“The Jiminy Conjecture”
September 28th, 2009
I know it’s unrealistic, but part of me wanted this episode to start with a moment of recognition from Leonard as to how he treated Sheldon last week, and for that matter a moment for Sheldon to reflect on his own behaviour. I know that this is a traditional sitcom, one where the storyline from the week before could well have never happened (to some degree) before this one, which meant that the show will pick up the next day in some ways but not in others, but part of me wanted them to admit that what happened in the season premiere was not just another incident, and that Sheldon quitting his job was not something that can just be rewritten and forgotten.
However, that didn’t happen: there are no apologies, Sheldon magically has his job back, and the only thing that continues on is Penny and Leonard’s relationship. As such, this is my final complaint: I think it was a mistake, and that it tainted what could have been a strong premiere.
Now, moving onto “The Jiminy Conjecture,” this was an example of the show going back to basics by dividing off their characters and letting the Sheldon, Raj and Howard have some fun while Leonard and Penny attempt to figure out their relationship. While my past views on the show can tell you which side of the episode I preferred, it was a fun half hour of comedy at the end of the day, which is more than I can say for the convoluted premiere.
“The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation”
September 21st, 2009
There are things about The Big Bang Theory that I would consider outstanding. Jim Parsons, without question, is one of them. And on occasion the nerd driven humour, when not operating in spite of the central nerds but rather celebrating them, is legitimately charming. But when the show ended last season, it was not even close to outstanding, settling for a solid “average” on a whole thanks to a mean streak that I honestly don’t understand. While the Television Critics’ Association quite illogically named it “Outstanding Comedy Series,” the show frustrated me even in its second season by turning on its star, Sheldon, in a split second. The finale, as everyone packed up to go to the Arctic, was filled with the other characters (who are supposed to be Sheldon’s friends) desiring to kill themselves as opposed to spending three months confined with Dr. Cooper.
And as it returns from the break, the show remains off course for my personal tastes, taking a step towards an ill-fated relationship between Leonard and Penny and (more dangerously) continuing to subject Sheldon to the kind of treatment usually reserved for lepers. The episode has Leonard, in particular, treat Sheldon in a reprehensible fashion and as a nuisance keeping him from hooking up with Penny, and while this results in some fun material for Jim Parsons and some always charming Penny/Sheldon scenes, it also brings out the worst in the show’s other characters and is resolved without once holding Leonard responsible for his terrible behaviour.
It’s just another example of why, for all my love for Jim Parsons and particular scenes featuring Jim Parsons, this is ultimately a show that in its focus for the future is out to anger me as much as humanly possible.
Why I Hated the Pilot
June 30th, 2009
[While I’ve blogged about some episodes of the show, and even covered the PaleyFest panel about the show in April, I haven’t actually watched The Big Bang Theory with any consistency. I’m watching the show as my thesis breaks over the next few weeks, and while I have no intentions of any indepth thoughts (not that kind of show), I do have a few things to say about the show, and will stop by with them on occasion.]
For a good year, the only thing on this blog on the subject of The Big Bang Theory was an article lumping it in with Cavemen, a problematic judgment that I knew needed to be addressed but didn’t really see any rush in fixing. The show just really turned me off with its pilot, and after watching it there was absolutely nothing that could convince me to keep watching…or so I told myself.
In my head, I had sworn off the show after the pilot, never to watch again after it had offended me so – watching the first season, however, I appear to have watched at least a few of the episodes that followed, whether randomly or purposefully but without much intention. Clearly, my experience with them didn’t override my disdain for the pilot, so going back to that first episode I was still very curious to see if I could pinpoint just what it was that resulted in such vitriol.
I think I’ve found the answer: the thing that made me hate this pilot is, rather than the existence of a laugh track, the execution of said sitcom device.
“Water & Power”
June 6th, 2009
“It’s like putting your faith in the idea of someone before really knowing who they are.”
The above quotation, pulled from the episode, was my personal reaction to Pushing Daisies. I was “all in” from the moment I heard the premise of the pilot, pretty much, and was even more excited based on that episode. And there is something dangerous about that like, for example, having to deal with the fact that it was on the air for about 1/8 the amount of time as According to Jim. But the one thing that Pushing Daisies, as a show, never did was to displace my faith in any violent fashion – I was disappointed by its short end, but its quality rarely faltered, and that is something important to remember as we continue our journey through these final three episodes.
