Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Biff, babies and blonde Morlocks

Since I hit "HIMYM" and "House" last night, I thought I'd weigh in quickly on a couple of shows I watch semi-regularly but don't often blog about. Spoilers for "Big Bang Theory" and "Bones" coming up just as soon as I see if Pottery Barn Kids sells a metal detector wand...

I flat-out hated "Big Bang Theory" when it debuted in the fall, and softened on it somewhat when it returned last month with the rest of the CBS comedies. Mainly, though, I watch it because my wife likes it, and she takes enough for the team that I have to yield the remote to her when the Chuck Lorre comedies come on each week. But credit where credit's due: last night's episode, with Leonard buying a life-size replica of H.G. Wells' time machine (I'm guessing it was a prop from "Time After Time"), was pretty funny, particularly the sequence where the other three nerds moved around the apartment at high speed to simulate the effects of time travel.

My primary complaint with the show, as mentioned in the March review, is that the writers can't decide whether they feel affection or contempt for the geeks, and I think the show works much better when it's being slightly affectionate. This was an episode that, in theory, was about the guys taking their nerd obsessions too far, but that was really just Penny venting. The whole time machine purchase was presented as harmless and entertaining for the guys.

That said, I think the writers need to be really careful with how they're writing Sheldon. Jim Parsons is the best thing about the show, and I appreciate that his character's borderline-Asperger's difficulty in understanding normal human behavior is a big part of the comedy, but they've made him so hostile about it that it's starting to grate.

Just compare the way the "Big Bang" people write Sheldon versus how team "Bones" writes Dr. Brennan. She's equally clueless about how people are expected to interact with one another, and often puts her foot in her mouth, but it's rarely as aggressive as Sheldon is every week.

By now, the "Bones" writers have recognized that the plots matter much less than placing Temperance in various situations where her reaction will be unusual, and so they barely even bothered with the mechanics of how she and Booth would be allowed temporary custody of the baby. The point was just to see how she would act around a baby, and it was as amusing as expected. The mystery itself went according to Most Recognizable Guest Star Syndrome, where as soon as Thomas Wilson showed up, I knew he dunnit. (Though it gives me yet another opportunity to link to the never-not-funny Biff's Question Song, and I ain't gonna complain much.)

What did everybody else think?

23 comments:

Kyle Wasko said...

Awesome youtube link, Alan. I've actually never seen that.

TBBT, so far as I can tell, is the one show that you watch that I don't (and, in fact, refuse to). It may seem petty (esp. since I don't fault HIMYM for this), but I just find the laugh track so impossibly overbearing. I can't stand it. No single joke has ever been that riotous, let alone 40-60 times an episode.

That said, I haven't seen the show since it came back from the strike (except for about 30 seconds of last week's trivia game): have they toned it down at all?

mrsb said...

I actually feel the opposite on the Bones/Sheldon thing. As they both seem to be bordering the Asperger's line, I think Sheldon is the most realistic. Someone who doesn't get other people's emotions tends to get frustrated about it. I happen to feel way more affectionate toward Sheldon than Dr. Brennan.

Devin McCullen said...

Since you mentioned Chuck Lorre comedies, I'll exploit the opportunity to mention that the wedding vows on Two and a Half Men last night absolutely cracked me up. I love Holland Taylor.

Bobman said...

Bones is one of my favorite guilty pleasures (and I watch a lot of TV, so there's a few of them), but even I was annoyed at the "well, there's a baby in a tree, I guess it's ours now" plot contrivance. Even by the very loose standards of Bones, that was just ridiculous. And then Bones and Booth taking the baby with them while doing investigating? C'mon, writers, you're not THAT lazy.

AB and the Bear Suits said...

I agree that Bones does tend to foist Brennan into situations just to "see" what would happen, but not to the degree that a show like Monk does.

I prefer Bones to some of the other procedurals out there because the characters feel more real. What I mean to say is that the show seems to be a little more about the characters and a little less about the crime of the week than, say CSI is.

Anonymous said...

"The Big Bang Theory" is still finding its footing, but the pay-offs outweigh the awkward moments. Nice to see Johnny Galecki in a series again too. He's a very likable actor.

