It’s episodes like this that make me wonder: How the frick are the writers gonna wring another two seasons, a.k.a. more than 50 additional episodes, out of The Big Bang Theory?
We have officially reached the point at which all of the show’s couples — even Shamy — are now treating each other so disrespectfully that you forget why they got together in the first place. It’s a cliché that sitcoms can fall into during their final seasons, a misstep that makes it clear they should have bid prime time adieu sooner.
The King of Queens, for instance, was a sadly underrated, clever, and sweet series in which you, the devoted viewer, absolutely understood why the “hot” wife had chosen to be with the zhlub of a husband. She was attractive, but also kinda mean and demanding and insecure. His was a physique fueled by a devotion to beer, wings, and any food with a shelf life that outlasted his next driver’s-license renewal, but he was also funny and friendly and loyal to his friends and family. Her toughness complimented his tendency to be a pushover, and his charm could smooth over her tendency to go from zero to 60 on the anger-o-meter. Together, they made their relationship make sense, and they made it work … until they didn’t, in a final season that included secret separate apartments and a near-divorce. This came after a couple of seasons in which they had stopped treating each other in any way that reminded you why either of them had ever been able to stand each other’s company, let alone sign on for a life commitment. It’s a sad way for a good show to go out.
That’s not to assume the same fate for TBBT. But episodes like this one, where Sheldon and Amy decide to collaborate on a science project together, only to find that their results are shabby unless they egg each other on with name-calling and personal insults aimed at each other’s mothers, are a giant leap in the wrong direction.
Penny and Leonard? I’ve come to consider it the exception when they’re kind to each other and genuinely interested in each other. So when Penny and Raj — who’s now living in Sheldon’s old bedroom — bond over yoga and work gossip and facial masks, all to the exclusion of a jealous Leonard, it’s not surprising. Well, one thing’s surprising: Leonard is jealous, but he’s jealous that his wife is stealing his best friend, not the other way around.
To pass his time, Leonard becomes a third wheel in Howard and Bernadette’s relationship, accompanying them on diaper-buying trips to Target and witnessing their verbal sniping at each other about his collectible belt buckle conventions and her nagging. In the end, I just keep thinking both Penny and Bernadette might be happier with Raj as their spouse.
If TBBT is going chip away at the genuine respect and affection between Sheldon and Amy, we’re in for an especially long rough patch of episodes. Since their season-eight breakup and season-nine reunion, Amy has grown more and more confident in her relationship with Sheldon, no longer looking at him with nerd-colored glasses that allow him to get away with arrogant behavior that robs her of the appreciation she deserves. But confidence doesn’t have to lead to impatient eye-rolling and a weariness about Sheldon’s behavior, both reactions Amy has begun to slip into too frequently in the most recent batch of episodes.
I’m not saying, “Hey, can’t they all just get along?” But can’t at least one couple, our Shamy — the one whose inevitable engagement, wedding planning, nuptials, and new parenthood are the story lines that will likely keep viewers tuned in for the next two years — continue to really like each other through all those milestones?
• While the overall narratives of the episode are pretty tired, there are lots of funny little moments throughout. Like Sheldon honking Amy’s car horn to “redact” the confidential parts while telling her about his gyroscope project.
• Sheldon: “You tickled my intellectual fancy. Which, unlike my body, is an okay place to tickle.”
• Sheldon maintains neurobiology itself is a boring subject that covers nothing but “gray, squishy stuff.” But it gets his engine running when it merges with his beloved physics, as it does during his and Amy’s collaboration: “Gas up the Ford, Martha, we’re going for a drive,” he tells his friends.
• “I like harp lessons, but I’m thinking of switching to elevator repair lessons.” — Amy, after lugging her harp up several flights of stairs.
• The Turtles’ “Happy Together” should be banned as the go-to soundtrack for unusual sitcom friendships or partnerships.