When you enter into a bittersweet series of episodes like these, knowing that the show has been canceled and that not all resolutions will be possible, an episode like “Water & Power” is a real microcosm of that feeling. As soon as the episode begins with a shot of a young Emerson Cod, you realize that this will be the show’s last chance to give this character a proper sendoff, especially as it relates to his search for his missing daughter. It was a recurring bit of story that was never actually a storyline: we saw the book he made, and we were there when he told Ned for the first time, but it’s never actually been the central point of a mystery of the week.
But, of course, it never will be again either: although the episode allows the issue of young Penny to emerge as the purpose of the show’s narrative, it doesn’t resolve the storyline in some sort of final way, and leaves the door open for all of the things we know the show won’t have. It introduces a few highly compelling recurring guest stars, for example, but we know the show will never get to see them return, and since it doesn’t offer any real finality for Emerson and Penny it feels like yet another chapter that, while satisfying for what it could have been, isn’t all that satisfying for what it ended up being.
“The Monopolar Expedition”
May 11th, 2009
Okay, so, admittedly I don’t actually watch The Big Bang Theory recently, but this is the second episode I’ve stopped in on after really enjoying their PaleyFest panel, and it’s the second episode where I feel like there’s something missing. That something, believe it or not, is an ounce of ingenuity in the series’ broader storylines: these characters stand out on their own, and when doing things that only they would do, but this episode was such a bland sitcom episode at its very core that I don’t really think that it ever elevated itself beyond cute.
This, of course, isn’t a cardinal sin: there’s plenty of room on television for a cute sitcom that, when it’s at its best, can actually be quite funny. But what bothers me about Big Bang Theory is that it often feels like one show is trapped within the other, that characters are being held hostage by a show that doesn’t allow them to branch out of their accepted roles to be actually liked, appreciated, or understood outside of “very special episodes” that only happen ever so often.
The result is a finale that lacked that special something that made it distinct from, well, any other episode of the series, but that went through the motions of a sitcom finale so blandly that I couldn’t help but feel bored by, if not the jokes themselves, then the plot unfolding.
“The Classified Materials Turbulence”
May 4th, 2009
I’ve been writing about sitcoms as part of my thesis work, and in doing so I’ve had to define the traditional sitcom in its more basic terms for an academic audience that won’t have quite my obsession with television. So I figured now would be another time to stop by with my new friends at The Big Bang Theory, a series that fits into the mold of actually being able to just “stop by” so to speak. I haven’t yet started catching up on the series, so I’ve still got thirty odd episode episodes to dig into.
This one, admittedly, didn’t do much for me outside of the elements that I find most engaging in the series; it’s clear to me that I’m going to have to spend a number of episodes wishing that the show is spending more time with Sheldon than Leonard, and that I’m going to expect more out of some of the storylines than the show is willing to offer.
April 29th, 2009
I will admit right now that I feel sort of like a low rent Daniel Faraday right now, my attempts to put myself on a different sleep schedule in a way not that different from Daniel’s attempt to realign himself with another time. This means that while I had planned on writing this review about five hours ago when I woke up from a short nap designed to prepare me for an eight-hour night shift this evening, instead I’m writing it after six hours of sleep and will have to skip Thursday night television in order to try to find some nap time.
I share this story not just because of my recent tweet about potentially mixing more personal anecdotes with blog posts, but also because it’s an example of providing some greater context to events, which is essentially the point of “The Variable.” The episode really only has two functions: it serves as an escalation of the “plot” (remember that thing?) that has been mostly dormant since our cast ended up in the 1970s, giving us a sense of how the end of the season is going to develop, and it serves as an answer to the question of what Daniel Faraday has been up to since we last saw him trapped in 1974 with everyone else and nobody is really talking about him.
Perhaps it’s the weird sleep schedule, or that I wasn’t feeling great when I watched the episode, but I was kind of disappointed by this, the show’s 100th episode, at least on the latter point. At times feeling like another drop in the “parental neglect” bucket for the show, the tragic journey of Daniel Faraday was strong in isolation and yet when applied to the rest of the episode and the rest of the series felt too inorganic. Yes, I empathize with Daniel, primarily thanks to Jeremy Davies’ strong performance, but at the end of the day it felt as if Faraday’s storyline was tied so closely to the island that his individuality, and its connection to our other characters, was lost in the plot.
