Category: The Big Bang Theory

'Big Bang Theory' recap: Too much Red Bull?


            “The Big Bang Theory” has become a CBS version of the Lakers – so good one night, so bad another. This remarkably successful, silly little show must be driving the network crazy right now. In search of something steady to possibly replace the very unsteady “Two and a Half Men,” it gets this bipolar product. Is Bang fresh and smart, or goofy and over the top? The answer is ... duh.

            Thursday was another example of how Bang can have laugh-out-loud moments followed by messes of excess. The episode revolves around Sheldon bombing in front of a college class, and then taking steps to improve his teaching performance. He enlists Penny to give him acting lessons, a very funny premise. This highly verbal show has some of the trickiest set-ups and punchlines on television, but we see again that it really soars with the quick one-liners.

            Her: “You’d like an acting class?”

            Him: “Perhaps two. I’d like to master the craft.”

             Their improv session’s “I’d like a frozen yogurt, please” is the funniest line of the night, a wonderful, surprising right-turn no one sees coming.

             Unfortunately, Sheldon and Penny have a second, too-long acting class. It features “Star Trek” references meshed with biographical stuff on Sheldon, and though there are a couple of laughs, it’s not as good as the first acting class.  It might’ve been much funnier to put Sheldon back in the classroom to see how he’d do after his acting lessons with Penny. At least there would’ve been some build up to the story.

             The B-story is another Raj-needs-a-girlfriend riff that ends with a jump-the-shark Bollywood dance number. That scene reminded me of the dangers of too much Red Bull. I’ve been meaning to cut back, and now I will. So maybe I should be more grateful.

        Meanwhile, Melissa Rauch’s sweet Bernadette becomes more likable with every appearance, but when she and Raj are each getting more lines than Leonard, it’s a sign that the world of Big Bang has begun to wobble off its axis.

--Chris Erskine

Photo: Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) have a jump-the-shark moment in the Feb. 3 episode. Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

'Big Bang Theory' recap: Bernadette's Foxy ex-boyfriend


Sometimes, "Bang" seems like a top-10 sitcom almost by default. Hardly the glory days of the genre, though shows like “Modern Family” have raised the bar. The most recent episode, featuring a too-short cameo by former Laker heartthrob Rick Fox, is an example of the close-but-no-cigar quality the show often suffers from. And, no, that is not some sort of veiled penis joke.

There were plenty of those this week as the show slid back to the sort of crude humor it often leans on. There were good moments too, as the geek squad heads off to a conference in Big Sur. I don’t much like when multi-camera shows leave the set, but this road trip worked well enough. The quick scenes between cars worked and kept things popping along, and Fox did a decent job in his walk-on as Bernadette’s former boyfriend, Glenn. This development sends Howard spinning out and results in a lot of musical beds at the Big Sur hotel where they’re staying. The best, as often is the case, are the scenes between  Penny and Leonard. His lightning response to her offer of intimacy – jumping into her bed instantly – was a true laugh-out-loud moment.

Where does this leave the shows's golden couple? When we last saw Leonard, he was speeding back to L.A. after Penny had hitched a ride with Fox. The ex-Laker could have a nice run as a recurring character on the show, similar to Tom Selleck’s stint on “Friends.” There’s always something a little intriguing about the gang’s assumptions about good-looking people.

Meanwhile, funny enough episode. No depth. No pathos. None of the things that turn good shows into great ones. But "Bang" seems content with that. And as long as the ratings remain good, nothing much is going to change.

--Chris Erskine

Photo: Rick Fox, left, appears on "The Big Bang Theory," with Melissa Rauch as Bernadette and Simon Helberg's Howard. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS

Ex-Laker Rick Fox goes geek on 'The Big Bang Theory'

Rick fox 
"The Big Bang Theory" gets off its rerun treadmill with a new episiode Thursday featuring former Laker Rick Fox. In it, he plays an ex-boyfriend of the rather mousy Bernadette, Howard's girlfriend. Don't know if that's going against type for him or for her, but it's bound to mess with Howard's rather fragile psyche. He still lives with his mother, after all. Until now, his biggest rival for Bernadette's affections has been himself.

