Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It All Started with a Big Bang

Okay, I love the TV show The Big Bang Theory. I've been missing Schrödinger’s cat and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle jokes since Futurama went off the air, and with the Barenaked Ladies singing the theme song, how could this show not be full of awesomeness.

The first time I saw the show, it annoyed me. I only watched about ten minutes, but the characters were so cliché that I changed the channel. I've hung around a lot of scientists in my day, even married one. They are not all socially inept trekkies who are unable to lift more than twenty pounds. Some of them are rock climbers, skiers, partiers, and fashionistas. I even know a few scientists who were cheerleaders in high school. In fact, they are pretty much just normal people who happen to like science.

But I kept hearing how funny the show was, so one day when the kids were quietly playing and my house was semi-cleaned and nothing else was on TV, I watched a full episode and loved it. Been a huge fan ever since.

Still the characters are so cliché, so why does it work?

First of all, this is a comedy, and comedies can get a way with a lot. Part of the fun of this show is making fun of the stereotypes and taking them over the top. Klingon boggle and secret agent laser chess, pure genius.

But I think what really works here is that the characters are more than stereotypes. I find it fascinating how the four main guys on the show each fit the stereotypical science nerd, but they are all so different.

Leonard"Twelve years after high school, and I’m still at the nerd table." (Leonard in The Big Bran Hypothesis)

Leonard is very much aware of his geekiness and wants to be cooler. He still wants to date the popular girl (Penny), and even though he knows she is out of his league, he can't give up the hope that she will see how awesome he is. And he really is awesome. He is very insecure, but also rather confident at the same time. He is the most self-aware, and the heart and leader of the group, and the only one who knows how to handle Sheldon.

"If it’s ‘creepy’ to use internet, military satellites, and robot aircrafts to find a house full of gorgeous young models, so I can drop in on them unexpectedly, then fine, I’m creepy." (Wolowitz in The Peanut Reaction)

Wolowitz, on the other hand, is rather delusional. He tends to think he is cooler and smoother than he really is, a real ladies man despite the lack of evidence. There are moments when we see his insecurities and give the impression that the confidence he exudes is more of a front. And yeah, he still lives with his mother.

Raj"Oh, if only I had his confidence. I have such difficulty speaking to women or around women or at times very effeminate men." (Raj in The Vegas Renormalization)

Raj is sweet and sensitive and mute around women unless he's got some alcohol in him. He is the one who reads Twilight and felt that the night the power went off in the Antarctic was a nice bonding experience. Honestly, I just want to hug Raj, he is so adorable.

Sheldon"That’s no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid, and that makes me sad." (Sheldon in the Flaming Spittoon Acquisition)

Sheldon is the fan favorite and deservedly so. He is hilarious. He is the prodigy genius who doesn't understand human relations and social cues. He is condescending, demanding, and self-centered, but he tries to be a good friend to Leonard and tries to reach out to Penny. Really it is his cluelessness that makes him endearing.

"Aw honey, the buses don’t go where you live do they." (Penny in The Infestation Hypothesis)

Penny is also a stereotype, college dropout, attractive, actress wannabe working as a waitress. She is also very sweet and sassy and the only one who really stands up to Sheldon. The interactions between her and Sheldon are some of the best, and her on-again off-again romance with Leonard is really sweet. I'm cheering for them.

I'm glad I gave this show another chance and didn't let the stereotypes run me off for good. Because even though the characters have very many cliché characteristics, they really are well rounded and engaging characters that I love. I guess sometimes the clichés work.

So what do you think? Are you a fan of The Big Bang Theory?


The Big Bang Theory site http://the-big-bang-theory.com/


  1. I've never watched it, but those quotes are hysterical, so now I will definitely check it out. Some of your post reminds me of the lab geeks on Better Off Ted, which was one of my favorite shows ever, but with a humor that never found a wide audience. If you've never watched it, I think you'd like it. One of my favorites is the second episode, in which they grow beef without cows, but it fails in taste tests because "it tastes like despair."

    Off to search Netflix for Big Bang Theory...

    Great post, MaryAnn!

  2. Sarah, I have never watched Better off Ted. I'll definitely look into it. Love that beef joke.

    Thanks for commenting. :)

  3. MaryAnn - you do know that Futurama is now playing on Comedy Central, right? Season 5 is up on Netflix, but not Season 6 yet. My favorite episode so far from the sixth season is "Mobius Dick", about the great white whale from the Bermuda Tetrahedron.

    Indeed, I don't know how I would live Futurama. Happily, they just renewed it through 2013.

    Good to know the characters grow past their cliches; that was the problem I had with the show during those two ten minute periods that I watched. I'll have to give it another chance.

    And I'll second Better Off Ted - because it takes the stereotype of Big Evil Corporation and runs with it. I personally liked the weaponized pumpkins from the first episode.

  4. Sabrina, I don't have Comedy Central, and I didn't know they were continuing Futurama. That is awesome. I'll have to check out season 5 on Netflix.

    I really got to check out Better off Ted.


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