I understand that this is the entire “point” of the episode, but I found it a little bit clumsy in its execution even if I feel they’re ramping things up at the right pace as we march towards the finale.
“Dead is Dead”
April 8th, 2009
Forgiveness is a really interesting emotion, primarily because of how subjective it is. There is a great moment in “Dead is Dead” where Locke suggests that he and Ben discuss the elephant in the room, being the fact that Ben, you know, murdered him, and Ben immediately heads into a long and rambling explanation of how he had to do it, how it was the only way, how he knew he couldn’t leave it to him, etc. Locke, meanwhile, just shrugs: “I was just looking for an apology.”
Locke, of course, has a very different value of forgiveness, having been through so much, and in his new resurrected form Locke is more sure of himself than ever; he forgives Ben because he’s now alive, and he now has purpose, so who is he to really complain?
The problem with the episode is really not a problem at all: Benjamin Linus’ flashbacks are designed specifically to show us those moments where his empathetic nature emerges, some sign of the young boy who went into that Temple returning as part of this new individual. However, in the present day, we see that Ben is still just as much a monster as before, and I think there’s something inherently problematic in the way he treats these situations with such moral dichotomy.
But it’s supposed to be problematic, and Michael Emerson delivers another knockout performance, and “Dead is Dead” succeeds based on the show’s emphasis on his duality.
“This Place is Death”
February 11th, 2009
Yesterday, I was reading a piece by Devin Faraci over at CHUD.com, wherein he laid out a laundry list of concerns over the trajectory of Lost’s fifth season. To summarize, Devin is arguing that the focus on time travel has them indulging themselves in the show’s science fiction elements, and that it is forgetting about its characters, losing its momentum, and diverting attention from where it should be placed. And, ostensibly, I believe that he is right about every one of these things; the only difference is that I feel the show is better for it.
“This Place is Death” is a reminder that this isn’t just an investigation of the island itself, but rather an investigation of the island and its relationship with these characters. It has given them things, such as a new set of legs, just as it has taken them away, and what we have here is the island beginning to assert its power over them. Charlotte is correct to remark that this island is one where death is prevalent, but we know it hasn’t always been this way: it gave Locke back his ability to walk, it cured Rose’s cancer, and it appears to have given Richard Alpert the ability to transcend the aging process entirely.
But now the island is off its axis, something has gone off-kilter. As the when of the island changes, the what changes with it: it affects different people to different degrees, its only consistency that it has turned against them all in at least some capacity. This episode is about one man’s plan to try to change this, and another man’s concern that if it proves unstoppable it might mean something terrible for the person about whom he cares the most. This, ultimately, is a character-driven story, one that focuses on a central relationship while reminding us that powers stronger than their love are operating here.
And with a single spin of the wheel, anything is possible.
January 28th, 2009
There are some who believe, and who boasted ahead of the episode airing, that “Jughead” is one of the strongest episodes in Lost’s five season run.
I’m inclined to disagree, although not out of malice towards the episode or its intentions.
I liked “Jughead,” a lot, but it felt like a much more purposeful attempt to confuse and overwhelm the viewer than some of the show’s past mythology episodes. There is no doubt that, compared to the premiere, this episode is far more revealing: the island’s pit stop in the 1950s introduces us to some key individuals and ideas which seem to fit together numerous pieces of our puzzle, whether it be Richard Alpert’s reasoning for entering into the life of John Locke or the various details that explain the current condition of Daniel Faraday.
Abandoning the Oceanic Six entirely, the episode is all about trying to piece things together in ways that seem at first unorthodox but then, over time, become more focused if not more clear. My reservations about placing the episode into the show’s upper echelon is that it, as an entity, did not feel like a story in its own right: while we approached some major revelations for Daniel Faraday in particular, the episode never felt like it really had time to apply those to his character and demonstrate those effects.
But no one can claim that there are not now some much larger questions, and certainly the fog is beginning to clear on, at the very least, a few very important things. So that makes “Jughead” an entertaining and momentum-building episode for the show, if not the television revelation that some had sold it as.