Fox has kept a steady acting career going since his screen debut in 1994 in William Friedkin’s "Blue Chips." His breakout role came on the hit HBO series “Oz,” where he played Jackson Vahue.

Since then, Rick has appeared in over a dozen network shows. He recently played club owner Mason Davies in CW’s “Melrose Place.”

Look for more on his "Big Bang Theory" appearance Thursday.

-- Chris Erskine

Photo: Former Laker Rick Fox with Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Howard (Simon Helberg) on "The Big Bang Theory. Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

CBS gives the Vulcan salute to three more years of 'The Big Bang Theory'

Bigbangtheory CBS has given its nerd sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" an unusual three-year renewal, which will carry the show through the 2013-14 TV season.

"Big Bang Theory," now in its fourth season, is the key of CBS' aggressive push into Thursday comedies, an arena traditionally dominated by NBC. The show has taken some ratings heat in moving from Mondays to Thursdays this year but it has helped CBS raise its Thursday numbers. This season, the comedy is averaging 13.9 million viewers, according to the Nielsen Co., which is up 7% in the time slot.

Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, "Big Bang Theory" stars Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons as two science geniuses; Kaley Cuoco is their attractive neighbor.

"It doesn't take a theoretical physicist to see why this show is a big part of our comedy future," CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said in a statement.

What do you think? Are you up for three more years of "Big Bang"?

-- Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: Jim Parsons in "The Big Bang Theory." Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS

'Big Bang Theory' recap: The can't-miss idea misses the mark

This episode sort of gags on its own geekiness. It also points out that too much Sheldon is not necessarily a good thing. As talented as Jim Parsons is, the show seems more successful when he’s not the center of attention for 22 minutes.

This week, the boys are out to develop a new phone app to help scientists quickly solve routine equations. At least, they’re routine for geniuses.

This is treacherous territory already. The guys spend long nights penciling out the new application, and while these guys can be pretty entertaining in almost any activity, watching them do homework feels like homework. The fireworks begin when Sheldon tries to take control of the project, which was Leonard’s idea. Leonard ends up firing him. Penny tries to console Sheldon, and pretty soon he is driving her nuts as well.

By the time it’s over, I think even the audience is pretty annoyed with Sheldon. Few laughs here, though there is a nice kicker of Sheldon and Penny trying to develop a shoe app. There was more to mine in a show like this: lessons in teamwork, the elusiveness of the Big Idea, how money subverts friendships. This storyline managed to miss any of that.

All in all, one of the weaker episodes of the season, just when the show seemed to be finding its feet again.

Hey, is there an app for that?

--Chris Erskine

Photo: Jim Parsons’ character is often better in smaller doses; file shot by Sonja Flemming/CBS           

'Big Bang' recap: A Festivus of one-liners

CBS is the “one-liner network” –- my motto, not theirs –- but the folks there would be hard-pressed to dispute that assessment. They’ve ridden it right to first place in the ratings. Thing is, it gets the network no respect. One critic said NBC shows tend to be smart but not funny. CBS, he says, features shows that are funny but not smart. Funny rules.

"The Big Bang Theory" is the network’s smartest sitcom, and when it’s “on,” as on Thursday, it has Seinfeldian overtones: great banter, character-based humor and the sense that you’re watching one long hilarious skit when in fact it’s a carefully crafted little story with a solid beginning/middle/end.

The boys’ goal this time is to win the New Year’s Eve costume contest at the comic book store. Their secret weapon is brainless male bimbo Zack, who is back dating Penny again. Complications ensue when Penny reveals that she’d rather be spending New Year’s Eve with Leonard. But at the stroke of midnight, she kisses Zack instead, leaving Leonard alone and baffled.

This may be my favorite episode of the season -– full of fine writing and acting, over far too soon. Only Jim Parsons could get such a big laugh at the long knock on the door to Penny’s apartment. Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder would’ve been proud of that moment and maybe several others in this rippingly funny episode. It’s a Festivus of world-class one-liners.

