Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Big Bang Theory, "The Terminator Decoupling": Summer time blues

Quick thoughts on last night's "The Big Bang Theory" coming up just as soon as I get out my scanning wand...

I seem to find a blog-worthy "Big Bang Theory" episode about once a month, and an episode that guest-starred Summer Glau from "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," not to mention one that largely kept Penny on the sidelines (and used her well when she wasn't) seems to qualify.

Though "BBT" has become, rightly, The Sheldon Show, this was a good episode for the whole ensemble, while still leaving plenty of moments for the other actors to stand back and let Jim Parsons riff. (My favorite of those was Sheldon's monologue about SkyNet sending back Terminators who look like actors who have played Terminators, but his packing explanation was also nice.) And in those moments when Penny did pop up, it was to set up Sheldon's increasingly exasperated and desperate reactions to her as she tried (or didn't try) to follow his instructions about the USB drive.

But at the same time, we got to see Leonard grow frustrated with his inability to use sarcasm as a coping mechanism with Sheldon, and to see Raj turn all suave with the placebo effect of some near-beer, and (somewhat more predictably, and more horrifyingly) to see Howard's epic fail with Summer Glau.

Despite having been present at several different press conferences for Glau-related shows, it's still so strange to me to see her acting like a normal person instead of a robot or a surgically-enhanced mental patient. And then, towards the end of the episode as she had to listen to Howard drone on and on, it was amusing to see how closely her "I'm miserable and want to kill myself" affect resembles her portrayal of River Tam.

Fun episode, though it wasn't a patch on the "HIMYM" that followed it.

What did everybody else think?


Matt said...

Funny enough (and a good example of using a limited number of sets well), but wouldn't these characters be far more likely to have a thing for Glau based on Firefly/Serenity rather than Terminator?

And this is a nice example of Penny not playing "too stupid to be allowed to live," which the show falls into once in a while.

Toby O'B said...

I'm a big fan of the idea that most TV shows share the same world, so it didn't help to have the guy referring to 'Sarah Conner Chronicles' as a TV show so much. But it was all worth it for the fun they had with the idea.

If you go to the CBS site and watch their promo clip for the episode, they have some sfx fun with that Skynet speech by Sheldon.

I wonder how many people were just watching casually and thought George Smoot was just a character and not a real person (especially with Penny riffing on the sound of his last name)?

I wish Raj had gone back and downed a few real beers......

Alan Sepinwall said...

Funny enough (and a good example of using a limited number of sets well), but wouldn't these characters be far more likely to have a thing for Glau based on Firefly/Serenity rather than Terminator?

Maybe, but Terminator is currently on the air, both shows come from the same studio, and they've already done at least one other joke in an episode about Summer-as-Cameron, in which Sheldon wonders why SkyNet would build a Terminator that looks like a cute teenage girl, and whether it's possible for a computer to have a fetish. So it fit.

Mark S said...

I wish Raj had gone back and downed a few real beers......

After he went mute and walked away from Summer, he lost whatever chance he might have had.

Unknown said...

Not the best of the year but much better than last week.

Without Sheldon's facial expressions and timing though (ONLY MEMAW CALLS ME MOONPIE!) this show would be nowhere. It's amazing that one person can take a show from somewhere below Rules of Engagement level and raise it to one of the top sitcoms on television.

Anonymous said...

I love BBT and I love Penny (not just cause she's a POA). This Summer broad really is just pretty to look at, but I enjoyed the ep. Basically, Sheldon would be on the streets if he wasn't a genius. Galecki continues to crack me up, the line about having a beautiful blonde back home to be frustrated over or whatever it was.

Karen said...

Because my DVR is already clogged with Chuck and House, I don't get to see this show very often in its first-run episodes. (HIMYM, either, but I did just discover that I was able to watch "Sorry, Bro" at CBS.com, which made me very happy.)

Usually I figure I can survive without it, but as a true Browncoat I was very sorry to miss Summer Glau. Especially Summer Glau playing herself. I did see a couple of clips at CBS.com--and why wouldn't they put the whole episode up, as they did with HIMYM??--and was even sorrier. It looked like a great episode.

Glau's reactions to Howard were priceless. It must be an interesting exercise playing yourself yet having to come up with very specific responses.

Pamela Jaye said...

I loved this ep. I loved Penny and the box (it was nice of her to ask before she smashed it) and Leonard and Summer (too late darn it! I liked his approach)

And George Smoot.
As it turned out, it was Oliver Smoot that the bridge was measured by. Darn.
There is - somewhere, probably at cbs.com, a nice little behind the scenes with GS and the cast (and writers?) Apparently he asked to be on the show? (it was late, I was tired, I must be at least close)

I'll be the odd one and say that I loved this ep and liked it better than HIMYM. When I was watching Chuck, and Morgan had his list of rules for living with him, I thought of Sheldon and his ad for a roommate who didn't whistle.


Sorry for yelling. But when Leonard told her he didn't want her to move in, he thereafter ran off to have sex with her. And yet, ever since, they've been making a point of him being single or trying to sleep with Penny.I feel no closure!

and now, the little story that cannot help jumping to mind when I hear the name Smoot.

actually, I'm slightly sad TBBT is set in LA (Pasadena) rather than (Greater) Boston, but in Boston, there would be no Penny.

