Much like Sheldon Cooper found himself impossibly stuck in last night’s The Big Bang Theory trying to puzzle out a physics conundrum, the show has, I fear, found itself a bit stuck in a conundrum of its own: How to keep its breakout character from overwhelming what has been a delightful, gut-busting ensemble show? Unlike Sheldon, however, it’s going to take a lot more than a quickie stint as Penny’s Cheesecake Factory quasi-co-worker for the show to elucidate this very real concern.
I don’t mean to oversell my frustration; this was still a pretty funny episode. Leonard, for instance, had a great opening line after noticing Sheldon’s frantic early morning behavior: “Penny, I told you, if you don’t put him in his crate at night, he just runs around the apartment.” And the show’s subplot — if you can call it that — involving Howard and Leonard taking their ladies out for a double date of disco roller-skating got off to a strong start with Raj’s lament that his buddies stole the idea from him: “No, it’s okay, I don’t have to go. I’m happy just to guide you and your ladies to suitable entertainment choices. I’m a walking brown Yelp.com.”
But beyond Howard’s insane lycra pants, the women’s mild embarrassment at their men’s boogie abilities (or lack thereof), and the inexplicably silly mini-scene at the end of the episode of Raj and Howard (those pants!) spinning in the rink, said subplot was rather thin in the plot department — more like a sub-distraction, or sub-digression.
Nope, this was yet another Sheldon Cooper Show. Bumfuzzled as Sheldon was by his efforts “to figure out why electrons behave as if they have no mass when traveling through a graphene sheet,” all the other characters still remained in his increasingly powerful orbit, and it pains me to say that I’m concerned the whole gravitational balance of the show is beginning to fall seriously out of whack. Jim Parsons is a gifted actor and damn hilarious physical comedian, and I think I’ll always chuckle at the sight of him popping out of a colored plastic ball pit exclaiming “Bazinga!” But did we really need the scene between Sheldon and Yeardley Smith (a.k.a. the voice of Lisa Simpson) in the employment office as he looked for a menial job to help goad his brain into decoding his problem? For one, it boiled down to yet another Sheldon-cluelessly-drives-someone-crazy scene, a trope that’s maintaining a rapidly diminishing half-life. For another, the best moment in the scene — Smith “checking” her computer to satisfy Sheldon’s desire for a job best described as Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Building Slave — had already been done much better in the “Computer Says No” sketch on BBC America’s Little Britain. Instead, why not use that screen time to show us Howard and Leonard’s allegedly — and, one would presume, hilariously — lame dancing? I mean, the show’d already gone to the trouble of a location shoot for that throwaway ending button with Howard and Raj, so why not make full use of the roller rink and show us what life is like sans Sheldon Cooper?
Ack, there I go overselling my discontent. I promise, I really do love this show, so much so I want the best for it and its characters. I wish Sheldon really had been hired at the Cheesecake Factory, so the show could’ve taken advantage of all the possible comedy from Penny having the upper hand on Sheldon for a change. And the masterfully motherly way Bernadette handled Sheldon’s sleep-deprived freak-out — “OK, Sheldon, what happens to our neuroreceptors when we don’t get enough REM sleep?” — just makes me want to know much more about how her relationship with Howard really works. Balance, that’s all I ask for. Just a little balance.
Best comic alliteration:
Raj: He never went back to the university?
Leonard: Only to shampoo Prof. Shamberg’s Shih Tzu.
Piece of arcane trivia that I may actually use again in casual conversation:
Sheldon: The plural of coccyx is coccyges.
So, fellow Big Bang Theorists, have I gone off the deep end? Is there such a thing as too much Sheldon Cooper? And were you also horrified yet mesmerized by Howard’s skin-tight disco-roller-rink pants?
Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS