If there is one show I genuinely missed this summer, it was The Big Bang Theory. I had shunned sitcoms for a few years and a friend of mine sat me down and started me watching a marathon. I remember not being too sure about it the first time but after that, I grew to appreciate it and by the end of the marathon I was hooked. Then I had to catch up on two seasons, which seems to be the story of my life with television shows. It’s become my favorite US sitcom. There’s something reassuring about watching Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) navigate their way around a goony version of Los Angeles I never knew existed. And although Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is an aspiring actress, the show just doesn’t feel like the Los Angeles I know. Maybe that’s because to trek to Pasadena from West Los Angeles was like taking a day trip to Santa Barbara if you hit traffic at the wrong time. But the characters are definitely as dysfunctional as most individuals living in Los Angeles.
As most people probably know, sitcoms used to be family-centered. They still are, only the family is the group of people who happen to be in your sitcom world. In this case, Sheldon, Leonard and Penny make up the central family unit with Howard (Simon Helberg), Raj/Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and the newest addition, Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) as the close relations. Like any family, this one is completely dysfunctional. And if you aren’t in a dysfunctional family, I almost feel sorry for you. Last season was a bit more hit and miss and I was worried. Some shows were great and others just made me wonder what the writers were thinking. They seemed to be all over the place and not focusing on the core fears and desires of the characters.
The main fear and desire that comes from everyone but Sheldon is the need to be loved and in a relationship in this show. It isn’t as if Sheldon doesn’t need that, he just processes his needs differently. Honestly, I would like to see Penny and Sheldon end up together. I believe they are the secret couple that essentially exists in the ether. Over the years it is Penny that Sheldon usually turns to for comfort. Certainly before Amy Farrah Fowler came onto the scene. While Howard and Bernadette work as a couple, I never truly bought Leonard and Penny. In fact, sometimes I think Leonard and Koothrappali should just get together since he (Koothrappali) has such a bi-sexual slant. And I know all the homosexual jokes run between him and Howard as a couple (certainly in the following episode, “The Infestation Hypothesis,” with the simulated internet kissing contraption that made me laugh so hard I’m sure people heard me outside); however, for all the action Leonard gets, somehow he seems more asexual to me than Sheldon. Maybe Amy Farrah Fowler would be better served with Leonard. The problem with the coupling between Amy and Sheldon is that they are far too alike. And Amy craves excitement and seems that she might even be sexually adventurous given the opportunity. Sheldon, on the other hand, likes to play it safe unless he has calculated all the variables for risk. Leonard, although different from Amy, also likes to be sexually adventurous and I believe they could function as a couple. She’s not glamourous enough for him but it’s nothing a trip to Sephora and a few clothing stores couldn’t improve on. Sheldon and Penny would be a fascinating couple. An introvert and an extrovert. I personally would like to see Sheldon stop being quite so asexual and move into adolescence. And let’s be honest, this show thrives on sexual activity.
In this particular episode, “The Skank Reflex Analysis” we watch Penny deal with the fallout of her coupling with Raj. What is particularly disturbing to me (and don’t forget I love this show) is that Penny is essentially called a slut by not only her close friend, Amy, but admits it herself. Sure Penny sleeps around. Guess what? Adult women do that sometimes. What bothers me is they are still considered sluts if they do and more disturbingly, they consider themselves sluts. Conversely, Raj admits to her they didn’t end up having sex but she goes ahead and lets everyone believe they did to save his reputation, because apparently, in 2011, a man is still studly and not slutty if he gets laid and he’s drunk. This double-standard, I was hoping, would be gone at this point in the game of cultural coitus but I guess not. And thanks to CBS and Chuck Lorre, there are whole new generations stereotyping women as sluts. And acting like it’s fine. Now I’m not arguing that I think Penny shouldn’t have fun. Nope, I think she should do who she wants when she wants but I think it is up to those who create culture to stop enforcing outdated stereotypes and come up with a term that explains it can be empowering for a woman to behave just like a man. I know maybe some people haven’t looked but we aren’t in the 1950s or 1960s anymore. But wait! I think we might be, considering the two embarrassing shows that embrace the old patriarchal guard, The Playboy Club and Pan Am. Thanks, Mad Men. I suppose being progressive is still not synonymous with American network television. Which is a shame. I hope they get their act together soon.
Overall, the season premiere was funny and entertaining. Raj is dealing with the fallout of his encounter with Penny, her rejection of him and Bernadette’s wrath for his dirty poems about her which have made Howard paranoid. And watching Sheldon as the Captain of the Paintball team and his self-sacrifice scene is what this show does best. Amy Farrah Fowler’s excitement over having Penny as a sleep-over guest is, I would argue, one of the best elements in the show, reminding everyone that even if they were insecure as kids and things sucked, at some point in your adult life, they do get better. A good message for everyone.