Friday, 14 March 2014

We’re Back: A Take on Big Bang

Yes, we are finally posting after almost two years in the dark, and if we had any readers at all, this would be a big deal. Fortunately, only my grandma and her cat will be reading this, so the absence has not been greatly felt (Hi Mr. Fuzzles!). You may be asking, Why were you gone for so long, to which I will say, Don’t worry, Mr. Fuzzles, I only left the room – stupid cat. Anyway, I felt a great desire to comment on an episode of Big Bang Theory I just watched, and so here I am. 

             I will get it out of the way first – yes, BBT is not nearly as great as it used to be and has been steadily declining already for a few seasons. The relationships are rather flat, character development slow, jokes lack much of the poignant originality they once had, and most of the story-lines are missing even a clear meaning. Despite this, there are two things I want to talk about: one about desperate characters, the second one about missed opportunities.
                I’ll just give a quick summary of the most recent episode, “The Mommy Observation.” Howard and Sheldon are in Texas when Sheldon sees his mom having sex, and he deals with the issue – not that important. Meanwhile, Raj sets up a murder mystery dinner with the rest of the gang, including Stuart – more important. Throughout the entire night the gang bitch and moan about the game Raj has so excitedly and elaborately put together, which includes an element of time travel, while only Stuart plays along with the story-line (albeit, he only lays on the ground as the murdered member the entire time).
Near the end of the episode, however, Leonard suggests to the group that no matter where they are in twenty years, no matter how scattered around the globe, they should all meet again in front of the building they have spent so many hours in and have dinner together. The final scene shows a lonesome gray-haired Stuart, twenty years later, being stood up by everyone saying, “I knew it.” Although it has been shown before in different ways, at the end of this episode I could not help feeling one thing: there are now real losers in BBT.
Where we once had a show that celebrated being a geek, a nerd, an outcast – therefore cancelling out the labels – in the recent string of episodes in season 7, there really are cool kids and losers. To put it plainly, anyone in a relationship seems to have finally realized what being ‘normal’ really is, but anyone without a partner, are sad hopeless dreamers.
Raj tries so hard for his friends but is given no relief. The writers refuse to allow him any lasting happiness, only burying him in deeper pit of desperation, whether it’s making him fall deeply in love with his dog, or constantly referencing his awkward metrosexuality. It’s hard to watch. This is similar to Stuart, who, despite being the most lovable character on the show, is allowed no connection and only jokes of self-loathing.
And although Raj gets this more than Stuart does, it seems like the group actually looks down on Raj now, treating him as if he actually were a loser. That’s not what this show is about. At the beginning, it was the entire opposite. Geeks had a community. They were cool even if they were weird. Now most of them seem to put down that sort of behaviour. My god, they play D&D all the time – what the hell is the big difference between that and the role-playing in a murder mystery?

The second, and more important point, is about missed opportunities. The writing in BBT focuses on one thing: silly, inane laughter. Dramatic sections are next to nil, totalling probably an only episode’s worth of screen time for the entire series, and even the sweet moments come few and far between now. They need(ed) to use dramatic development as a way to anchor the audience’s involvement with the characters. When everything is all jokes, who the fuck cares?
Having an entirely dramatic episode of The Big Bang Theory could provide the opportunity for one the series’ best moments, but I doubt the writers will take that chance. What I mean by this, is that everything done in the show seems to work toward making fun of people, or breaking down relationships, instead of building them up. They provide themselves an opportunity to change the feeling of the show, only to smack it down and make the audience feel shitty (think of how they brought up and crushed the dreams of Howard going back into space).
Stuart standing alone twenty years in the future marks one of the biggest mistake made by the writers – proving that it’s even in the small details. Instead of making Stuart into a greater loser, as I described above, I suggest another route to take.

Leonard suggests they all meet twenty years in the future outside the building. Stuart, a sweet man of little money, doesn't have a calendar on his phone, so he needs to write it down. Flash forward twenty years: Stuart stands outside the building, painfully aware no one is going to show up. He mutters “I knew it,” and begins walking home (cue sad audience). As he does, hanging his head low, a beautifully dressed Penny, slightly wrinkled, her hair resembling that of a woman in her mid-forties, walks into Stuart. She embraces him, surprised and thrilled that he’s actually there, only to look past him in wonderment. She asks him, “Where is everyone else?” He shakes his head as Stuart is known to do, and we see the confused disappointment in Penny’s face. She is clearly longing for someone, however, being a woman of greater maturity, she tells Stuart that they should go to dinner anyway. They both smile and he takes her arm, making some quirky joke, as they walk off down the street.

Why I think this works better than what they had: A twenty year gap is a PERFECT opportunity to raise questions without giving answers. The episode focused explicitly on whether or not Penny and Leonard will end up together, so why not show them twenty years later NOT together? The gap is big enough that the audience gets to wonder why, expecting something in the show, without getting it rammed into our eyes. Also, we don’t have to suffer another showcase of a great character being tortured as a loser. Everyone gets stood up, but come on, not this way, and not to Stuart. By the end of the episode, I just felt bad and unhappy. This is Big Bang Theory, not Buried.    

                Anyway, grandma, I’ve finished my rant. There need to be some changes, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Maybe it’s time to just put the damn thing to sleep. No, not you Mr. Fuzzles – stupid cat.

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