 Way to go, Ye Gang of Bang. When you guys are on like this, this little show is a real gift.

 --Chris Erskine

Photo: The cast wins the New Year's costume party -- well, everyone but Leonard. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS

'Big Bang' recap: New stud in town

The wrong person in the right pair of jeans can be the downfall of almost anyone. This time, hyper-smart researcher Amy Farrah Fowler falls groin first for one of Penny's hunky old boyfriends, Zack, as played by Brian Thomas Smith. It's instant obsession, and suddenly Amy's boyfriend Sheldon becomes invisible. Not that he cares all that much.

This show loves to noodle around with the rules of attraction and how even the brightest, most rational people can fall prey to their baser instincts. The beautiful Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress,  is the only one of the bunch brave enough to test the payoffs of an emotional relationship -- and that affair (with Leonard) collapsed after one season.

So here we are again, Amy throwing herself at the mentally challenged eye candy that wanders into a bar one night. Penny makes the introductions; Amy salivates and the pursuit is on.

The laughs don't really start rolling in till the laundry room scene between Penny and Sheldon. Most of the best moments in the first half of the show come from the secondary story of Howard and Raj facing off over their potential superhero roles.  Who would be the superhero and who would be the sidekick? Obviously, both are sidekicks. But Howard's rubber-limbed wrestler might be the funniest bit of the show. Of all the characters, Simon Helberg's Howard seems the most likely to wind up with his own show one day.

In the end, Amy ends up back with Sheldon, her sorta soulmate. As usual, this often very smart show dodges any clever or satisfying exploration of jealousy or attraction. Like someone you'd meet in a bar, the characters (and writers) are just in it for the laughs. But sometimes even Comic-Com aficionados can have a real moment. And Jim Parsons' Sheldon is far overdue.

-- Chris Erskine

Photo: Zack (Brian Thomas Smith) catches the fancy of Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), far right, in this Dec. 9 scene from "The Big Bang Theory." Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS



'The Big Bang Theory' recap: Penny and Leonard together again


And now back to our regular programming.

In this season's first seven episodes, "The Big Bang Theory" has tip-toed around Penny's and Leonard's breakup, referencing it but not getting much mileage out of the situation. Well, the gloves are off.

"Oh frick frack, not this again," Sheldon says.

Yes, this again -– and just in time for sweeps. This princess-and-the-frog relationship is now the juice that runs the show, and what made this week's episode one of the best of the season. I guess you can't blame executive producer Bill Prady for not wanting to rely on the Penny-Leonard thing too much -– or for having to mark time after Kaley Cuoco suffered a broken leg and had to be written out of the show for a while.

I'll bet that made for some long nights in the writers' room.  But Penny-versus-Leonard is this season's main event, and it's about time they rolled it out.

In this week's story line, Penny's father is visiting, and she wants to pretend that she and Leonard are still together, because the young scientist is the only boyfriend her father has ever liked. Why? "I want grandkids before I die, and I'd like to see them grow up in a house without wheels," says her father, played by Keith Carradine.

Of course, in pretending to be together, they ignite the old sparks.

Meanwhile, in one of the funniest moments of the year, Howard intercepts a kiss that Raj was trying to plant on Howard's girlfriend, Bernadette – a laugh-out-loud moment. Another funny and unexpected treat: Bernadette's dead-on impersonation of Howard's mother.

 All in all, a terrific episode that seems to point to better things to come.

 -- Chris Erskine

Photo: Howard (Simon Helberg, left), Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Raj (Kenal Nayyar) in "The Big Bang Theory." Credit: Sonja Fleming / CBS

'Big Bang Theory' recap: Ranking this season's shows

Once again, “The Big Bang Theory” plods along, finding its mojo at certain times but not putting together a satisfying episode overall. A lot of fans are wondering why the show is so uneven this season. Indeed, the show has been OK most weeks and inspired in only a few.

