Monday, September 21, 2009

Big Bang Theory, "The Electric Can-Opener Fluctuation": The bearded men of ice station 11

I don't have much time to write about the "Big Bang Theory" season premiere, so I'll just say that I liked seeing Laurie Metcalf as Sheldon's mom (and seeing the show at least allude to the fact that a guy like Sheldon would not share his mom's religious beliefs) and that I'm always a sucker for a good beard and/or mustache joke.

What did everybody else think?

34 comments:

erin said...

I enjoyed the parallels of that to HIMYM about the weirdness of friends becoming lovers and everyone thinks you need to discuss it to death...because usually you do! I can't imagine penny and leonard getting together for real (unlike HIMYM), but i appreciate the fact that the show went there.

I couldn't quite jibe with Penny wanting to kiss Leonard with that beard and 'fro, but i thought it was very cute. Sheldon, as always, brings the funny.

Brandon said...

Thank you, Alan. It's come up four or five times now, and I think it's pretty out of character for Sheldon not to leap at the chance to discuss religion, especially after his Christmas rant about Saturnalia. But this episode finally addressed it, and allowed the writers to have their cake and eat it too with a respectful treatment of the religious and non-religious.

And Laurie Metcalfe is hilarious on this show. Solid start to the season. I marathoned the first two over the past week to see what the fuss was about, and I thought it was very inconsistent until the last few episodes of Season 2. I hope they keep it up.

DonBoy said...

I liked how Sheldon has an obvious Evil Spock goatee and nobody mentions it..you just gotta know.

Anonymous said...

When leonard gave the preserved snowflake to penny, well, I think that was so romantic!

Alan Sepinwall said...

But this episode finally addressed it, and allowed the writers to have their cake and eat it too with a respectful treatment of the religious and non-religious.

I'd say they addressed it as much as they're ever going to. I suspect CBS fears turning off certain demos if they're more direct about Sheldon being an atheist. But this was close enough, I suppose.

Myles said...

I didn't even watch this show three months ago, but after catching up and finding some things to like in Season Two I start watching regularly with this episode of all episodes.

Metcalf? Great as she was before, and as she always is. And there were a few fun gags (I enjoyed Howard and Raj's additions to "Dick," for example) here and there. Plus, Parsons was great and the Sheldon/Penny scenes delivered.

However, I cannot stand when the show allows Leonard to treat Sheldon like complete dirt and not even apologize about it. Watching Leonard in his horny state refuse to acknowledge what he did to his friend (and that its ramifications now seem very different from the moment of frustration in the Arctic) frustrated me to no end, especially when the episode actually used his mother's religious beliefs to keep Leonard from having to actually apologize.

Love Parsons. Enjoy when the show goes into more geek humour. But, for whatever reason, the combination of the played out Leonard/Penny relationship and the poor treatment of the one character I outright enjoy makes me angrier than I should be (as evidence, my blog post) about a show I only started watching recently.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Myles, it's funny you say that, because funny as Parsons is, there are definitely moments in the series where Sheldon's personal tics (be it Asperger's or not) lead him to treat the other characters so abominably that I can't fathom why they stay friends with him.

So I'm not all that troubled if the others are occasionally jerks to Sheldon, even if they have more control over their behavior than he does.

Tom Galloway said...

Heck, I can't believe they didn't do anything with Mirror Universe Sheldon, especially with all the "Vulcan hearing" references.

However, as to the others being cruel to Sheldon, while normally I'd be very much in agreement and in sympathy with Sheldon's reaction, given Sheldon's behavior during most of the last two seasons, I can't get too ticked at 'em.

A structural problem with the show is common for many sitcoms; as the writers figure out what aspects of characters are most defining/working, they get exaggerated. As an example, watch early first season eps of Friends; the leads are still human, with quirks. A few seasons in, they're walking charactures. Something similar happened to Sheldon; as the breakout character, his annoying characteristics were constantly played up to the point where it really made no sense for the other three to put up with him.

So at this point, their getting back at him doesn't come off so much as cruel as a necessary survival mechanism. I'm hoping they manage to walk the fine line between keeping Sheldon's quirks but also making it possible for it to understand why the other three still want him as a friend.

Myles said...

So I'm not all that troubled if the others are occasionally jerks to Sheldon, even if they have more control over their behavior than he does.

I think for me it's an issue of the show's machinations appearing more than the fact in and of itself. For instance, when they all abandon Sheldon when it becomes clear that he is hindering their ability to pick a movie, there's that moment where Sheldon notes "They're right, it was the only solution." It's one thing to ignore or push aside Sheldon for being annoying, but it's another for the show to suggest that what Sheldon did in the Arctic was so terrible (note how we never get to actually see it so as to judge for ourselves) that potentially destroying his career and forcing us to be subjected to Kripke is not deserving of some form of apology.

