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Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Theory returns with less of a Big Bang



The following Article contains spoilers for the comedy due to return to E4 next year.

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Time to put on your favourite graphic t-shirt, The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) has returned for series eight!  Picking up forty-five days after the series seven finale, The Status Quo Combustion, Sheldon is continuing his epic quest.  Leonard and Penny are still engaged, and Howard is his mother’s little matzah ball.  The opening scene makes it painfully obvious that life as hobo is not easy, even for a renowned theoretical physicist like Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Emmy Award winning actor Jim Parsons). 
Within a commercial break Sheldon is reunited with one-third of the group: Sheldon’s girlfriend Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) and his roommate Dr. Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki). At this point the TBBT’s lifespan audience members are trained to expect members of the group to depart during a series finale.  I am sure people bet on how long it takes for the individual to return or have some sort of drinking game.  At some point I would love for one of the females to leave the group in-between series. 



The Locomotion Interruption’s secondary and tertiary plots involves Penny (the newly married Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) interviewing for a job at Bernadette’s (Melissa Rauch) pharmaceutical company, and Howard (Simon Helberg) trying to come to terms with his mother’s live-in companion Stuart (Kevin Sussman).  Sussman shines during his shouting matches with Howard.  Clearly the audience is just witnessing the opening salvos in the war over Debbie Wolowitz!  This reviewer believes that Stuart’s new status quo will provide the character with lots of storyline opportunities.  Though the three plot structure of the episode gave viewers a chance to check-in on characters, Raj had little do other than play Robin to Howard’s Batman.  The writers were kind enough to provide a hundred-and-forty character line of dialogue that updating the status of Raj’s relationship with Emily (Laura Spencer).


Sheldon and Penny’s threads are the least entertaining because of the show’s predictability. Episodes of TBBT that contain three different plots tend to have weaker jokes and segments.  This is a direct result of trying to pack so much into a twenty minute episode; I wish CBS (TBBT’s American transmitter) would consider extending these episodes by two or three minutes.  I am sure E4 wouldn't mind. Perhaps the biggest shocker for Sheldon, and fans across the world was Penny's new hairdo which took some getting used to. 

After coasting on a plot driven opener, The Locomotion Interruption, TBBT’s second outing is stronger.  The Junior Professor Solution found Sheldon struggling with a promotion that enabled him to leave behind string theory.  Like most workplace promotions there were strings attached.  In Sheldon’s case he is required to teach a class.  Facilitating Sheldon’s promotion is TBBT’s number one human resources representative Janine Davis (Regina King).  Leonard and Raj have very little to contribute to this plot; they acted as commentators.  Once again Raj reminds the audience about his MIA girlfriend.  The writers could make it up to Raj by creating a dream sequence that retcons Emily into these episodes.  Maybe Emily is secretly there hiding underneath Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.  Ultimately it was Howard who is the most impacted by Sheldon’s promotion.  Howard decides to pursue his doctorate degree.  Based on the episodes one and two of series eight, Howard is going to be spending most of this series fighting two different wars.  I believe this new dynamic with Sheldon will ultimately lead to some sort of sequel to The Parking Spot Escalation (episode nine of series six).  


While the male portion of the TBBT’s cast is reacting to Sheldon’s academic conundrum, Bernadette and Penny quarrel over Penny’s lax work ethic.  Bernadette is concerned that Penny will not take her new pharmaceutical sales job seriously, and damage Bernadette’s credibility in the company.    Amy finds herself in the middle of this feud…much to her delight.  Amy views the disagreement as an opportunity to live out her ‘popular girl’ fantasy.  After being a part of the group since series four, Amy still finds the notion of having friends a new phenomenon.  Feuds amongst TBBT’s characters are a recurring trope.  Instead spending eight minutes of Bernadette and Penny arguing with each other on screen, the writers choose to focus on Amy’s involvement.          

These two opening episodes are not ground breaking episodes and didn't showcase the beloved comedy at its best.  It is obvious the creators used each episode to plant story ideas that will develop over the course of series eight.  I hope that Raj and Emily’s relationship is part of that plan.  By the time series nine or ten arrive the opening sequence’s cast shot may have a balanced gender ratio.  At one hundred and sixty plus episodes and counting, the writers and executive producers do not have much of an incentive to change the show’s formula.  However coasting on past successes is a huge mistake.  I am sure people recall how BBC One’s long running sitcom My Family limped along during its final few series.  Though there is very little (if any) character development over the course of an episode, most of the TBBT’s characters grow throughout a series.  TBBT has already avoided one of My Family’s pitfalls.  CBS not only renewed the show for two additional series, but have the original quintet on contract through (at least) series ten.  The Big Bang Theory is an old friend who is always welcomed on my telly, however I am hopeful for new stories not ones that coast on past successes.  

The Big Bang Theory returns to E4 next year.

Contributed by Mo Walker 

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