On TV: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ 7th season ends with Sheldon saying goodbye

Season 7, Episode 24: “The Status Quo Combustion” | Date: May 15, 2014

“The Big Bang Theory” is almost always at its best when they turn the episode over the magnificent talents of Jim Parsons, who renders the childlike genius of Sheldon Cooper so well.

The_Big_Bang_Theory_S7The final episode of the seventh season followed Sheldon’s struggle to adapt to the changes in his life: Leonard  (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) are engaged and want to live together; the university won’t let him change his field of study and the comic book store burned down.

Sheldon is overwhelmed and it’s both hilarious and heartbreaking to watch. He delivers his shock with precisely crafted one-liners — “Did you take a marijuana?” — that capture both the depth of Sheldon’s discomfort and the breadth of his selfishness. Few actors can so perfectly create a character who is at times annoying beyond description yet so lovable.

What really works in this episode is that Sheldon serves as a metaphor for all of us. The world moves fast and the constant adjustment can be exhausting, whether it be adapting to new technologies, demands of the workplace or struggles in relationships.

All of us have just wanted to get away — run as far and as fast as we can. Sheldon’s story represents that universal uneasiness of adulthood in these strange and confusing times.

That Penny, who has always seemed to understand Sheldon the best, suggests they just let him go on his journey further strengthens their special bond that blossomed in the second season.

Again, I impressed by the creators’ abilities to keep the story fresh and challenge the lives of these beloved characters in new ways This becomes an especially daunting task given the series is renewed for three more seasons.

But after the creative lull of the fifth season and part of the sixth, the series has largely remained lively and entertaining. It’s rare that I stick with a sitcom for any meaningful length of time, but “The Big Bang Theory” continues to deliver more than it misses and the finale left me eager for the eighth season.

On TV: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ hates fat people, loves Indian jokes, engagements

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Season 7, Episode 23: “The Gorilla Dissolution” | Date: May 8, 2014

Comedy must be free from social inhibition for the art to thrive. To censor it with social mores, taboo and individual hangups simply suffocates satire and stifles humor.

The_Big_Bang_Theory_S7Still, this doesn’t mean comedy can’t hurt. This week on “The Big Bang Theory,” Howard (Simon Helberg) accidentally drops a treadmill on his mother (voice of Carol Ann Susi). He and wife Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) tend to her while she mends. This leads to a litany of Howard’s usual jokes about his mother’s girth.

I’m fat. I joke about my size a lot. Still, when I hear comedians and actors shred the overweight and obese, I cringe. Is this what society thinks of me? Probably. I wouldn’t protest or seek removal of such comedy from “The Big Bang Theory” or any other show. But it hurts. It hits a little too close to home. And it takes away from my enjoyment of the show.

Similarly, when Sheldon (Jim Parsons) offers to make chai tea for Raj (Kunal Nayyar), who is sad because he runs into Emily (Laura Spencer), the woman he’s started dating, with another man at the movies. The socially inept Sheldon asks if Raj has an ingredients for chai tea on him. Raj sarcastically replies he must have left it in his turban.

The context of the joke slightly eases the sting. Sheldon is a genius in science and a moron in interpersonal relationships. His cherubic understanding of how people think and feel excuses some of the darker things he says, but only just.

In fairness, Sheldon also offers Raj a cup of English breakfast tea, joking that the English destroyed Indian culture so it’s probably close enough to chai. That was funny. A good rub against the English is always worthy.

Culture has long decided that Indians are still fair game for racial barbs. Apu from “The Simpsons” is an animated stereotype. Still, good comedy requires everything to be fair game. But it is a mean business. I’m not Indian and wasn’t offended by the joke. But if I was put off by the fat jokes because I am fat. If I were both Indian and fat, I might have turned off the show.

The two jokes lingered even though the episode offered some really fine moments. Sheldon gave Raj excellent advice. Sheldon tells his friend he needs to be comfortable with himself before he can be comfortable with another person.

And, of course, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is fired from her terrible bisexual mutant gorilla movie. She realizes she doesn’t need fame, only loyal Leonard (Johnny Galecki). After some fumbling, Leonard produces a ring from his wallet and proposes. She accepts.

