but at the end of the day I’ll just agree to differ. More likely, you’ll just offer a slagging off, be it of the show or of the people who watch it, which I’ll treat with the disdain you deserve.

Another twenty-three episodes lie ahead. I’ll buy the Season 10 box-set as a self-Xmas present and delete all the downloaded episodes, and at Xmas 2018, I’ll buy the boxset of this series. I like The Big Bang Theory. I don’t need anyone’s permission to do so, and that, as far as I’m concerned, is that.

The Fall Season 2016: The Big Bang Theory season 10


Ahhhhh!

With The Big Bang Theory returning for its tenth season, and the last of its three-season contract, there was a debate yesterday over whether it would – or should – be renewed for an eleventh year that would place it alongside Friends and Frasier for longevity.

As you’d imagine, it was another excuse for those who don’t like the show, who’ve never liked the show or used to like it but think it’s gone off the boil to demand that it not be renewed, or that time machines be employed to ensure it never got broadcast at all.

One advantage of age, and losing your insecurity, is the wonderful ability to ignore these people completely. You don’t like, you don’t watch it. If you choose to watch it and don’t like it, it’s you, not me, who is the idiot. There are hundreds of other programmes to choose from, hundreds of which I don’t like: tell you what, I won’t interfere with your enjoyment of what you like.

Of course the show isn’t as good as it used to be, but it’s still plenty funny for me and the opening episode of season 10 gave me plenty of laughs. Much of it sprung from the unresolved ‘cliffhanger’ that rather limply ended season 9, on the eve of Leonard and Penny’s ceremonial ‘re-marriage’: did Leonard’s dad sleep with Sheldon’s mom?

The answer was no, but not before some prolonged wicked humour from Sheldon, waspish about coitus, genitals and defilement, and Beverley, Leonard’s mom, consumed with mutual loathing for her ex-husband.

And there was Penny’s family to meet for the first time: we’ve long been familiar with Keith Carradine as her father, Wyatt, but now we got to see her mother (Katy Segal) and her brother Randall (Jack McBrayer), newly released from prison at last and far more wiling to talk about his past as a manufacturer of illegal drugs than was his mother. They were brilliant.

And we still didn’t get to find out Penny’s surname!

The subplot with Howard and Raj was well below the rest of the episode and could have done with being postponed until next week. Frankly, I’d forgotten completely that Howard had apparently created perpetual motion and that the Air Force had immediately contacted him. That was built up, with more paranoia, which will hopefully work better when it has room to breathe in its own right.

I still enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to twenty-three more episodes between now and next May. The Fall Season starts here.

 

End of Term Report: The Big Bang Theory


Still funny after all these years

Season 9 of The Big Bang Theory has closed out with rather less of a stinger moment than we’re used to, which will no doubt lead to another hailstorm of criticism that it isn’t as funny as it was when it started, more demands to get rid of the girls and yet more sneering from those who despise the show as the worst kind of pre-strained pap ever recorded.

Me, I still like it and here’s to season 10, coming up in September.

I’ve been a fan of TBBT since I first saw it, on C4, very early into its first season, and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s not the first sitcom I’ve found hilarious, but it is unique in being the only one that I can watch constantly and still find as funny as if I were watching it for the first time.

Of course it isn’t as funny as it used to be, and of course it’s changed over nine seasons. Nothing gets to stay as good forever, especially when it’s broadcast 207 episodes. I mean, Porridge lasted 21 episodes, Fawlty Towers 12 and The Office 12 plus two specials. And, over nine seasons, the characters have evolved as a result of their experiences: for them not to have done so would have been ridiculous.

Season 9 has been the middle of a three season order that’s allowed the show to run easily. Possibly it has gotten a little lazy. This season began with the aftermath of Leonard and Penny’s spur of the moment wedding, but the show chose to have its cake and eat it by keeping Leonard living with Sheldon. The jokes about Penny being out of Leonard’s class have only mutated slightly. It’s been business as usual, with the main developments being ones that the show, in its formative years, wouldn’t have countenanced: Sheldon having sex with Amy at mid-season, Raj having two girlfriends at the same time and, the dreaded cliche, Bernadette becoming pregnant.

