Tag Archives: Jim Parsons

The Big Bang Theory – “The Pants Alternative”

“The Pants Alternative”

March 22nd, 2010

I’ve complained a lot in the past that the show often boils down to Sheldon vs. Everyone else, a dynamic which makes Sheldon seem more unlikeable than the audience wants him to be and which makes all of the other characters seem more unpleasant than they need to be. And so when “The Pants Alternative” starts with Sheldon getting an ego-boosting award, I was concerned that the episode would be about how Sheldon’s award would drive a wedge between this group of friends and create some new conflicts.

Instead, the show surprised me, as Sheldon’s friends come together to help him overcome his fear of public speaking. What follows is a set of loosely connected scenes that work pretty well as spotlights for Jim Parsons’ comic talents, proving that he can legitimately have a great scene with every character on this show. However, while those scenes might work, the big conclusion ends up taking the character too far, giving into the broad and meaningless as opposed to building the character’s self-confidence in any way. By turning a potential moment of progress into a moment of humiliation, “The Pants Alternative” undermines some of its early goodwill and emerges an average, rather than exemplary, episode.

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The Big Bang Theory – “The Precious Fragmentation”

“The Precious Fragmentation”

March 8th, 2010

The opening to “The Precious Fragmentation” was like a big improv skit. A box of random nerd objects that the gang picked up at a garage sale is revealed to feature a variety of cheap gags, whether it’s Raj wiping a drawn-on penis off of an Aquaman action figure, or Leonard finding a Spock doll with a Mr. T head and suggesting that he “pities the fool who is illogical,” or Wolowitz finding an Alf doll and flashing back to his father’s abandonment. I felt like the show just put out a random box of items that these characters could potentially make jokes out of and let them go.

On the one hand, I think this speaks to the potential humour from this group of people with the right, nerd-friendly material. On the other hand, it’s kind of extraordinarily lazy, the simplest of stories that fails to offer any sort of depth or really any sort of character commentary. It is literally the story of “What happens when the gang finds a single collectible related to nerddom and all of them desire it,” pure sitcom in every form.

And to be entirely honest, I think that’s why the episode was mostly pretty darn pleasant.

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The Big Bang Theory – “The Excelsior Acquisition”

“The Excelsior Acquisition”

March 1st, 2010

Sheldon Cooper is much more intelligent than he is smart.

What’s so strange about this character is that for all of his unquestionable intelligence, he is rarely smart about how he uses it: his lack of knowledge of social conventions means that he is often blinded to how cruel he is acting, which means that the character can often seem extraordinarily harsh. The show has struggled with a number of balance issues throughout its run, but when it comes to Sheldon the real question comes down to this: at what point would Sheldon’s intelligence outweigh his stubbornness or self-centeredness and force him to take a step back and consider what it is he is about to do or say?

I would argue that it is one thing for Sheldon to make a rash decision in search of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, and I think it’s quite another for Sheldon to be willing to go to jail over insulting a Traffic Court judge. I understand that Sheldon will sometimes make mistakes, and that sometimes he will pick strange battles, but there’s a point where the character makes decisions not because they’re realistic but because they will make for better comedy.

And while I’d normally be fine with this if the comedy really delivered, the few jokes that the show managed to get out of the storyline weren’t enough to justify the borderline idiocy that Sheldon seemed to exhibit in order for it to happen.

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The Big Bang Theory – “The Einstein Approximation”

“The Einstein Approximation”

February 1st, 2010

Jim Parsons does not need catchphrases, nor does he need running jokes. Over three seasons, Jim Parsons has consistently demonstrated comic timing and abilities that define this character in ways beyond “gags,” and which have made the character endearing when some of his actions could be seen as insufferable.

And so I don’t entirely understand why the writers seem to believe that Sheldon can best be defined by such shallow humour, as it makes what might have otherwise been a great episode (in that it focused entirely on Sheldon) into a frustrating one. The episode teetered on the edge of taking Sheldon into some potentially compromising places in terms of how the show treats the character, but it also showed a lot of great qualities of Sheldon when at his most obsessively one-minded. However, by occasionally falling back on his “catchphrases,” it ended up rubbing me the wrong way even if some of the content involved was hitting the mark.