However, point most certainly taken on Sheldon's cruelty - I guess not liking Howard or Leonard very much has likely blunted their impact by comparison.

Johanna Lapp said...

For a year, I considered myself the Leonard in bewildered pursuit of my own Penny. Tonight, my sweetheart bopped me on the head and told me I'm the Penny. That's just crazy talk.

Pamela Jaye said...

They really do put up with a lot from him. (and yet, he's less annoying than Wolowitz.at least he's not hitting on people all the time)

Henry said...

Sheldon has a Death Ray t-shirt on when he shoots the guys a death stare. LOL. "My people crossed the desert once. We're done."

belinda said...

Loved the beards too! It's an easy sight gag, but a good one. And I love Wolowitz's self confidence in wearing his red hat (and bushy moustache) - he's just so comfortable with himself.

But, still not liking the 'humor' of the lispy guy. Yeah, he has a lisp. It's much less funny than the writers think. Move on.

I suppose that is as far as they'd hint at Sheldon's obvious atheism, but it's nice to see Sheldon in his old home and imagine how difficult it was for both Sheldon and his mom during his childhood.

I want a smiley toast too.

It's still a good start to a new season that I will be looking forward too.

I'm not a shipper for either Leonard-Penny or Penny-Sheldon, so I don't really care about that, but it is getting a little hard to ignore how much more I enjoy on a comedic level Penny-Sheldon scenes than Penny-Leonard scenes.

J.J. said...

Yeah, I'm with Belinda on the speech impediment guy.

Do they seriously think it's funny?

Or is "a character with a humorous voice" just one of those things that happens when a show decides they have to give in and take one of the network's random suggestions?

Ana Maria said...

...I hope the show comes back during the season, to Sheldon's arctic research, that somehow he can discover something useful or earth shattering in it because as much as I love Leonard, Wolowitz and Kutrapali(apologize if I'm not writing their names correctly...), I thought it was pretty low what they did to Sheldon...

Mike C. said...

When Penny busted out the soft kitty I fell out of my chair laughing. I love how she tries so hard to please Sheldon but he still acts like a two year old. Also was very impressed she went and saw Star Trek without the boys, looks like their influence on her has really taken it's toll.

Also, I'm not one for the romance most of the time as well but the snowflake gesture was really well done. It's nice that she also knows him well enough by now to realize the sincerity of the gift.

Howard and Raj are fantastic as well, can't wait to see some more of their conquests to attempt to pick up women in the near future.

Carrie said...

Myles, I'm totally with you. I had a hard time rooting for Leonard/Penny once he was so blase about potentialy ruining Sheldon's career. I mean, Sheldon RESIGNED because of the trick they played on him. That's a big deal. That's not on the level of tricking Sheldon about the couch cushion, or the Chinese food takeout containers.

My favorite scene was Penny trying to comfort Sheldon, but then again my favorite scenes are always the Sheldon/Penny ones. They have a great dynamic.

Jonathan Willis said...

A middling episode on a very funny show.

I completely agree with everyone who dislikes Kripke; I don't understand what his role is. If the writers are just looking for a nemesis for Sheldon than Leslie Winkle was much more effective, and I think that character would hav been a much stronger choice than Kripke to humiliate Sheldon (in particular because playing up Sheldon's sexist dynamic helps blunt the treatment Leonard gave him).

As for Leonard & Co.s treatment of Sheldon, if they don't do something like that every once in a while there's a very real danger that the relationship between Sheldon and his friends will become so ludicrous as to fail the show entirely; Sheldon inflicts so much suffering on those around him that it's nice to see a more complete dynamic.

As for Leonard/Penny, I thought the show handled it badly. In previous seasons Penny would certainly have reacted negatively to Leonard's reluctance to get Sheldon and his continual "I can't catch a break" lines. There was no pressing need that I could see to consumate the relationship between Penny/Leonard, and it would have made much more sense in this episode to delay that moment, thereby also allowing the writers to give it a little more buildup.

Anonymous said...

Alan, why did they let Sara Gilbert go? Or will she be back?

Brian said...

My personal favorite was Raj giving Sheldon a break and playing along with the Darth Vader choking

Lis said...

I really like the interactions between Sheldon and his mom; Laurie Metcalf is great, of course, and I also like their obvious affection, despite being worlds apart.

I watched seasons 1&2 in the past 2 weeks, and I never presumed that Sheldon agreed with any of his mom's beliefs, but that any references in previous episodes to Jesus, etc. were just cultural upbringing kinds of talk; the language of their family. It has felt consistent to me, but I guess I can see why people were looking for a more blatant declaration.

I'm interested by the previous comments about Sheldon's usual bad behavior vs. Leonard's big moment of bad behavior, and neither bother me. I assume that sitcom characters will be extreme versions of themselves, and I think there is enough affection off and on to justify their continuing friendship, despite isolated incidents, at least in tvland rules. If anything, I would stop being friends with Howard; he's the most one-note character to me, and if the actor weren't quite as endearing, I would have to ffwd through his scenes.

