5-sentence review of ‘The Big Bang Theory: The Focus Attenuation’

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The Big Bang Theory” | Season 8, Episode 5: “The Focus Attenuation”
| Date: Oct. 13, 2014


  1. The guys decided to spend a weekend together coming up with new ideas to change the world, but it ends in them watching movies.
  2. The girls go to Las Vegas, where Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) get drunk and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) studies for her first gig as a pharmaceutical rep.
  3. Amy refers to Bernadette’s breasts as “hadron colliders” and asks what size they are.
  4. The joke is amusing, because Amy is basically asking what many male viewers have been thinking for a long time, but it’s also frustratingly objectifying for a show that’s supposed to be about smart people.
  5. Perhaps worst of all: She didn’t answer.

On TV: Review of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Season 8, Episode 4

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The Big Bang Theory” | Season 8, Episode 4: “The Hook-up Reverberation” |
Date: Oct. 6, 2014


Nonromantic relationships between women on sitcoms are a simple business. The women are either best buddies who share everything over wine. Or they hate each other.

“The Hook-Up Reverberation” displayed both styles, neither with much flair or humor. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) introduces his new girlfriend, Emily (Laura Spencer), to the rest of the gang. Emily takes an instant disliking to Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) because Penny once got naked and fooled around with Raj in Leonard’s (Johnny Galecki) bed.

Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Penny confab over coffee. Penny notes no one ever told her to her face that they hated her. This surprises Amy, of course, because she led a miserable existence and was largely unloved. Astounded, Amy says, “I’d say (I hate you) now, but look at those cheekbones.”

Later, Bernadette, Amy and Penny confab again, this time over wine, the alcoholic beverage of choice for kvetching and gossiping. Amy suggests, “What if you just hang around until you wear her down? Next thing you know, you’re in her home, eating her food, drinking her wine.” The joke is lost on Penny.

Bernadette suggests Penny, who is beginning her career as a pharmaceutical rep, try to sell herself to Emily as a potential friend. Penny invites Raj and Emily over for some small talk. Emily apologizes for her initial reaction to Penny. Emily said she thought she would be OK with she and Raj’s past, but “then I saw how pretty you were.”

I think the writer of the episode has a crush on Kaley Cuoco. The story serves to reinforce not only Penny’s shallowness, but that of her friends as well. Amy and Bernadette are so swept away by having an attractive, popular friend that they devalue themselves in order to bask in the beauty of Penny. High school apparently never ends for some people.

Penny, of course, remains obsessed with being liked to the point of forcing herself on Emily, whose jealousy is irrational but believable. The meeting at Penny’s apartment ends with Penny and Emily, on opposite sides of her closed door, saying in unison, “I hate her.”

I kind of agree with both of them.

The subplot involved Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Raj, Howard (Simon Helberg) and Leonard thinking about investing in rebuilding Stewart’s (Kevin Sussman) fire-damaged comic book store. Each discusses with their significant other their willingness to invest. Penny is most permissive, noting she has mounds of credit card debt. Amy suggests Sheldon’s involvement in a store “that sells picture books of men in colorful underwear” would be a waste of his intellectual and financial resources. Bernadette gives the fairest shake, going as far as to meet with Stewart to discuss the business.

Sometimes I read criticism of “The Big Bang Theory” that suggests this is a show about geeks and nerds that secretly hates geeks and nerds. I can see some of that argument in the comic book scenes. The women in their lives are largely unsupportive and disdainful of their partners’ hobbies and interests.

And the men are largely portrayed as so clueless about society that they would consider hiring a van to go around and pick up children at schools and parks to take them to the comic store.

Their both jokes. The van joke is mildly funny. The first — the unsupportive spouses, fiancees and girlfriends — however, is very tired.

I found the episode passable as a whole, but largely lukewarm. To be honest, I enjoyed the scenes in the comic book store the most because I liked picking things out of the background that I thought were cool.

On TV: Review of ‘The Big Bang Theory: The First Pitch Insufficiency’

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The Big Bang Theory” | Season 8, Episode 3: “The First Pitch Insufficiency” | Date: Sept. 29, 2014


“The First Pitch Insufficiency” was “The Big Bang Theory” at its worst: playing to stereotypes about intelligent people and threadbare romantic comedy tropes.

Howard (Simon Helberg) is invited to throw out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game. But Howard is a nerd. He has no physical skills. So there’s several minutes of bad physical comedy as he practices pitching.

Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) go on a double date with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki). Sheldon says he’s scientifically ranked the relationships in their social group and Penny and Leonard’s is the weakest.

Penny freaks out because she’s nervous about the wedding. Leonard freaks out, too, because he’s constantly afraid Penny will leave him for a dumber, prettier person more befitting her background and experience.

Oh, good. We’re doing the wedding anxiety plotline. How original.

You know what would be fun? Penny leaves Leonard. Leonard hooks up with Amy, his intellectual equal. Sheldon admits he’s gay — or at least asexual — and couples with Raj (Kunal Nayyar).

But we’ll probably do some more break-up-make-up-marriage stuff. Because that’s always fun.

I swear. The first one to have a kid is when I delete this show from my DVR queue.

On TV: Review of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Season 8 premier

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The Big Bang Theory” | Season 8, Episodes 1 and 2: “The Locomotion Interruption” and “The Junior Professor Solution” | Date: Sept. 21, 2014


The comedy website Cracked spewed some vitriol on “The Big Bang Theory,” with the critic call the popular situation comedy “a goddamned terrible show.”

That seems a harsh and ill-considered. Certainly the troubled nerds and their beautiful women meme is well-worn into its eighth season. But Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper is one of the great television characters of the 21st century.

When last we saw Sheldon, he was overwhelmed by all the change in his life. He decided to take a train trip to clear his head. We see him in a train station, no pants and one shoe, the victim of a robbery. He babbles incoherently about various scientific theories until he finally calls Leonard (Johnny Galecki) from a police station.

Watching Parsons vamp is a pleasure, even if the other plotlines in the season’s first two episode are rather placid. Long-mocked Howard (Simon Helberg) decided to take a physics course from Sheldon to work toward his TV. They fight about who is smarter.

Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) helps Penny (Kaley Cuoco) get a job as a pharmaceutical representative. Bernadette is put off by Penny’s apparent laziness. Penny is annoyed by Bernadette’s bossyness. Both women confide in Amy (Mayim Bialik), who is delighted to play  her friends anxieties off one another simply for the attention.

“The Big Bang Theory” is the highest-rated show on television. Is it the best? No. But it is enjoyable, largely on the strength of Parsons’ work. It’s also not the worst show on TV. It’s entertaining, which is all that we can ask from a sitcom and much more than most deliver.

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.

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.