"The smoot is a nonstandard unit of length created as part of an MIT fraternity prank. It is named after Oliver R. Smoot ... a fraternity pledge ... who in October 1958 was used by his fraternity brothers to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge between Boston and Cambridge"

"To implement his use as a measuring stick, Oliver Smoot repeatedly lay down on the bridge, let his companions mark his new position in chalk or paint, and then got up again. Eventually, he tired from all this exercise and was thereafter carried by the fraternity brothers to each new position."

"The bridge's length was measured to be 364.4 smoots ... plus or minus one ear"

"The markings have become well-accepted by the public, to the point that during the bridge renovations that occurred in the 1980s, the Cambridge Police department requested that the markings be maintained, since they had become useful for identifying the location of accidents on the bridge."

"The prank's fiftieth anniversary was commemorated on October 4, 2008, as Smoot Celebration Day at MIT"

Wikipedia's article can, and does, go on for much longer (reminds me of Sheldon, and my friend Ollie - but for an encyclopedia that's okay) but that's the gist.
When I hear Smoot, I think of the bridge, immediately.

Oliver Smoot, of course, went on to "bec[o]me chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and president of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)."

Pamela Jaye said...

George is, apparently, Oliver's cousin.

ghoti said...

This show has given us the best and funniest two half hours of any show this season in "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" and "The Maternal Capacitance" (for which there was no blog entry due to illness).

I think this was the weakest episode since the two terrible January "Kwipke" efforts.

The problem was when there is too much Sheldon and not enough Penny, the show can get a bit unwieldy. I thought the parts of this episode featuring those two on the phone were by far the funniest moments.

Plus, they have spent some time developing Howard's character this season, but in this episode they ignored all that and made him back into his old cliched, annoying self. I especially didn't like him sabotaging his best friend when he was clearly doing so well (even if he was being a bit of a douche). Howard is getting some from Leslie Winkle. Poor Raj can't even get near a woman! Let him have his moment.

Unknown said...

I especially didn't like him sabotaging his best friend when he was clearly doing so well

But was he sabotaging out of envy or jealousy? They are married you know.

erin said...

I thought it was delightful, and i think it's one of the most dependable comedies around. It's the CBS workhorse. Very even, gets the job done.

I thought Shel's reactions to the "stupidity" of Penny, especially mouthing "OMG!" to Leonard was priceless. I thought they could have done more with the Summer Glau storyline (it seemed easy for SG to be creeped out by Wolowitz, although i did like that she thought Raj was interesting). Loved the placebo affect on Raj.

I thought it was just the right amount of everyone. Great 1-2 combo last night with HIMYM, but HIMYM was one I wanted to re-watch (and did!)

Anonymous said...

I was along well enough for the (train) ride until Smoot had his cameo. I understand that he's not an actor, but the show could've handled him a lot better than giving him one cop-out line ("Dr. Cooper, are you on crack?") and then an angle of him walking away with a nervous, self-aware smile on his face. Negative points.

For the Summer Glau of it all - Raj was fun in being suave, but Howard is painful - PAINFUL - to watch in that kind of situation. I hope they take the Raj placebo effect somewhere because that will add a whole new dimension to the character and hopefully give a foil that Howard will need to raise his game against

Anonymous said...

I was quite peeved at Howard C-blocking Raj. As others have noted, he's got some Winkle-action on the sly! Though this at least points out that Raj's nervousness is all in his head.

For whatever reason, my favorite bit was Penny admitting to Leonard that she'd gone too far, then immediately going "What up, Moonpie?" when back on the phone with Sheldon. You can never really go too far with Sheldon.

bsangs said...

I've watched four episodes of this show - including this one - and for the life of me, I don't understand why anybody finds it funny. Maybe if I were an uber-geek I'd get it.

When I watch, all I can think about is how annoying that Leonard (sp?) person is and how if he were my friend, I would do everything in my power to NEVER hang out with him. E-V-E-R. Maybe I've watched the four worst episodes possible - don't ask me for titles, I've no clue - but four is a big enough sample to realize it's not my cup of joe. I'll stick to HIMYM solo.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree. I was slightly disappointed with the episode and also slightly weirded out at Summer Glau acting like a real human (egads!). What really disappointed me was them not writing in a joke on Wolowitz wanting to work with Joss Whedon like Summer did. I'm pretty sure if people know Summer Glau, they know Dr. Horrible.

Anonymous said...

I've tried to watch "Big Bang Theory" more than once. I've loved Jim Parsons' dorkiness ever since his chewing gum commercials. The thing is, I just can't get past that horrendous laugh track. It's been ages since I watched any network sitcoms -- ages since any of them interested me. I guess most people who watch them regularly don't notice the completely obnoxious and obtrusive tittering, guffawing, chuckling cacaphony anymore. It's gone way beyond what I remember. They rev up that har-har machine over every tepid half-witticism or lifted eyebrow. It makes the the show unwatchable for me, and I'm really sorry about that because I'd like to enjoy it.

MadMeme said...

Geeks using TiVo? When is this - the 1990s?

Sorry, writers of the show, but any self-respecting geek is way beyond TiVo now with HTPCs and RSS feeds.

Heck, I don't even own a TV set or DVD player anymore. What's the point?

Jon88 said...

Glau may have been playing a normal person, but it was one who was devoid of a personality. I guess getting her to show up was deemed sufficient, and actually giving her anything to do superfluous.

Anonymous said...

Howard is my least favorite character, and I get sick of watching him be a creep.
Instead of watching the guys take turns hitting on her, I was hoping they'd just all go over and try to chat with her (as you would most likely do if you and your friends were riding a train with a celebrity). But I guess this is a sitcom.