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The Big Bang Theory – “The Bozeman Reaction”

“The Bozeman Reaction”

January 18th, 2010

When thieves break into Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment, the pair immediately observe upon their return that their television and their laptops are gone. Sheldon, immediately, gasps and rushes to the bedrooms while Leonard gets on the phone with 911. The audience is completely silent during this entire scene, and then Sheldon returns: he announces that everything is okay, because his comic book collection has not been stolen, and the audience breaks into uproarious laughter.

And thus begins an unfortunate storyline where the audience treats entirely rational and even vulnerable behaviour from Sheldon as if it is a joke. By the end of the episode, Sheldon’s neuroses surrounding the break in do become an actual punchline, and he does overreact to the situation at hand. However, the episode presents a legitimately traumatic situation and yet never once stops to consider the actual consequences for Sheldon as a character, and as a result the episode belittles as opposed to celebrating his character. Jim Parsons delivers some fine moments of comedy in this single-narrative half-hour, but it so actively evaded a far more interesting episode that I just can’t possibly consider it a success.

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The Big Bang Theory – “The Psychic Vortex”

“The Psychic Vortex”

January 11th, 2010

On a night with the third episode of Chuck’s third season and How I Met Your Mother’s 100th episode, I won’t tell a lie: I forgot about the Big Bang Theory.

Admittedly, I have my ups and downs with the show, but there’s something about it that is more comfortable than eventful, so I got lost in the hype surrounding the night’s other episodes. But “The Psychic Vortex” was eventful in quite a few ways, and while it did nothing to change the current state of the series’ long-term storylines (and in fact did less than some episodes earlier this season to downplay its most problematic relationship) it managed to find some fun moments amidst two separate stories…even if it found 90% of them in the one involving Sheldon.

That’s one constant of the show I didn’t forget, and unfortunately the episode unearths a few other constant frustrations that have plagued my time with the show over the past few seasons. While this episode wasn’t criminally unfunny, it did do disservice to enough characters that I once again feel like the show is one giant missed opportunity saved by Jim Parsons – not a terrible premise for a show, but not one that lives up to its full potential.

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More than One Way to Steal a Scene: Thievery in Television Comedy

More than One Way to Steal a Scene: Thievery in Television Comedy

January 6th, 2010

Last night, when watching Better Off Ted, I tweeted the following:

When I made the comment, I was really only trying to say that while I enjoy Lynch’s work on Glee (for which she could well win a Golden Globe in under two weeks) I believe Portia de Rossi is doing some stunning work on Better Off Ted that is being comparatively ignored by the major voting bodies (I’m with James Poniewozik: we need to ensure she remains consistently employed on sitcoms for all of time). However, a few alternate suggestions for television’s best scene stealer made me realize that I was commenting less in terms of who is the better actor, and more on what precisely I consider “stealing a scene.”

The Chicago Tribune’s always spot-on Maureen Ryan made a case for Nick Offerman, whose Ron Swanson is an unquestionable highlight on Parks and Recreation. And my immediate reaction was that, as great as Offerman is and as hopeful as I am that he receives an Emmy nomination later this year, I don’t know if I consider him a scenestealer. Of course, as soon as I say that, she comes back with the example of Offerman simply raising an eyebrow and demanding your attention despite an only observational role in the scene in question, making me look like an idiot.

However, I’m going to argue that our differences of opinion on this issue are not simply the result of my poor memory or our subjectivity when it comes to what we enjoy on television, but rather the result of the various different ways one could define “stealing a scene.” Based on different intersections of acting, writing, and cinematography, I would argue that we all have our own impression of what this term means, as we all have our own readings of each individual show and who the scene in question actually belongs to.

Which is why I didn’t initially consider Nick Offerman a scene stealer, and why I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way.

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The Best of 2009: Performers of the Year

Performers of the Year

December 19th, 2009

I am not capable of working magic, so I shall not attempt to rank every single amazing television performance of the past year and boil them down to only ten selections. It’s an impossible task that the Emmys are incapable of doing correctly even when they have numerous categories in which to highlight particular nominees, so who am I to try to cover all of my bases with just ten names?

