It’s at this point that I feel the need to say that I genuinely like The Big Bang Theory. There have been many episodes, many moments, certainly, that I’ve loved. For all the haters who dismiss it, sometimes quite angrily, as an overrated, under-funny broad comedy, I could provide a list off the top of my head of what I consider classic sitcom moments from the show. And Jim Parsons’ performance as Sheldon? He’s earned those Emmys.
And then there’s season eight, which, with this episode, is 25 percent done, and even the most diehard BBT fan has to be waiting on a hint of one of those classic moments. As has been stated previously, season eight is a tough place to be. Not that many sitcoms run that long, and most that do aren’t at their peak by that point. Friends season eight was the year with Rachel’s pregnancy, Joey’s crush on Rachel, the lame Sean Penn guest arc, and Ross and Mona. Even Seinfeld’s eighth season was … bad example. Even in its first season post–Larry David, season eight was sometimes bizarre (or “Bizarro Jerry”), but still pretty great.
The point: The Big Bang Theory has the opportunity to do some fun and interesting things with this small ensemble of characters we know very well, but what we’re getting is mostly retread sitcom plots, without much of a spin of these characters’ specific foibles.
Penny and Leonard have a spat about money after Penny’s success at her new pharmaceutical sales gig, and the perk of a company car allows her to sell the used car Leonard bought her and give him the cash. He’s hurt; she’s angry he doesn’t want to take the money. Though he comes up with a solution they agree on — use the cash to open their first joint account, for wedding and honeymoon expenses — another fight ensues and sends them to Howard and Bernadette for couples' financial advice.
Which leads to some reveals about Howard’s chore chart, weekly allowance, and Star Trek collectible-plate habit but does nothing to suggest why a Penny/Leonard marriage will, or should, take place anytime soon. Is this season supposed to be one big reminder of the many ways Penny and Leonard are different, of how little they have in common?
In the more successful half of the episode, Raj and Sheldon have some rare bromantic moments when they consider applying for a research project that would send them into mines to explore dark matter. To test their mettle for surviving in such a locale, they decide to hang out in a university steam tunnel. They bond enough that Sheldon admits to Raj he feels insecure about his professional future for the first time in his life, but in the middle of Raj’s attempt to buck him up, Sheldon spots a pair of fat rats. Vulnerable Sheldon returns to his naturally self-involved state and abandons the experiment and Koothrappali without even a warning of the rodents behind Raj’s head.
And there remains hope for a return to those laugh-out-loud moments of earlier seasons, my fellow BBT fans. Friends’ eighth season also included Monica’s uncomfortable boots, the gang’s attempt to prevent Joey from blowing another interview with Soap Opera Digest, and Brad Pitt’s Rachel-mocking guest spot, with one of the greatest Friends quotes ever: “Look at her standing there with those yams. My two greatest enemies, Ross. Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.” There are 18 more tries for The Big Bang Theory to even out its hit/miss ratio for the season.
• On the prohibitive conditions of the mine experiment:
Raj: “For starters, it’s very humid, 100 degrees.”
Sheldon: “I’m from Texas, and you’re from India. We’re no strangers to the fragrant armpit. Next?”
Raj: “It’s also a live mine, so there’ll be dynamite explosions going off in the distance.”
Sheldon: “Yeah, I have a lactose-intolerant roommate with a taste for ice cream. Next.”
Raj: “You have to be down there for 12 hours at a time.”
Sheldon: “Have to be somewhere.”
Raj: “There’s no toilet, so we’ll have to do our business in a bucket.”
Sheldon: “So, it’s settled. We’re not doing it.”
• Sheldon: “Admittedly, this brushes up against my well-known aversions to heat, small places, going below floor level, dampness, hatches, ladders, darkness, echoes, and eliminating in Home Depot buckets. That last one is quite new, but I have a feeling that's going to rocket to the top of the list."
• Reason No. 78 the word moist should never be used as anything but a cake adjective: “I'll just Google 'hot, dark, and moist' and see what comes up!" says Sheldon.
• Raj: "So, as Hannah Montana, Miley was a world-famous pop star, but then she would take off her wig and go to school like a normal girl, which, I don't have to tell you, at that age is its own headache."
Sheldon: "That's preposterous. How would she go unrecognized just by wearing a wig?"
Raj: "But you're okay with Superman concealing his identity with a pair of glasses?"
Sheldon: "He doesn't just put on a pair of glasses. He combs back his curlicue and affects a mild-mannered personality."
• Raj: “Do you know any mining songs?”
Sheldon: “Just the hits.”
• The song Sheldon sang was “Dark As a Dungeon,” and Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison version is the version.
• Sheldon’s shopping list for Amy: Funyuns, York Peppermint Patties, Dr Pepper, a portable DVD player, and season one of Hannah Montana on DVD.
• Chuck Lorre vanity-card cancelation update: He used a rerun card, No. 464, which originally aired after October 13’s BBT episode. Is this his plan? He’s going to post rerun cards, even after new episodes? Like Adele Dazeem sang, Chuck, let it go.
• Sheldon: “Are they making fun of us? I miss the old days when I couldn’t tell.” Co-signed.