Ryler32 said...

I love The Big Bang Theory. It is the best new sitcom in a while. I just wish they would use Penny more. She is really hot.

Steve said...

I also would have quit watching The Big Bang Theory except that my wife likes it and I don't dislike it enough to leave the room.

I would enjoy the show if it wasn't for Sheldon. I'm just uncomfortable with his Aspergers being the butt of so many jokes. And on top of his disability, he's just a jerk. He goes beyond social cluelessness and is actively malicious.

Conversely, last night's episode was probably my favorite so far, primarily because it wasn't focused on Sheldon.

Steve said...

Did you ever watch the short-lived Fox show Stacked? It was a great show, which was nearly identical to The Big Bang Theory, but greatly superior. Plus the stars were just nerdy, not suffering from Aspergers or Autism.

Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the Fox marketing department, who successfully fooled the world into thinking it was about Pam Anderson's boobs. Those who they tricked into tuning in quickly abandoned the show as they realized it was actually about two nerdy guys running a book store. Meanwhile, those who would have been interested in a show about two nerdy guys running a book store never watched in the first place, because they thought the show was about Pam Anderson's boobs.

(Pam Anderson was the equivalent of Penny on TBBT - a supporting character who one of the nerdy stars had a crush on. The show wasn't about her or her boobs any more than TBBT is about Penny.)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to mention that the Time Machine in BBT was not from Time After Time but from the George Pal 1960 movie based on H.G. Wells' Novel.

Yes, I would have loved to have one too :-)

Kenrick said...

I actually liked pre strike TBBT. During the strike I ran out of things to watch so I went back and caught up with TBBT and I found the geeky jokes/references to be hilarious. I haven't enjoyed the post strike episodes as much, but I'll give this past episode a look.

Btw, 2.5 Men is one of my guilty pleasures. I had looked down upon at as lowest common denominator humor, but when I finally started watching it ('cause of the strike) I've found it oh so amusing. It's amazing how every episode is like the same but I still laugh every single time.

SoCal said...

Couldn't agree more Kenrick...I onyl started watching Two and Half Men during the strike, cuz i needed some comedy in my life...and i can't help but like it. It's very formulaic, but always makes me laugh and Sheen is a great sitcom actor.

Girl Detective said...

I thought last night's Bones was weak. The kid thing was contrived, how it got in a tree? beyond belief. But Emily D pulled some of it together with great delivery of lines like 'elephants are purple. This is WRONG" and "she has a thing for bears, which in real life would devour the child." I also liked Cam's reasoning for not having kids.

Kensington said...

I also only recently discovered Two and a Half Men, and whilst it's not becoming a must-watch addiction, I can't deny that it's better than I expected, mainly because I expected a show about two men taking care of a young boy to be treacly fare in the Full House mode. I had no idea that Two and A Half Men would be so...dirty! Sometimes my jaw just drops at how crass some of the gags are, even as I'm laughing my ass off.

As for The Big Bang Theory, I adore Sheldon ever since I learned that they were going for an Asperger's thing with him. Up until I realized that, he was just weird and obnoxious. Now, my heart just goes out to him, and I love him.

Unfortunately it seems to me that the tide is turning more towards generic sitcom foolishness for the comedy rather than mining the characters themselves, and that's not a good sign. These are clever, funny characters, and it's not necessary to put them (and an entire group of extras) in Planet of the Apes masks. "Funny" masks aren't funny.

Kensington said...

As for Bones, I never honestly picked up that Brennan has Asperger's. I usually watch it to enjoy the goofy, sort of slightly-off-kilter sexiness of Michaela Conlin. She's awesome!

Jeremy said...

Everytime i stumble upon TBBT, i notice how much the laugh track gfets in the way of the comedy. Since the comedy is mostly character-based, rather than joke-based, i feel like a laugh track does way more harm than good here. I'd like to see it phased out a la Sportsnight (not that the caliber is the same, but SN was SO much better without the laugh track).

David Thiel said...

I had initially avoided TBBT, but now I find myself watching it while waiting for HIMYM. And while it's not a favorite by any means, it's growing on me.

