Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Big Bang Theory" great show but could have been written a little differently

Big Bang Theory is a great show about the unlikely mix between geeks and beauties. A beautiful young girl, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves in next door to a pair of advanced theoretical physicists (Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons), who are textbook examples of geekiness. With their two friends (Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar), they spend much of their time playing Halo, going on second life, watching sci-fi shows and collecting comic books. One of the two roommates (Johnny Galecki from Roseanne) is in love with the girl across the hall and a great deal of the show centers around this tension between this very shy and socially-akward guy and this girl who is out of her league.

The show is very entertaining for two reasons. The first is the hilarity that results from watching these nerdy geniuses and their two friends (Simon Helberg in fish-out-of-water situations where they are forced to interact with normal people (mainly in the form of Penny). Second, is the endearing and unlikely nature of the budding chemistry that develops between Penny and Sheldon. It might be a lost cause for him, but we're happy just to see sparks fly in the meantime.

One problem with the show, however, is that Penny spends an awful lot of time hanging around with Sheldon and his three friends when she has little in common with them in the first place. I understand that Sheldon is such a nice guy underneath with a desire to be sociable that she might form a friendship with them, but of the remaining three characters: Raj is too shy to speak when he's around her, Leonard is hostile and Wolfowitz is creepy. The writers construct situations where Penny is interacting with the "gang" instead of just Sheldon because that way she's not dating him yet and it keeps the sexual tension flowing, but how many situations can the writers construct before the "they're neighbors" excuse doesn't cut it anymore. This is especially true when she's actively annoyed with some of them (an example is when Leonard actively snuck into her apartment and cleaned her room). Sometimes, there are valid excuses that can make the interactions seem more plausible, like she's dropping off their mail or there's an episode where they're invited to her party.

Essentially what many unlikely storybook romances need, in both the movies and in real life, is for characters who wouldn't normally associate with each other to be stuck in some sort of confined situation where they have to do so. This reminds me of a film theory called the "Grand Hotel" or "Ship of Fools" theory that says when characters from different societal classes are forced to spend time in a confined space, they become a microcosm of society. If Leonard and Sheldon and Penny had daily schedules that forced them to unknowingly spend a lot of time with each other, step outside of their comfort spheres, and realize that the other wasn't so bad, I think that would be a great concept for a show.

What if the show was set in the physics lab where Sheldon and Leonard work?
If the show took place at their university and Penny was hired as a seceretary or clerk, all of their physics jokes would seem more natural since they'd be forced to talk more physics around her anyway. All the interactions would still be there but they'd also be more natural if she was spending what I currently see as excessive time with the gang of four.

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