The moment has been teased for a long time, but it is sweet and satisfying, performed with humor and kindness. Perhaps the warmth of the moment was intensified by the cruelty displayed elsewhere in the episode.

Regardless, it’s a well-rendered scene by both Cuoco and Galecki and a good moment for longtime fans of the series. It also sets in motion a series of events that are likely to destabilize poor Sheldon, who handles change as poorly as he does racial sensitivity.

TV Review: ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Proton Transmogrification’

Season 7, Episode 22: “The Proton Transmogrification” | Date: May 1, 2014

The great comedian Bob Newhart made his third bow as Professor Proton on “The Big Bang Theory,” this time playing a ghostly Jedi version of himself in a strangely touching story about the cherubic Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) inability to cope with emotion.

The_Big_Bang_Theory_S7Newhart was again sublime as the unwilling mentor to Sheldon, who struggles to process the death of Professor Proton — who inspired Sheldon to take up science.

The subplot of the episode rotates around “Star Wars” Day, an annual celebration of George Lucas’ space opera opus, and thus lots of references to the six films were made to the delight of fanboys and the mild annoyance of others, especially Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch).

Penny and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) played coy with wedding proposals again, with Penny proposing with the idea that Leonard would turn her down and they would be “even” the quashed proposal department.

This will-they-or-won’t-they get married running gag is tiresome, but no more than most long-lasting couples who are smitten and considering nuptials. Get married. Don’t get married. But shut up about it.

A nicer bit of work was done in a casual moment between Leonard and Penny after the funeral for Professor Proton. The two talked about the service and their individual grief. It had the warm, comfortable conversation of people who know each other well, love one another and have reached a reliable rhythm.

The beats were nicely written and well-rendered by Galecki and Cuoco, a tribute to their skill in their craft. It didn’t last long, of course, because people being comfortable with one another is not very interesting TV. But it’s absolutely the best kind of relationship.

TV Review: ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Anything Can Happen Recurrence’

Season 7, Episode 21: “The Anything Can Happen Recurrence” | Date: April 24, 2014

The Big Bang Theory” touched on an interesting aspect of friendships: when you spend so much time together you’re sick of one another.

Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) lies to avoid helping care for Howard’s (Simon Helberg) ailing mother and take a break from Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) complaining about her role in a silly gorilla movie. Amy (Mayim Bialik) lies to skip Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) latest gripes about looking for a new research topic in physics.

The_Big_Bang_Theory_S7There were some good gags in the episode, but I thought the strength was how it explored the delicate subject of friends who drive you crazy. I have friends who do this to me. And I absolutely drive some of my friends nuts, if not all of them, at times.

People ditch one another simply for something different to do. That happens. To use it for comedy is a good move and the result wasn’t as predictable as some of the relationship stories the show has explored in the past.

The episode made me happy — in part because there were a couple of good gags — but mostly because now the the series has been renewed for three more seasons, I have some relief that all the good episodes aren’t behind it.

Great Paragraphs: On the rules of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock

Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and as it always has, rock crushes scissors.

Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), “The Big Bang Theory

TV Review: ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Relationship Diremption’

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Season 7, Episode 20: “The Relationship Diremption” | Air date: April 10, 2014

“The Big Bang Theory” played both ends of the comedic spectrum with “The Relationship Diremption,” and neither came off very well.

On the one end, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and new girlfriend Emily (Laura Spencer) go on a double date with Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). Howard knows Emily. He went on one date with her and took a very stinky bowel movement.

So the whole subplot was the set up for a poop joke. That would be the low end of the spectrum.

On the high end of the spectrum, new discoveries in physics mean Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) research might be meaningless. He struggles to find direction. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) tells her friend his struggles are similar to a breakup.

Her solution, of course, is to get drunk, which Sheldon does. He wakes up in the morning with a geology textbook. Parsons plays the moment like a man waking up in bed with an unattractive sexual partner picked up in a drunken stupor.