Thursday’s episode, “The 21-Second Excitation,” falls right in the middle. It’s not bad TV, and neither is it particularly good TV. It’s just average TV, and we already have plenty of that. If you need a strong whiff, just watch NBC for a couple of nights. Talk about a network that has lost touch with America.

But back to Bang. The most recent escapade finds the boys waiting in line to see a midnight showing of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  It’s a decent premise, but the bigger laughs come out of the B story, which finds the girls — Penny, Amy and Bernadette — having a girls' night out. Give it up for Kaley Cuoco, whose straight-faced deliveries seem to get better every week. Best line of the week comes when Bernadette compliments her nails, to which Cuoco's character, Penny, says: “I found a place in a basement in Alhambra. I think it’s a front for human trafficking, but they do a really good job.”

The boys’ story is just OK, as noted above. There’s a good pop at the end, when they're shut out of the midnight showing when Sheldon's nemesis, Wil Wheaton, shows up and receives VIP seating. To get even, Sheldon steals the canisters of film. The sight of him running down the street with 100 nerds chasing him is a nice final scene. In between, just middling stuff, from a show that should be doing better.

Seems they are starting to build toward some sort of Penny-Leonard reprise, so maybe it’ll be a strong finish for what was once one of the top two or three sitcoms on the air.

 What’s your take? Here is my ranking of this season’s eps, from best to worst:

1. Friends undermine Howard's high-security project, Nov. 4

2. Sheldon dates Amy Farrah Fowler, Sept. 23

3. Leonard has a date; Sheldon meets Amy's mom, Oct. 21

4. Sheldon tries to extend his life, Sept. 30

5. Midnight movie goes awry, Nov. 11

6. Sheldon seeks alternative companionship. Oct. 7

7. Leonard sleeps with Raj’s sister, Oct. 28

8. Howard and his fantasy lovers, Oct. 14

Photo: The gang goes to the movies in the Nov. 11 episode. Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS.

'Big Bang Theory' recap: Funniest scene of the season

This is the show I love, packed with hilarious, wry, character-based moments. It’s worth a half-hour of your life if only for the scene of Sheldon and the shot glass. This Nov. 4 episode proves why Jim Parsons earned that Emmy and that, when he dials it back just a bit, his is the funniest and most original character on television.

The simple but clever set-up for this week’s episode: Howard gets a chance to work on a new space laser project that requires security clearance. An FBI agent shows up to interview his friends individually to be sure Howard can be trusted. One by one, his buddies undermine poor Howard, but the worst of course is Sheldon, who slips and tells the beautiful agent (Eliza Dushku) that Howard is the person who crashed the Mars Rover. Oops. Friendship is such a delicate thing.

When Howard doesn't get the post, Sheldon is haunted by bad dreams. To clear his conscience, he schedules a meeting with the FBI agent to try to win reconsideration for Howard. Of course, he just makes it worse.

What follows, Parsons' drinking session with Penny as the bartender, is probably the winningest scene of the still-young season. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, including Parsons’ terrific line: “I can’t taste the cherries.” (it's a long set-up).

Kaley Cuoco’s Penny also sparkles in this scene, as the straight-faced, world-weary bartender. In trying to assure Sheldon that some things can’t be undone, she offers: “Lisa Peterson has not talked to me since the 11th grade, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t go back and un-dry hump someone’s boyfriend.”

It’s a raucous line, but not as crude as much of what we saw in earlier episodes this season. It also has the advantage of being a sensational line.

In the end, Sheldon makes it all up to Howard by offering him his prize possession in life: the seat at the end of the couch. It’s a sweet gesture and a reminder of how important the concept of friendship is to this show and any successful sitcom. Sitcoms tend to be either about friendship or family (sometimes work families, sometimes real families). "Bang" works best when it stays close to its endearing concept: That, in this fractured age, our friends become our brothers and sisters — and drive us just as bonkers.

— Chris Erskine

Photo: Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in the best scene of the season. Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS.

'Big Bang' recap: Poor, lonely Leonard


Love makes misfits of us all, which I guess is one of the underlying messages of "The Big Bang Theory." It's even tougher when you're a misfit to begin with.

