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.

 

Back with a Bang!


I am an unashamed fan of The Big Bang Theory and I have been since seeing what was probably no later than its second episode, on Channel 4, many years ago. I have belly-laughed at its jokes and its characters more often than any other comedy series I have seen, and such is the beauty of this series that there are episodes I have seen literally a half dozen times over, and still I find myself exploding in delighted roars every time I see them again.

Honestly, there is no other series about which I could say that.

So, does that make TBBT some sort of uber-comedy, perfect in every respect, an ideal never to be bettered? No, of course it doesn’t. One other thing that distinguishes TBBT from everything else I have seen is that it is a massive success in America, the top TV show on that side of the Atlantic, a series that, after completing seven seasons, was renewed for another three! I really am not used to finding myself in the middle of a mass audience for anything (except Manchester United, and that’s something completely different).

All I can say is that The Big Bang Theory is the comedy that is most perfectly attuned to my sense of humour and my experiences in life.

For those who, strange though it may be, have no idea what TBBT is about, it centres upon four highly intelligent but deeply geeky and socially inept scientists, and the beautiful, blonde, mid-western would-be actress who moves in across the landing. Penny may be considerably less smart than Leonard and Sheldon, indeed be not that clever at all, but she possesses all the street smarts and more, enough for all the geeks with plenty left over to spare.

From there, the show has expanded its cast and range,and in recent series has taken on a Friends-like aspect. Howard, the short, Jewish, sex-obsessed, mother-dominated nerd has married the short, waspish Bernadette, Sheldon, who occupies a place on the autism spectrum, who is wholly self-obsessed, has found a girlfriend in the perpetually frustrated Amy, who took nearly four seasons just to get him to kiss her.

What makes it work so spectacularly well with me is that I understand these characters. I may not be up on the latest developments in fantasy and SF in comics, TV, games, films etc., but they speak my language, and it’s a language I’m fluent at. I know the jokes, I know the references, I’ve stood in their shoes. And when it comes to the social ineptness, yearning towards but clumsiness with women, the lack of confidence, the lack of success that they all collectively and individually suffer, I’ve stood in those shoes too,and I’e currently got a pair that, in a dim light, look pretty much the same.

Penny is, of course, both a fantasy and a joy. Kaley Cuoco is gorgeous, but more important than that, she’s a superb natural comedian, with brilliant timing on pauses and double-takes. That after seven seasons she’s gotten engaged to Leonard is highly improbable, but within the characters these two have played since 2007, is entirely believable within the series (and doubtless enhanced by the fact that Cuoco and Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard, were involved in a secret relationship in the early years of the show.

I will be honest and say that I found season seven to be patchy, unlike its predecessors. Sheldon, played briliantly by Jim Parsons, has dominated the show since its early days, but Sheldon has progressed far less than the others: it is, after all, an integral part of his character that he is both impervious and ultra-resistant to change, but it does make him very wearing on occasions, and the humiliations he heaps on the ever-hopeful Amy do come close to infringing the Law of Comedy of Embarrassment at the best of times.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to celebrate the return of the show for season eight: the by now traditional double-episode premiere, broadcast around midnight our time in America, and already streamed and eagerly devoured here. There are new themes: Sheldon has returned from the rail trip he set out on at the end of season 7, having criss-crossed the whole of America without once leaving the train station: he has finaly got his wish to stop studying the now-exploded String Theory and change his field to Dark Matter, but has been punished horribly: he had had to accept a promotion to Junior Professor and more salary, but now has to teach. Sionce every student thinks he’s obnoxious, nobody’s signed up for his class, except Howard who, after years of Sheldon belittling him over his not having a Ph.D, has finally decided to go for it.

Meanwhile, Penny – who has cut her hair surprisingly short, without compromising Kaley Cuoco’s looks – has lucked her way into a serious non-acting job as a pharmaceutical rep for the company where Bernadette works (she gets the job because her interviewer is every bit as afraid of the tiny, squeaky-voiced Bernadette as Penny is!).

It’s still taking small steps, but with three more years at least to run, The Big Bang Theory isn’t going to let things stagnate completeky, and it has my permission to develop in this manner for as long as it likes. I’m still as into it as ever, and life is naturally sunnier, even in stressful times, by the prospect of a new episode coming back.

Penny, Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, Raj, Bernadete, Amy, Stuart – welcome back buddies!