Parsons is, as always, good in the scene, but as a whole, his drinking seems out of character and a little weak. The underlying message seems to be Sheldon is just like everybody else: When things go bad, he gets drunk.

Sheldon is a better character than that, but even when this episode sought to aim high, it landed low.

TV Review: ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Indecision Amalgamation’

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Season 7, Episode 19: “The Indecision Amalgamation” | Air date: April 3, 2014

“The Indecision Amalgamation” was a clever and amusing episode for “The Big Bang Theory.” It juxtaposed the dilemmas of three characters in moderately funny ways and included a guest appearance by Wil Wheaton and a shot of Penny (Kaley Cuoco) in a bikini top. That’s a win for any 30 minutes of television.

BigBangTheoryTitleCardThe funniest indecision belonged, of course, to Sheldon (Jim Parsons), who struggles with which gaming system to buy: the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One. He agonizes over the choice as Amy (Mayim Bialik) tries to comfort him.

I liked this thread for two reasons. First, it’s a rare episode that Amy doesn’t complain about her lack of sexual intercourse with Sheldon, but instead manages to soothe Sheldon’s obsessions. Secondly, it was nice to see actual geek culture presented without it being withering satire or open mocking.

Raj (Kunal Nayyar) wrestles with dating two women at the same time. The best part of this thread is he doesn’t behave like a sexist jerk in front of of any of the women.

Penny can’t decide whether to take a part in a bad movie. She and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) seek advice from Wheaton, who is still charming in this parody of himself he plays on the show.

TV Review: ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Mommy Observation’

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Season 7, Episode 18: “The Mommy Observation” | Original air date: March 13, 2014

Sometimes I love “The Big Bang Theory.” Sometimes I hate it. Rarely am I as bored by it as I was with “The Mommy Observation.”

Sitcoms are especially vulnerable to ruts and “The Big Bang Theory” is in one. Everyone is predictable.

Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is a shallow, underachieving drunk who gets by on her looks. Leonard (Johnny Galecki) is so dull he’s barely visible. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is a mean, arrogant jerk who masquerades as a caring and sensitive. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is weird about sex stuff. Amy (Mayim Bialik) isn’t having sex because Sheldon is weird about sex stuff. Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) is hyper competitive and money-grubbing.

Only Howard (Simon Helberg) has shown any growth. He shows genuine kindness to Sheldon when his friend accidentally observes his mother (Laurie Metcalf) having sex out of wedlock. He’s mostly shed his sexist nitwit persona, though his cruelty toward his mother’s weight is a bit much.

Raj hosts another murder mystery. He’s friends are bored by it. Think how the audience feels. Sad sack comic book store owner Stewart (Kevin Sussman) plays the corpse. He’s asked if he’s just going to lay on the floor all night pretending to be dead. He replies, “What do you think I was going to do at home?”

I know exactly how he feels. It’s the same sensation I got watching this episode.

 

TV Review: ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Friendship Turbulence’

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Season 7, Episode 17: “The Friendship Turbulence” | Original air date: March 6, 2014

“The Big Bang Theory” offered three stories. None of them were funny. They weren’t offensively bad or stupid. They just weren’t funny. “The Friendship Turbulence” wasn’t worth a shrug, let alone an angry review. Basically, it was something soft to have on the background while browsing the Web for sexy pictures of Kaley Cuoco.

Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Howard (Simon Helberg) insult one another a lot. Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) suggests they stop. So Howard flies with Sheldon to Houston, where Howard is to give a talk at the Kennedy Space Center. The plan has bad turbulence. Sheldon and Raj hold hands and admit they like one another.

Ho-hum. The “plane is crashing and we admit everything” is a Hollywood cliche. It’s right up there with a fruit car rolling out in front of a police car during a high-speed chase.

Penny (Cuoco) turns down a role in the sequel to a movie about an ape rapist. Leonard (Johnny Galecki) suggests it’s not a good idea for her to turn down paid work, even if it’s in a terrible movie. Penny gets mad. Then her car breaks down. So Leonard buys one. She’s not mad anymore.

