Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big Bang Theory, "The Vengeance Formulation": The Pasadena way

Thoughts on last night's "Big Bang Theory" coming up just as soon as I try to be the 101st caller to my favorite radio station...

The biggest laughs in "The Vengeance Formulation" were contained in the Sheldon vs. Kripke storyline, with the one-two punch of Sheldon way overdoing the prank and the ill-timed, overly-explanatory video that followed it. But I want to mainly talk about Wolowitz.

Howard is by far the most problematic character, the one the show usually seems to be laughing at, rather than with. So I commend any episode which attempts to humanize him - even if part of that humanization involves his masturbatory fantasy of taking a bath with Katee Sackhoff. And I thought this one did a better job than the episode last year where Penny tore into Howard for being an utter loser. There, it felt like the writers were paying lip service to the idea that Howard's not just a clown, but their hearts weren't in it. Here, he made tangible progress with Bernadette(*), and the idea of him having a regular girlfriend has real promise, and at the very least, will take the character out of his rut.

(*) Did they name her Bernadette because they knew at some point Howard was going to do his own mangled version of The Four Tops song?

However, I do wish that they hadn't gone with the obvious, superficial dilemma that Howard feared Bernadette wasn't hot enough, especially since the actress is plenty cute and has just been dowdied up a bit to be a plausible Wolowitz girlfriend. I know that Howard is a relentless horndog with an overdeveloped sense of ego, but I think the more interesting way to go - and a story that they could still very easily do - would have been for Howard to get hung up on the fact that the two of them have nothing in common, other than a shared resentment towards their families. The first Bernadette episode dealt with this, but I think there's plenty of mileage left in the idea that everyone thinks Howard should be so grateful to have a nice, attractive girlfriend and he can't quite appreciate her because she doesn't know or care about robots or "Battlestar Galactica." That seems like a conflict that's richer, one that might give Howard a little more credit as a person, instead of just having fantasy Starbuck tell him he needs to settle for someone less overtly hot.

Of course, going that way would have deprived the show's target audience of a glimpse of Katee Sackhoff in the tub. Can't blame the show for giving its fans what they want, I suppose.

What did everybody else think?


Amy said...

My main problem with Bernadette as a Howard love interest is that, to me, the most attractive thing about Howard is his sense of humor. The other three guys, you laugh at the situations they get in, or the reactions they have, but Wolowitz consistently gets the funniest lines and has the most natural snark of any of the characters. A woman who doesn't get that isn't the woman for Wolly.

Of course, this could just be my insane jealousy talking.

Unknown said...

I liked, but didn't love the episode.
Having said that (I couldn't resist), I think the writers face a real problem when it comes to Bernadette. Having both Leonard and Howard hooking up would really inhibit the show and kind of go against the very premise of the show. On the other hand, I like shows that do not focus solely on Sheldon. Maybe Bernadette can be a recurring character, but only occassionally.

Unknown said...

I thought the episode overall was very funny but the Howard relationship thing kind of through me a little too.

Not to over-analyze but I thought him turning her down for sex was based out of fear of a serious relationship and all his talk about fantasy women was just a cover. For me, to make it just because he really is waiting for that fantasy woman makes him even shallower than I thought he was.

Still overall a very funny episode - loved the Wizard of Oz Munchkinville imitation.

forg/jecoup said...

I don't really like Kripke. I miss Leslie Winkle for me she's the better Sheldon "enemy"

I must say I love Penny's lines this episode. Kaley's comic improve a lot from her 8 Simple Rules days

Eric said...

I had the same thought - that the fact that she doesn't get his jokes is a much bigger problem than the fact that she's not Katie Sackhoff.

And as much as I've grown to like BBT, he'll always be Moist to me.

I also found the final prank a bit annoying, because it underlined the traditional sitcomminess of the show- does anyone expect real consequences?

Also, wasn't Sheldon discussing with Ira Flatow the experiment that it was revealed in the season opener was ruined by the rest of the gang? Yet he seemed to be acting as though he had actually discovered a magnetic monopole.

Unknown said...

I disagree with Amy who said that Wolowitz gets the funniest lines. I think that Raj is even funnier. I wouldn't worry too much about Howard being in a relationship, he's going to screw this up pretty quickly.

Tony M said...

"the obvious, superficial dilemma that Howard feared Bernadette wasn't hot enough"

I know that's what Howard said, but I felt that was just his rationlaization. I think he prefers a fantasy girl because he can't quite beleive a real girl would be interested. Admittedly that may be a reach for subtext, but I also generally feel the show has more sympathy for Howard than you do.

srpad said...

I don't recall Bernadette being dumb in her first appearence. In fact didn't she work in a genetics lab or something? I thought her deal was just that she wasn't into "geek culture". Did they change something here or am I remembering it wrong?

Also was I the only one who thought of Newton's Apple when they revealed the host of the radio show?

BS said...
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Andrew said...

Here is the thing about incompatible vs. not hot enough: Incompatible means Howard has to break up with her.

