So I managed to get a copy of the first Season of The Big Bang Theory to watch. Weirdly, though, the first episode won’t play right. I have no idea why but nothing I can do can get it to start. I’ll probably try to find it on Hulu later or where ever you can find it, but for now I figured sitcoms are generally written so that they can be appreciated no matter what order you view them in and skipped to episode two.
I’ve gotta say right off the bat that this show felt very… forced. Not in the premise really… I mean, the idea that a group of intelligent, geeky friends would have the hots for their down-to-earth, hot friendly blonde neighbor isn’t really a stretch. I’ve seen variations on it in real life. I mean it feels forced in the sense that the geekiness of the main characters just feels… unnatural. It’s got a step above most other shows in at least in this first episode I’ve seen all of their geek references are largely accurate, but they come off as just pandering to geek audiences without any respect for whether or not it would make sense for the main characters to have this discussion.
I think most of my problems with this episode stem from the character of Sheldon… at least I think that’s his name. The tall lanky one who is obviously balding. Sheldon is not written as a human being. I really can’t think of another way to say that. He spits out dumb geek reference and painfully forced “smart guy” dialogue. Not intelligent dialogue, oh no, simply spouting out big words and weird old references so that we all understand how “smart” he is. The crux of this episode is that the hot neighbor asks the two main geeks to sign for some furniture she’s having delivered. Sheldon, in a fit of cartoonish obsessive compulsion, becomes obsessed with how dirty her apartment is to the point of breaking in the next night just to straighten up.
And well… that’s funny? At least the hot neighbor reacts to this invasion of privacy like a normal human being would, so that’s kind of entertaining, but Sheldon doesn’t give a shit. I think one of the weirdest lines was a joke where “semi-normal nerd” mentions something about Sheldon getting arrested for these shenanigans and being judged by a “jury of his peers”. Though according to Sheldon, he “has no peers.” So… what? We’re following the adventures of an egomaniacal sociopath? That’s one of our protagonists? Yeah, I guess it’s good to have a character who would cause problems… I mean, if you had a story about a group of reasonable, intelligent characters who respect themselves and those around them they would never get into any wacky mishaps and the story would die on the vine. But do we really want to watch characters like this? I’ve always considered myself a pretty geeky guy but even I want to punch that jerkoff Sheldon in the face.
So yeah, Sheldon is basically an alien, but to be honest all of the geeks are like that. For example, normal-nerd (I’ll probably learn his name by the time we get to the next episode) has a moment where he’s apologizing to hot neighbor for well… breaking and entering, and he has a little written apology. It makes sense, though, since he had figured she didn’t want to see him at all so he was just going to leave her a note. But the actual text of his note makes all these painfully forced references to historical scientists who worked on the A-Bomb or Radioactivity or whatever. It almost feels like the writer might as well jump out from behind some of the scenery and shout, “HEY! THIS CHARACTER IS SMART! HE IS A VERY SMART MAN AND HE MAKES REFERENCES TO SMART THINGS! LOOK AT HOW SMART HE IS! BUT OH NO HE’S SO BOOK SMART BUT HE IS NOT STREET SMART! THIS MAKES HIM AWKWARD!” Yeah, I fucking get it.
Recently I saw a film called Fan Boys, and while it did have a lot of jokes poking fun at nerds, their obsessions, their awkwardness, etc., at its core it still felt like a story that was celebrating fandom. Sure they were losers, but they were happy and they had friends and they could function in normal society but they just didn’t really want to. This movie feels like it’s just making fun of nerds. Like it’s just grabbing these socially awkward characters and putting them on stage and laughing as they fail to do anything. If I can use a bit of hyperbole it feels almost like… a minstrel show. Sure, it’s about a specific culture, but it has no respect for it. It just wants to point at it and laugh. I don’t know, maybe it gets better, this is only the second episode. For now I’ll try to find a working copy of the first episode and see if that adds some context to make this feel less insulting.
