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The Big Bang Theory: Nerd Humor or Science/Hollywood disaster?

25 Mar

by Kristy and Kristen

Over 13 million people watch the TV show, The Big Bang Theory, including Kristy but excluding Kristen. They are both scientists and nerds, so what makes them not come together on this piece of pop culture? Time to make competing lists!

(Don’t forget to vote at the end!)

Kristen’s Argument: Boooooo!

1. Sitcom Crap – Laugh track and “Awwwwww!” track (and yet I didn’t laugh or feel sympathetic once… ). Additionally, falling down or running into something feels like cheap and overused gags.

2. Cheesy Lines – These actors are too old to deliver Saved by the Bell style jokes.

3. Incessant Product Placement – Is it possible that this show is sponsored by Vitamin water or Seventh Generation cleaning supplies?

4. Insulting to Nerds Everywhere – This show is packed with cliched geek jokes. Instead of straight up naming the Wars, both Star and Trek, I wish they’d make a more obscure allusion to it. Challenge my brain to work a little. And then the characters fall down or run into something – I get it! You are nerds and nerds are clumsy.

5. Production Value – Is this not the brownest set ever? I can only assume it is to help their bizarre, colorful outfits pop. This show seriously feels like it was produced in the early 90s, and not in an awesome meta sort of way.

6. When did David from Roseanne turn into French Stewart?

7. It Made Me Be That Girl - I don’t want to be That Girl here, but it has to be said: of the five main characters, four are male engineers and one is a blond waitress. C’mon! Now I realize they introduced some female side characters over the show’s run that have managed to (somehow) get an advanced degree, but it doesn’t change the premise. In addition, why have a racially diverse cast if you are going to point out three times in one episode that someone is Indian?

Conclusion: Boooooo! It ENRAGES me to think about this show winning Emmy awards, as I think it uses every overused plot device available and is bad for nerds, women, AND science. I can put all of that aside if a show makes me laugh, therefore what offends me the most is: it isn’t funny.

Why Kristy is a huge proponent of watching The Big Bang Theory:

1. Its fun: I spend 6 days a week in a lab, or on my computer in the office analyzing data,yet I still choose to DVR and watch the Big Bang Theory in my spare time, because the nerd humor just never gets old.  OK, some stereotypes are offensive and some jokes fall flat against the canned laughter (take for instance Koothrappali’s nervousness around the ladies), but overall: I laugh, I relate, and I enjoy finding the subtle nerdiness in the subtext.

Here are some of my favorite parts:

2. In a word: Sheldon (played by Jim Parsons).  This actor is incredible (and has won Emmys to prove it), and he really ties the whole show together - he is the sun, and all the other planetary nerds (physicists and engineers) rotate around him. (I’m sure the show has already made that softball joke) Sheldon’s list/roommate agreement, his inflexibility to change his routine, and his gasping laugh are all endearing and comical as a juxtaposition to more ‘normal’ characters like Penny. The best comedy is when the two of them interact.

3. The new ladies on the show: In addition to waitress Penny, formerly dating Sheldon’s roommate Leonard, there are three new (intellingent and attractive) female characters:

  • Amy Farrah Fowler (played by former Blossom actress and real-life neuroscientist Mayim Biakik), is a neuroscientist and the sexless love interest of Sheldon.  She adds much needed depth and female intelligence this season.
  • Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch) is a microbiology graduate student, and the intelligent blond to counteract the blond simpleness of Penny (although I contend that Penny is by no means a ditz, she holds her own with the other scientists and is certainly more ‘socially’ intellingent than the others).
  • Priya (Raj Koothrappali’s sister)

4. The guest stars are relevant and accomplished nerds, often playing themselves.  A short list:

  • Stan Lee
  • Wil Wheaton
  • Steve Wozniak

5. The Roseanne Connection.  OK, so main character Leonard (Johnny Galecki) was on Roseanne, but so was the bible-thumping Texas mother of Sheldon (played by Laurie Metcalf), and Leonard’s physicist nemesis, Leslie Winkle (a minor role played by Sara Gilbert).

6. The subtle jokes, T-shirts, clever sets

  • Jokes: http://priuschat.com/forums/freds-house-pancakes/57703-physics-joke-big-bang-theory.html
  • clever Shirts: http://www.sheldonshirts.com/
  • Even NASA has visited the clever, and largely accurate BBT sets: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/nasalife/features/nasa-cbs.html

7. The Big Bang Theory Wiki (far preferable to the technology-deficient CBS main page for the show), has a category/forum for Top Ten Lists. http://bigbangtheory.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

8.  My favorite, funniest episodes:

  • Season 4 Episode 12: The guys work together to make a phone app
  • Season 4 Episode 18: Sheldon can’t understand the magic trick
  • Season 4 Episode 10: Amy Farrah Fowler thinks she has a crush
  • Season 4 Episode 3: Sheldon acquires cats…lots of cats
  • Season 3 Episode 21: Leonard invites a physicist to visit, she turns out to be a hussy
  • Season 3 Episode 15 – in which the very relevant CERN Haldron collider is discussed
  • Season 3 Episode 12: Penny visits a psychic…you can just imagine what Physicists think of this… (in the episode prior, don’t miss Christine Baranski playing Leonard’s mother!) I could go on and on…..

9. The song in the opening credits (Barenaked Ladies, ironically), is clever and catchy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhTSfOZUNLo

10. The mother we hear, but never see, at Howard’s house.

11. The ditzy man, balancing out any perceived sexism, who comes to date Penny, and later is courted as a friend by Sheldon.

12. Over cafeteria lunches, the many jabs at engineers being lesser than physicists

13. The many allusions to real academic science: funding problems, lectures, conferences, research competitiveness… although sometimes these are portrayed inaccurately in order to derive more entertainment from the situation.

 

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