One big reason for that is that the writers clearly know their geek stuff. In the episodes I've seen, all of the sci-fi/comic book references have been spot-on.

That time machine is indeed the one from the 1960 George Pal film (and I'd bet it's this one, from the stash of uber-collector Bob Burns). But their fidelity to the premise went beyond that. During the final dream sequence, the Time Machine not only stops in the same year as both the book and film (802,701), but the Morlock makeups are straight out of 1960 film as well. (And "Starving Morlocks" was a cute sight gag.)

It always bugs me when shows about geeks are crewed by people who really don't walk the walk. As good as The 40 Year Old Virgin was, it annoyed the heck out of me when the title character was supposed to have all manner of extremely rare collectibles, yet the set decorator obviously just went down to Toys R Us and bought everything in the clearance aisle. But in Monday's TBBT, when the gang argued over their Golden Age Flash action figure, someone made sure they were actually holding one.

The geek devil is the details.

Anonymous said...

I've given up on Bones. I can not stand the social cluelessness of the title character. I get not knowing Star Wars references and other pop culture stuff, but last week with the jock stuff - like not getting why the college kid didn't want her there when he was naked.

With TBBT, and Monk to an extent, I see the comedy more, so the exagerated characters work for me. Even Boston Legal's Denny is for comic relief, and I like that better than anything from Bones. I guess I think of that show as a procedural more than a relationship drama show.

Anonymous said...

Maybe HIMYM spoiled me, but I was disappointed by the ending for TBBT. In a traditional sitcom way, nothing changes by the end of the episode. Your main character has this huge revelation and spends the episode basically contemplating a radical shift in personality, only to step back from the edge by a 'ah, I was just venting'? Something like that happens in HIMYM and you get the Ted 'breaking up' with Barney. Huge character and plot changes. Here you just fall back into the same rut.

Not that I don't like TBBT - love the geek references, etc. I just wish they would take a cue from their timeslot companion and mix things up a little bit sometimes...

Kalman said...

The only exposure I have to BBT is the last minute as my VCR timer turns on to record HIMYM (in my day we didn't need no new fangled Tivos!). But I took a moment to pause ye olde tape last night on the Chuck Lorre "Vanity Card." Have you seen these things? Like 300 words of writing crammed onto the screen for two seconds. I've sailed past them before, but never stopped. This evening's had weird pronouncements on the "murder" of Indians "for the sake of 'progress'" and a cheap shot at HBO—which supposedly has gone "down the toilet" (if only they had more, ahem, fine programming like Dharma and Greg, right?).

Anyway, Lorre has a website for the cards. http://www.chucklorre.com/index.php

I guess this is a whole little gag that I never knew existed. And now that I do . . . I still prefer the goofy photos of Amigos de Garcia.

PamelaJaye said...

The Big Bang Theory - It's an okay show. Sheldon is the annoying one, right? At least Leonard thinks about people.

I don't watch Bones, so I can't comment (I couldn't stand the gore even when I wasn't looking). I think Cristina on Grey's is another character who has.... something. She definitely doesn't know how to relate to people - though I'm not sure that's really a disease (now all you people with Aspergers, don't shoot me) - she certainly doesn't think it is.
No one will probably see this, a week later...

vanity cards - when I saw that TBBT was by Lorre, I went immediately and checked the end to see if he was still doing it (as I really hadn't seen any of his stuff since the pilot of Dharma & Greg) and there it was! Yay. We read them all the time. And I'm happy they are all on the web.

I just finished last night's ER. Another hostage thingie. It gets really old after a while (hostage thingies, not the show. they do need to have something other than who is sleeping with who, though. Pratt going to management class was good, though the resolution was too easy. At least it was different)

Anonymous said...

Kaley is great! I loved her old show "8 Simple Rules". Her co-star, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) just did a great interview about the show:

http://thebiz.fancast.com/2008/05/exclusive_interview_big_bang_t.html

Anonymous said...

did you notice that the very first sight of the Morlocks showed a bare chested female Morlock? Albeit green painted but it slipped the censors.