I don’t laugh as often as I do. One or two episodes were a bit dull. And the season ender had the smell of unfinished business about it, as if there were was another episode to come in which the set-ups would be resolved. It felt rather unsatisfactory if that is to be left hanging over the summer.

There’s been talk that TBBT will end after the tenth season. If that’s so, then sobeit. I have loved this show for what will this time next year be a full decade precisely because it is the closest a TV sitcom has come to understanding me. It’s geek humour: its subjects, its themes, its characters’ inadequacies are all things I know from the inside out, and it has reflected me back onto the screen over and over¬† again. I think Kaley Cuoco is gorgeous and her comic timing is brilliant: her relationship with Leonard has gone through all the stages of my love life and I have howled in recognition more times than I could possibly ever count.

It means that I can never be entirely objective about the show, and that I really couldn’t give a damn about other people’s opinions: if you don’t like it, fuck off and watch something else. It’s not like you haven’t got a choice. For me, even half good TBBT is funnier than anything else out there at the moment, and if it doesn’t get to season 11, I will miss it more than any other series I’ve ever watched.

The Fall Season: The Big Bang Theory


Anndddd it’s back.

The new, and busy Fall television season in America started last night with the first episode of The Big Bang Theory season 9. It’s running on Monday nights for six weeks before reverting to its usual slot on Thursday evening.

We picked up directly from the end of last season, with Leonard and Penny en route to Las Vegas to get married, and Sheldon in a state of confusion over Amy’s saying she needed time to think about their relationship. With the rest of the cast in decidedly subordinate roles, these two situations quickly played out into disasters.

To be honest, it wasn’t that funny an episode. I still love the series, but I’m not blind to the fact that, comedy-wise, season 8 was the weakest to date, and by throwing in obvious, and serious obstacles, season 9 isn’t leaving much room for the comedy to peek around the edges.

Sheldon was Sheldon, completely misreading the situation. He was completely incapable of giving Amy the time she requested to enable her to think. He turned up outside her apartment, accompanied her (uninvited) to Howard and Bernadette’s, to watch the internet broadcast of Leonard and Penny’s wedding, and spoilt the whole situation for everyone with his petulant self-absorption, eventually pushing Amy to the point of actually breaking up with him.

I found that side of it hard to laugh at, having witnessed the entire thing in real life: a friend of mine broke up with his wife and ended up blowing his chances of resolving their issues by simply being unable to leave her alone to think, though admittedly what he was trying to do was make things better, and not be snotty and superior.

The other half of the story was a crash-course slide towards disaster. All the way through, neither Leonard nor Penny looked as prepared for marriage as they said they were, but the shit hit the fan when they arrived in the honeymoon suite, lawfully wed, only for Penny to choose that moment to admit that she was struggling to get over Leonard’s revelation about kissing one of his fellow scientists when away in the Arctic.

This promptly got worse when Leonard admitted he sees her (professionally) at work. By the time they got back, they were back to different apartments.

As a story, it was a bit too obvious a contrivance. After all, we already have one happily (mostly) married couple, and it would never do to allow Leonard’s lack of self-confidence wither, would it?

The most affecting element of all this was the closing scene, of Sheldon and Leonard in their apartment, each reacting to the crash of their relationships in opposite manners: Sheldon with bombast, arrogance and selfishness, convinced he has not an atom of responsibility for any of this, Leonard utterly dejected, facing losing what matters to him most, and blaming himself for screwing things up.

Downbeat or what?

Personally, the hardest balance I’ve always recognised is to interweave comedy and tragedy. I have always found it hard to laugh at jokes about things falling apart, and the writers haven’t made a good start on this season. Add to that the obvious contrivance of creating this rift to begin with, which I predict will lead to requests for a divorce, and no reconciliation until at least episode 16.

Of course, since the series has been renewed to a further season after this, there’s nothing to keep the writers from extending the split into next year, though personally, I’d be loathe to see that. Hopefully, whatever they do, they can throw in some stronger jokes this year. I have enjoyed The Big Bang Theory¬† for too long to want to see it decline too badly now.