Travis said...

I dont agree that what the guys did to Sheldon was especially mean. The fact that Sheldon declared all of his findings before they had returned is what caused the uproar. I kept thinking that a scientist would have returned home and analyzed all of the data before declaring himself a noble prize winner. It did seem out of character and that negated whatever ruse the guys had done to cope with the situation in the arctic. It also excused the fact that Leonard was in no rush to apologize.

Kouthropali reacting to the death ray in the cafeteria was great, only because Sheldon seemed to extend the pose for an extra second, almost as though he thought it was actually working.

Funny how this show ended in the bedroom with two main characters trying to have 'the talk', same as How I Met Your Mother...

Heather said...

I still think BBT and HIMYM should be paired together. They were both similar here. I love how they have weirdness between Leonard and Penny now since it will probably add to future episodes.

Two other points: Toy Story and Death Grip were perfectly executed by Kunaal.

Mike C. said...

Was thrilled to see the shot of the Comic Con crowd at the end of the episode. Hat's off to Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady for recognizing the huge conglomerate of fans that packed Ballroom 20 this year to show their love for the show.

Nancy said...

I agree with Belinda, too -- can't stand the speech impediment guy. Whenever he appears, I groan. It's just not funny. Overall, the episode was OK, but not their funniest effort.

7s Tim said...

Am I the only one who had a flash of anger at the show itself for spoiling Star Trek for Sheldon? I thought that was way meaner than the trick the guys pulled. That wasn't done maliciously, it was done for survival (or at lwast sanity). The writers added salt to Sheldon's gaping "I missed Comic Con" wound. Or this is a show of fiction, and I just should relax.

Oz said...

Sure, the writers made fun of Kripke's speech impediment when they first introduced him (I have to admit "wound-wobin killer wobot invitational" still makes me laugh), but they don't really seem to be doing that anymore-- at least based on where they inserted the pauses for laughter.

I think they just like the character-- he wasn't particularly funny here, but Kripke has been a humorous antagonist in other episodes.

also, wouldn't not bringing back a recurring character because he had a lisp be offensive in its own way?

oz

Oz said...

As for Leonard finally getting together with Penny-- he's had so many close calls with her (they were actually in bed together once before and didn't go through with it), that I think the writers realized that they had to let Leonard "catch a break" or else risk the character's emasculation.

So I'm glad they decided to move beyond "will they or won't they" as a focal point of the series.

oz

Liz Coopersmith said...

Favorite lines:
Wolowitz:Oh, man, I KNEW I should have gone to Penny's first!
Raj: Oh, yeah, 'cause that was first come first serve.

Or something like that.
I also like the meta-reference Sheldon made when he was curled up in bed, about how not only did he not make a scientific breakthrough, but he also missed Comic-con. The the whole cast was at Comic-Con. But I have no idea if they saw Star Trek.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the Kripke guy too but maybe they brought him in as Sarah Gilbert was not available. I think she just had a baby in real life.

Michael said...

Also was very impressed she went and saw Star Trek without the boys, looks like their influence on her has really taken it's toll.

I'm not too surprised that Penny went to Trek without the guys, given how the new movie was one of the bigger hits of the summer and found a fan base outside the usual geek audience associated with a "Trek" film.

And I was a bit surprised that Sheldon hadn't found a way to download a copy of the new Trek film while in the Arctic. Maybe a file sharing joke is a bit too geeky even for BBT.

Steve said...

I have only seen perhaps three or four episodes of the show, but it's impossible not to see that Jim Parsons is on another level. His comedic timing and delivery ar impeccable. As TV viewers, we are lucky to be able to see such great comedic actors such as Steve Carrell, Jim Parsons, and Alec Baldwin on a weekly basis.

Some punchlines are purely due to great writing but with these three, they take great writing and run like Usain Bolt with it.

lmac said...

I was really looking forward to some Antarctica episodes. There was at least some comedy gold to be mined in these 4 guys in one room, and the set for the room wouldn't have cost any extra to build! While hearing them recount the naked sleeping event, wouldn't it have been funnier if we saw what happened the morning after, instead of 2 months later?

Teebore said...

The trick pulled on Sheldon didn't bother me at all, as I'm in the same boat as Alan: Sheldon is such a jerk (albeit an often unintentional one) to his friends that I often wonder why they are friends with him in the first place.

The show has made a point of establishing why Sheldon is friends with people he clearly considers his inferiors, but they have yet to establish why Leonard, at the least, bothers to put up with Sheldon at this point. I suppose you could say it's out of habit at this point, but then what made them friends in the first place?

I love this show, but I've been hoping for an episode dealing with that since about halfway through the first season.