– Episode 1
Yeah, so, I managed to get my copy of the first episode working. Oddly, despite how much the second episode made me hate Sheldon, the first episode really made me pity him. It’s clear in this episode that his obsessive compulsion has more of a stranglehold on his life. In a weird way it ties into what I was saying about the “minstrel show” feeling I got. It’s clear that his obsessive nature isn’t simply some wacky character trait… I get the impression that it’s a legitimate mental problem that this character has. Of course it’s wildly inconsistent in its portrayal, because that’s just the kind of show this is, but there are moments where it feels like the show is literally making fun of a person for a real-world disability. I can’t say that I’ve never laughed at something that makes fun of the disabled or mentally challenged, but at least usually in those cases it felt deliberately offensive or at least was part of a dark comedy. Here it feels, again, like it’s just some jerk pointing and laughing at this real world problem and making fun of it.
The other feeling I get from this episode is that Penny, the hot neighbor, is a manipulative bitch. Aside from having her move into the same apartment complex as the nerds, the plot of this episode has her asking… uh… normal nerd. I swear to God I made a point of trying to remember his name but I totally forgot it as soon as I sat down… ahem, anyway, she asks normal nerd to go to her ex-boyfriend’s house to pick up her TV from him… her huge, musclebound ex-boyfriend.
Why? She talks about how he’s a violent jerk, why would she send these physically weak, awkward men to do this for her? Does she just not care? They try to paint her in a positive light by how sorry she is for sending them on this bizarre errand, but it just comes off as insincere cleanup to try and make her seem less horrible.
The whole “saying smart things without any real context” problem was just as present in this episode as the second. I feel like I could summarize half of the dialogue in this series with, “They’re very smart, but socially they’re awkward! Isn’t that wacky?”
– Episode 3
I think I’ve narrowed down a big part of why I don’t like this show… it seems to treat intelligence as though it somehow removes your humanity. Here’s what I mean… the normal nerd (who I swear to God I’m not deliberately forgetting his name just to be funny I honestly can’t remember it) decides that he doesn’t have a chance of getting with Penny because he’s such a NERRRRD so he decides to ask out a woman who works at the lab with him.
To go off on a bit of a tangent, that is one of the things I like about this show… when I saw commercials and previews and stuff I had just sort of assumed that all of the nerd characters were in college. I think it’s because I remember seeing a commercial or something where they’re all eating in a cafeteria that made me think that. Anyway it turns out they’re all actual physicists, engineers, or other smart people with real fucking jobs, and that’s a nice change of pace.
Anyway, uh… LEONARD! That’s his fucking name. God that was going to drive me nuts if I didn’t remember it. Anyway Leonard asks out Darlene from Roseanne (yes, really) who is one of his coworkers in the lab. Thing is, though… the whole thing is just this painfully robotic non-flirting… thing that they go through. They literally say shit like, “I postulate that our interpersonal relationship should proceed to a greater level of… something something.” I don’t remember it was just so painfully awkward and forced that my mind can’t even wrap around it. It wasn’t like they were playfully using lab jargon to flirt with one another… the whole show seems to think that, “if you’re smart, you think and act entirely in big, overcomplicated words”. It treats intelligence like it basically turns you into a robot.
Which is weird because the next scene after Leonard hits on Darlene is Sheldon getting teased by their other two friends (Harold and Raj, whose names I do remember because they are actually more entertaining characters than our mains) about whether or not he might actually be a robot. If this show struck me as at all self-aware I would think that they’re picking apart the shows own presentation of intelligent people as automaton-like dispensers of comic references and pointless facts. However, it was clearly just another excuse to shoe-horn in more “nerd” jokes by letting the audience know that the writer has heard of Asimov’s three laws of robotics.
Aside from that the only thing of note is how much this episode focuses entirely on the sexual side of Leonard’s interest in Penny. Granted that’s pretty much the only part of her there is to be attracted to, but it just makes Leonard seem painfully shallow as he never seems to care about any other part of her. Hell, it makes all of his friends seems really shallow because that seems to be the only part of his infatuation that they make any kind of attempt to wrap their head around. I won’t deny that sex was a big part of any relationship I’ve ever been in, but if you’re going to make a fucking show about it I think you need to have a little more than that for the audience to give a damn about.