Penny represents all the worst cliches about women. She gets by on her looks. She manipulates her boyfriend using sex. Her getting a car from Leonard and being teary about it is the kind of money-grubbing, gold-digging metaphor that should make women’s studies professors heads explode. Me? I’m just glad I don’t date anymore. This is the kind of woman I would totally fall in love with and hate myself for loving her beauty and ignoring her inane shallowness.

Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is lonely. This probably has something to do with him being an arrogant, insensitive jerk toward women. He asks Amy (Mayim Bialik) to help him communicate with a woman through his online dating profile. It fails. I think the writers want us to think Raj is just shy and conflicted. But he’s really mean. He’s shallow and has a terrible personality. 

Hey, maybe he should hook up with Penny.

Wait. That already happened. Maybe it’s time for this show to retire.

TV Review: ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Table Polarization’

Season 7, Episode 16: “The Table Polarization” | Original air date: Feb. 27, 2014

The Big Bang Theory” seemed still groggy from its return from Winter Olympics-induced hibernation.

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“The Table Polarization” opened with a series of race-based jokes about how Raj (Kunal Nayyar) pronounces various English words with his Indian accent. I’m not opposed to race humor if it’s done well, but this felt lazy and sophomoric.

The rest of the episode was a sleepy repeat of a tired theme: Leonard (Johnny Galecki) wants something and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) doesn’t. In this case, it’s a table for their friends to sit at when they dine together.

Sheldon pouts and threatens to break up with Amy (Mayim Bialik) after it is pointed out his relationship with has changed him.

Amy, in turns, manipulates Sheldon into not breaking up with him. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) manipulates Leonard in to buying a table she likes rather than one he picked out.

In the secondary comedy jag, Howard (Simon Helberg) is invited to return to space and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) manipulates him into turning down another trip.

“The Big Bang Theory” characters are not as mean and selfish as the characters of “Seinfeld,” but their willingness to mess with the emotions of their friends and loved ones may have been intended as comedy, but it just felt cruel.

This was a mediocre episode, but not terrible. That means it’s easily forgotten.

5-paragraph review of ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Locomotion Manipulation’

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Season 7, Episode 15: “The Locomotion Manipulation” | Original air date: Feb. 6, 2014

  1. The Big Bang Theory” had a Valentine’s Day episode. I didn’t like it.
  2. 485px-TBBT_logo.svg__1Amy (Mayim Bialik) tries to win Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) physical affection by taking him on a train.
  3. Sheldon meets a guy with a head injury who is as big a train aficionado as he is. Sheldon talks to this guy and not Amy.
  4. Amy gets mad. Sheldon gets mad. Then they kiss on the lips. This is a tiresome paradigm. Amy wants Sheldon. Sheldon is clueless. Amy gets mad. Sheldon does something unintentionally sweet.
  5. Rinse and repeat. It’s probably too much to expect more during sweeps. But I did. Now I’m disappointed. That’s what optimism gets you.

5-paragraph review of ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Convention Conundrum’

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Season 7, Episode 14: “The Convention Conundrum” | Original air date: Jan. 30, 2014

  1. The Big Bang Theory” kicked off the winter sweeps period with an episode packed with guest stars. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and the boys fail to get tickets to the Comic Con International.485px-TBBT_logo.svg__1
  2. Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg) decide to buy scalped tickets, but chicken out. That’s not very funny.
  3. Sheldon decides to start his own convention. He tracks down James Earl Jones, best known as the voice of Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” movies, at a sushi restaurant. The spend the night on the town, including a sauna. I admire James Earl Jones for willing to be shirtless and in a towel at his age. He embraces the comedic turn with zeal. They prank Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” movies. She’s always amusing.
  4. The episode left me a bit cold. The comedy seemed driven by the idea that the producers wanted to have some stars of “Star Wars” interact with Sheldon. This feels like comedy written by executives and not comedy written by people who are funny.
  5. Also, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and the girls complain about not feeling like adults. This is, at least, a thoughtful topic seemingly ripe for comedic skewer. Fortunately, they quickly return to the well-worn pattern jokes about Penny being a slut, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) being short and Amy (Mayim Bialik) being a virgin. Ho-hum.