Best Episode of the Season: The Big Bang Theory Season 7

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Season Analysis: While The Big Bang Theory will probably never stop undercutting itself by giving every episode the quickest, easiest conclusion, Season 7 did show off some of the strongest recognition yet of its best cast dynamics

The Status Quo Combustion

“The Status Quo Combustion”
While it is not the worst offender on the dial and while it has gotten better in this regard, The Big Bang Theory is one of the most allergic-to-change shows on television.  But it has always had a tendency to mix things up in its season finales, and Season 7 was no exception (as explicitly made clear in the episode title).  The status quo has combusted before, and Sheldon has left the apartment before, and things have ultimately gone back to normal.  But this time is different – the Big Bang writers have actually set themselves up in such a way that the changes must stick (at least somewhat) permanently.  Raj actually did have sex with a girl he likes, Leonard and Penny are really getting married, Stuart’s comic book store actually did burn down, and Amy actually did suggest that she and Sheldon live together.  This is all too much for Sheldon, but more so than ever before, the show he’s on is not following his example.  Leonard and Penny ultimately decide to just let him leave town, and it is unclear just how this will be resolved, and when it comes to The Big Bang Theory, that uncertainty is thrilling.

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Best Episode of the Season: The Big Bang Theory Season 6

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Season Analysis: The Big Bang Theory actually had some major developments with some of its main characters, thus defying all expectations.

the-big-bang-theory-the-closet-reconfiguration

“The Closet Reconfiguration”
If there is one thing The Big Bang Theory is known for getting right, it is not the emotional beats.  I have never once watched an episode of TBBT and thought, “That was beautiful” … until “The Closet Reconfiguration.”  Sitcoms tend to be more about emotional resonance than laugh-out-loud moments as they get older.  Surprise is the most important element of humor, and there is an inverse relationship between a sitcom’s age and its ability to surprise.  But sitcoms can still be worth watching in their golden years, and perhaps the most common reason for that is the relationship between viewers and the characters.  Up until this season, TBBT seemed either incapable or uninterested in capitalizing on that connection.  The gang is always so petty and snippy with each other that it is a wonder that they have all remained friends for six seasons.  But the stories that Howard’s friends told him that all could have potentially been the contents of the letter from his father proved their friendship.  Even Sheldon’s version that was obviously the plot of The Goonies managed to show how much he cares.  This is what The Big Bang Theory is supposed to be doing: taking a legitimately nerdy idea and giving it a real world application.

Best Episode of the Season: The Big Bang Theory Season 5

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Season Analysis: The Big Bang Theory has always had a weakness for cheap gender and racial gags and overly broad zingers amidst its otherwise keenly observed and performed version of the geek experience; this season, the cheap gags overwhelmed the whole show and produced its worst season thus far.  Until a string of fine episodes to finish off the year, I was worried that TBBT had become completely the worst possible version of itself that its critics think it always is.

“The Launch Acceleration”

Who are the two best characters on The Big Bang Theory?  If you answered anyone besides Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah-Fowler, then you are a fool.  Moreover, obviously, their “romantic” relationship is the most fascinating coupling on the show.  Sheldon professes to be immune to the charms of romantic entanglements and his actions usually make that appear to be the case, but, as a neurobiologist, Amy may have the insight for breaking down that immunity.  Accordingly, she taps into the pleasures of Sheldon’s childhood to insidiously prompt an attachment – utilizing the Super Mario Bros. them as background music, serving spaghetti with little hot dogs cut up along with Strawberry Quik, and playing doctor Star Trek-style.  Sheldon recognizes what she is doing, and he does not like it, except for the fact that he likes it very much.  It is this sort of bizarre understanding of social constructs from socially abnormal individuals that The Big Bang Theory has generally excelled at.  Also in this episode, Leonard and Penny’s relationship – while not at its most dramatic or its most entertaining ever – zips along nicely, and that is the least that we ask of it.

Thursday is the Best Night of TV Ever!!!

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Year after year, Thursday continually proves itself to be the most loaded, most rewarding night of television, and I feel like singing that out in a blog post.  Here are all the shows that I have regularly watched on Thursdays this season (September 2011-now), ranked in ascending order of quality (of the current season).  And, for your entertainment, I have also included a memorable quote from several of these shows from their current seasons.

12. The Secret Circle
11. The Office (“I haven’t had this much fun since seeing Zoo E Desk Channel at the Cocarella Music Festival.”)
10. The Big Bang Theory
9. Up All Night
8. Awake
7. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“Dennis is asshole. Why Charlie hate?”)
6. 30 Rock (“I finally understand the ending of The Sixth Sense. Those names are the people who worked on the movie!”)
5. Billy on the Street (“I LOVE MERYL STREEP!”)
4. Archer (“Thanks, Holly Hindsight.”)
3. Beavis and Butt-Head (“Masturbation frequency dialed in.”)
2. Parks and Recreation (“Anyone want to go to JJ’s for some after-dinner omelettes?”)
1. Community (“Boopy doopy doop boop sex!”)

Best Episode of the Season: The Big Bang Theory Season 4

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“The Benefactor Factor”

Some fans of The Big Bang Theory have criticized it by saying that it has become “The Sheldon Show,” the accusation being that it has come to focus too much on the Vulcan-esque lead at the expense of every other character.  This is rather nonsensical, considering, for one, that this has been the case from the beginning, and also, that this is a good thing.  Sheldon is by far the funniest and most interesting character on the show.  But, indeed, for The Big Bang Theory to be as strong as it can possibly be, every character should be given a chance to shine.  Thus, it was a joy to watch the entire gang rib Leonard as he was propositioned by an elderly millionaire widow apparently in exchange for a donation for the university.  Sheldon, Howard, and Raj all had their opportunities to fire away, and Penny was able to show off her expertise for “trading sexual favors for material gain” (as Sheldon described it).  While each character was given due screen time in this episode, of course it was Sheldon who delivered the most memorable lines, as he expressed his pride in Leonard for selling himself out like “a common streetwalker” and his “real knack for gigolo work.”

Next up: The Office

Best Episode of the Season: The Big Bang Theory

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“The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary”

“WHEATONNNNN!!!”
Family Guy has James Woods, and now The Big Bang Theory has Wil Wheaton; to paraphrase Bobby Wheat, what is the deal with actors playing evil versions of themselves in sitcoms?  This is essentially a matter of, “Why not?”  Sitcoms are best when they embrace the fact that they are in the business of silly make-em-up’s.  The make-em-ups do not have to make sense when they are first proposed; the masterfulness will come as long as they are put into action in an entertaining way.  Giving your main character the personal enemy of Ensign Wesley Crusher is going to work if your main character is played by Jim Parsons in the role of a lifetime.  Of course, Sheldon is great on every single episode of BBT, so what pushed “The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary” into best episode of the season territory was the Leonard-Penny storyline, in which Penny set up Howard with Bernadette, a co-worker of hers from the Cheesecake Factory.  The horror stories that Howard and Bernadette shared about their meddling mothers was beautiful television.  Unsurprisingly, though, the one moment most worth mentioning came from Dr. Cooper: flipping through the back issue bin at the comic store, he went through his usual refrain of, “Got it.  Got it…”, and then burst forth a prodigious note of disgust, prompted by his discovery of an issue of Betty and Veronica.

An honorable mention goes to “The Pirate Solution,” in which Raj worked with (or for) Sheldon to avoid deportation.  Their contemplation of a particularly difficult equation was set to the tune of the most hilarious parodic use of “Eye of the Tiger” ever.

Next (and last) up: Glee