If Howard is concerned about making a commitment because they have nothing in common, his proposal and attempt to win her back at the end would have been pathetic and almost cruel. The message would be that he is such a loser he should latch on to anything with a vagina that doesn't mind being near him.

Besides that, it was only their third date, and while his concern that she doesn't look like one of his fantasy girls is an easy well to go to, it is true to the character and something that is HIS problem, not hers.

They can still do an episode or two where he realizes that he and Bernadette aren't right for each other. But that is going to be the episode where they break up, not the one where they become BF/GF.

Loved Penny entering and just throwing out "Yo, Raj! Talk to me."

JT said...

Weakest ep of the season but at least the show is still going strong (unlike HIMYM).

Tom Galloway said...

Thought this was one of the stronger eps of the season, at least partially because there were actual storylines in it rather than just throwing the characters into situations that peter out by the end.

Speaking as a geek who has a decent rep for being humorous, it's certainly a romantic dealbreaker for me if a woman consistently doesn't get my jokes/references. And I'd still like to find out what Bernadette is into, other than microbiology and issues with her mother.

While as a former hacker (Harvard-Yale Game '82, everything except for the balloon) I appreciated the show getting into Caltech's rep for doing hacks, I'm afraid the show went over the edge in terms of the hacks causing damage. At MIT, and I believe Caltech based on what I've read, part of the hacker ethos is to do no significant damage. Messing up someone's national radio appearance in the way Kripke did, and having an odd substance muck up all the machinery in Kripke's lab, would seem to be over the line with repect to damages.

Oh, and if Wolowitz has an MIT degree, they really should fish up a Brass Rat* for him to wear.

*MIT class ring, which grad students do also get because it's so distinctive. Called a Brass Rat because it's golden brass in color, and the central design element is a beaver, which can be construed as looking like a rat. Another bit of folklore about it is that while at MIT, you wear it so the beaver poops on you. When you graduate, you turn it around so that the beaver poops on the world.

Geor said...

Starbuck and Wolowitz in the tub = Hi-larious. The fact that he was semi-rejected in his own fantasy was rather indicative of the Wolowitz' state of mind, (It reminded me of J.D.'s Batman fantasy, with himself as Robin; "Holy Inferiority Complex, Batman! How low is my self-esteem that I'm the sidekick in my own fantasy!") and the back an forth between them worked really well.

The rest of the episode was pretty good, Kripke is a giant douche, however. I think this 3rd season has seen the show improve a lot and it hasn't relied on Sheldon as much, which is always good as it keeps him fresh and less one-note.

Again, Sheldon's prank and the following video were perfect. Really sells Sheldon as the demented genius/sociopath that I've grown to love.

J.J. said...

Yeah, I cringe a bit whenever they do Howard episodes.

I don't understand how the writers reconcile the various things they've told us about his character. One episode he's so hard up that he's chasing after much older women, and the next thing you know he's turning down a perfectly cute young lady because he's holding out for Megan Fox? Come on.

They basically established for us that Howard happily takes what he can get. Doing an episode like this kind of flies in the face of what they've been telling us about him since the show began -- and not even in an interesting way where it was the girl's personality or interests that surprisingly gave him reservations.

It's just bizarre that suddenly he's supposed to be picky.

Anonymous said...

Love this show, but something that really bugs the pee out of me is when an extremely attractive woman is cast as someone who not supposed to be so. Bernadette is cuter than Penny.

And why is it even the "plain" girls on television has gigantic DDs? I expect more of Big Bang.

Craig Ranapia said...
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Craig Ranapia said...

It's just bizarre that suddenly he's supposed to be picky.

ITA -- what happened to the Wolowitz who almost cried with gratitude to be on the waitlist for one of Leslie Winkle's degarding booty calls?

Hell, forget about her being Sheldon's ultimate enemy, why not go all the way to Freaksville and make Howard and Leslie BBT's answer to Saul and Ellen Tigh? You know, the kind of relationship that only makes any kind of sense to the people involved.

Jon88 said...

No one's mentioned it, so now I'm wondering -- am I the only person who didn't know Simon Helberg could play the piano? Wolowitz rocks!

Wilbur Pan said...

For the record, "the actress" is Melissa Rauch. This is the first time I've seen her outside of "Best Week Ever", but she was one of the more consistently funny comics on that show, and her appearances on this show have been really good so far.

Maybe a quick trip to imdb could avoid these vague references.

Austin Gorton said...

One episode he's so hard up that he's chasing after much older women, and the next thing you know he's turning down a perfectly cute young lady because he's holding out for Megan Fox?

For what it's worth, the impression I had was that in terms of a booty call, Howard would take whatever he could get, whenever he could get it.

But when it came time to commit to someone (as Bernadette was ostensibly asking him to do), well, he had unbelievably high standards for the kind of woman with which he'd do that.

A one night stand was one thing (any woman would do), a relationship another (for that, Howard wanted someone as hot as Megan Fox).