The purpose of this list, rather than trying to represent every great performance, is to highlight those that had an impact on me, and to some degree to highlight those which might not be represented elsewhere on the list in terms of particular episodes or the series themselves (and since I limited it to one performer per show, in some instances I refused to make a decision and chose to represent them elsewhere). In some cases, this means singling out the one part of an ensemble that I enjoyed, and in others it means singling out obvious candidates because there may not have been room for their shows on other lists (although I could just be messing with your heads, who knows?).

Now, in selecting this list, I had two basic rules:

  • If they won an Emmy or some other major award, chances are I didn’t include them.
  • If I didn’t see it (e.g. Breaking Bad), I can’t award them for it.

The second rule is there for an obvious reason, but the first is a bit more complex. I know that someone like Toni Colette gave a great performance in United States of Tara this year, no doubt, but I also know that she already got an Emmy for it – I don’t really need to tell you she gave a great performance, and I am more likely to give her spot to someone who hasn’t won an Emmy, or who should have won an Emmy, or who might some day win an Emmy. This isn’t to say I’m avoiding all buzzworthy individuals, but rather to suggest that I tried to avoid the usual suspects (so, no Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, for example).

So, without further ado, let’s discuss the Top 10 Performers of the Year (in alphabetical order, by the way).

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Equal Treatment: SAG delivers Disappointing TV Nominations

The other day, I tore into the Golden Globes for being star fetishists, arguing that their choices reflect a clear lack of interest in actually honouring the best in television (when Entourage is your default, there is something very wrong). However, I think sometimes we pick on the Golden Globes so much that we forget that other award shows which actually have some shred of credibility are just as capable of proving disappointing.

And so I feel I need to provide equal treatment, and criticize the Screen Actors’ Guild for a bizarre set of nominations (click the link to read if you want to know all of the context for the below rant) which seem to indicate that they’re not actually watching television at the moment. While the rut SAG has fallen into is less egregious than that of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, its relative credibility makes its shame a definite disappointment during this end of year awards season.

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2009 Golden Globe Nominations: The Hollywood Fetishist Press Association

The Golden Globes nominations are out (Check out the TV specific list here, or the full list here), and provided you have no expectation of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association being logical in their selections they’re about what you would expect. So, in other words, they’re kind of ridiculous.

For the most part, the nominations are driven by four separate impulses, all of which are almost like fetishes that the HFPA (who are mysterious and generally not very reputable) refuses to give up year after year. Their desire, at the end of the day, is to create nominees that bring in audiences and that provide them a false sense of credibility: after all, if every A-list Hollywood star who happened to be in a movie this year gets nominated, who dares to question what the Golden Globes aren’t connected with popular culture?

Of course, when it comes to both film television there’s much more involved than popular culture, so let’s take a look at the three main impulses of the HFPA (on the TV side, at least), and then after the jump offer a bit more analysis.

The “Star” Fetish

If you’ve been on a hit show before, your chances of being nominated skyrocket. Julianna Margulies, nominated for the Good Wife, spent years on E.R. Courtney Cox, nominated for Cougar Town, was on a little show called Friends. Edie Falco, nominated for Nurse Jackie, was on another little show called The Sopranos. These aren’t always undeserving nominees (I don’t entirely disprove of any of these candidates, although Cox is not even close to the best thing about Cougar Town), but they are always there as much for their previous fame as they are for their current role.

The “New” Fetish

The HFPA wants nothing more than to be relevant, but their idea of relevancy is fetishizing the new. Yes, Glee fit into the show’s love for musicals (which, after all, kind of have their own category in the film awards), but it was also something new and shiny, which gets Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, and Jane Lynch nominations. And Modern Family, without a single other nomination on the board, sneaks into Best Comedy Series – I’d say it’s because you just can’t separate anyone from the ensemble, but frankly it’s just because the Globes only value it for its newness.

The “HBO” Fetish

When in doubt, you can presume that a HFPA member has turned their television to HBO: the network’s pedigreed garnered a host of nominations which in some ways fly against the previous lenses, both positive (Big Love grabs three noms for series, Bill Paxton and Chloe Sevigny, Hung grabs acting nods for Thomas Jane and Jane Adams) and negative (Entourage picks up a best series not over Hung, Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, Anna Paquin gets nominated over Katey Sagal, etc.). It’s like HBO is their default, which isn’t always a terrible thing (I really liked Hung) but does feel like a leftover impulse from the Sopranos era considering the breadth of great drama/comedy on other cable channels (Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad).

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