Of all the oddball males in the Caltech-based sitcom, Leonard always seems the most normal. That may not mean much. Howard is delusional and lives with Mom, Raj is freakishly afraid of the opposite sex, and Sheldon -- weirdo among weirdos -- might, in fact, be an alien. I'm betting that's where this show goes on its final episode -- in, what, maybe 2015? Sheldon turns out to be an alien. And none of the budding rocket scientists he's palled around with for so long even had a clue.

A series finale for "Bang" seems a long way off, however. The show is doing very well in its new Thursday slot. CBS had to wonder if it was thinning the soup too much in breaking up its Monday comedy lineup. In fact, there is just more good soup.

Thursday's smarter-than-usual episode found Leonard to be the only one of the four friends not to have a girlfriend. He's set up on a date with Joy, played by newcomer Charlotte Newhouse in a very funny turn. "The first thing you have to know about me -- I'm hilarious." And she is, of course, inadventently. There are now girlfriends galore on "Bang," and she is by far the most comical and fun to watch.

The B story has Sheldon worried that his relationship with Amy Farrah Fowler is getting too serious after Amy insists he meet her mother. It eventually becomes clear that Amy has no interest in becoming more serious; she only wants her mother to think she finally has a serious boyfriend. Relieved, Sheldon says: "Would you like to join me for Chinese food?" Amy replies: "Sheldon, you're suffocating me."

OK, maybe you had to be there, but it was a good exchange. And with this week's episode, "Bang" seems to have regained its rhythm after a couple of weak shows. Johnny Galecki continues to shine as the understated Leonard. He might have the most droll delivery since Dwayne Hickman's Dobie Gillis. How's that for historical perspective? I was 3 at the time, but even then I had an appreciation for comic timing.

Anyway, this was the funniest episode of the season -- "Big Bang" at its best.

 --Chris Erskine

Photo: Charlotte Newhouse, left, guestswith Johnny Galecki, in the Oct. 21 episode. Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS



'Big Bang Theory' recap: Howard has a moment


             Another half hour of Bang devoted to crippled romantics, which seems to be this season’s running theme. This time Simon Helberg’s turtlenecked Howard is trying to make up with his old girlfriend, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch).

             Week after week, Helberg rarely has a weak moment, though this awkwardly plotted ep never builds toward anything, and doesn’t leave him much to work with. There’s a relatively weak cold opening, followed by four minutes of commercials and CBS promos. By the  time we get back to the show, so much time has passed I only half-remember what Howard’s dilemma is.

             Oh yeah, his dilemma is pretty simple. He still lives with his mother (nothing wrong with that -- soon, we all will again). And he's stuck in a threesome of  fantasy lovers (don’t be judgmental).

             “I’m just another lonely nerd living with his mother and looking for any scrap of happiness he can find.”

             Not a bad set-up for the talented Helberg, but a bedroom fantasy sequence doesn’t really pay off, and is creepy George Takei all that funny beyond a line or two?

             By now, after Sheldon’s failed romantic pursuits of the first few episodes, you’d think Leonard would have some catty-funny-rich observations about the fickle nature of love, loneliness and longing. Not so much, and I guess it’s not really that kind of show. But once again, Johnny Galecki  is underused. The best exchange of the show is a couple of short people jokes between him and Helberg. Why did this witty little sequence land, when everything else fell short? Because it felt genuine -– not  contrived and cartoonish.

             I’m guessing this season is all leading up to some sort of reconciliation between Leonard and Penny. Bring it on. Otherwise, I’m going to have to start checking out “Community,” an NBC show I swore off a year ago. It's over-the-top dopey too, but at least there are some laughs there.

             Thursday's best line: “Sometimes your movements are so lifelike I forget you’re not a real boy,” Leonard to Sheldon, after Sheldon questions a conversation they’re having.

 --Chris Erskine 

Photo: Left to right, Melissa Rauch, Kaley Cuoco and Simon Helberg in the Oct. 14 episode; credit: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS


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