Monday, August 4, 2014

THE FRIENDS ZONE:  A new deal for Big Bang Theory stars Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco will pay each actor $1M/episode for the next three seasons, tripling their current salaries, and raises their ownership stake in the show to over 1% each: "All in, I hear Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco are poised to make at least $90 million dollars each over the lives of the deals, with some observers noting that the total could conceivably rise towards $100 million if Big Bang continues to be as strong in syndication and auxiliary markets."  Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar remain in negotiations.

So, um, confession time: I've never seen an episode. Should I start, and if so, where?


  1. As you may recall, I hated the pilot with the fire of a thousand suns:

    That said, it's become a very solid sitcom, largely courtesy of them making Penny more than just a moronic pretty face, finding the character of Sheldon, and adding some depth to the supporting cast's characters. As for starting points--I'd suggest "The Lizard-Spock Expansion" (Season 2, Episode 8), or "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" (Season 2, Episode 10).

  2. Marsha11:42 AM

    I watch it. It's not subtle, but it is funny. yes, I have read all the criticisms, and sometimes it crosses the line into laughing at the characters, rather than with them, but I enjoy the show, and I find it endlessly re-watchable so far - I watch a lot of it on PBS in the background.

    I think you have to start from the beginning. One of the nice things about the show is how it has expanded the world of the main five characters outward in a Springfieldian sort of way. We've met parts or all of everyone's families, at least on Skype or by voice (and the episodes with Leonard or Sheldon's mothers are brilliant), and have a full world at the University and the comic book store. And the first season is by far the weakest - it took a while to get the Penny and Sheldon characters right, and the show hit a whole new level with the additions of Bernadette and Amy, which I think is season 4.

    My two favorite episodes are probably The Bath Gift Hypothesis and The Shiny Trinket Maneuver, but you can't go wrong with any Christine Baranski, Laurie Metcalfe, Wil Wheaton, or Bob Newhart guest-star episode. Oh, and the one where you find out what happened to the elevator is also great, as is anything where the guys invent or play a game (rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock, three-player chess, or Secret Agent Laser Chess (or whatever that's called)).

    Yeah, I like the show. YMMV.

  3. Jordan11:54 AM

    So a season of Big Bang Theory, which consists of people sitting around talking on sets on a soundstage that have been built for years costs around twice as much as a season of Game of Thrones. Let that sink in.

    I watched a couple episodes a few years ago when I had a friend who wouldn't stop raving about it. Every joke was "India is dirty" or "Jews are nebbish." That was it. No punchlines, just poorly drawn caricatures that would have felt outdated decades ago and occasional name drops of nerdy things, but only references that everyone in the world would get. Again, this was a few years ago, so it may have gotten better. But at the time, it was the worst kind of lazy.

  4. I don't think the show is a must-see, but I really enjoy watching it, and frequently put it on in reruns. I also find that my husband and I quote it a lot, and that it's one of the few comedies where I laugh out loud. Agreed on watching from the beginning. While I love The Bath Gift Item Hypothesis, I think the ending only works when you've really gotten a sense of Sheldon as a character before that. And while not all the episodes are consistent, the relationship between Leonard and Penny should really be seen in order. And also agreed with Marsha - anything with Laurie Metcalf as Sheldon's mother or Christine Baranski as Leonard's mother is a great episode.

  5. Lou W1:02 PM

    I'd watch starting with the beginning of Season 2. Season 1, which I haven't seen all of, did not engage me at all, but I gave it another chance in S2 and I've been hooked since. As Marsha notes, one of the best things the show has done is expand its cast in a organic and effective manner. My favorite character has altered through the seasons and is now Bernadette, which is pretty amazing for a character that didn't become a regular until half way through the show. This expansion is one of the ways in which the show has avoided the staleness of HIMYM.

    Also I am very much Leonard (or at least was before getting married) and have almost never felt that the show crossed over to cruelty towards the characters. Mockery, sure, but we mock ourselves. And to balance the occasional misstep is the benefit that it shows a true passion for science. Seeing the characters jumping up and down in sincere joy over the results of a science experiment is simply something that doesn't happen on any other comedy or drama on TV.

  6. Watts1:17 PM

    I started watching after reading Linda Holmes's essay: So I started with Season 2, then went back and watched the second half of season 1, then watched it in order from there.

    It makes me cringe sometimes, due to the caricature-based humor Jordan points out, but it also makes me hoot with laughter other times. My biggest criticisms are 1. Sheldon sometimes crosses the line from fussy to asshole, and 2. I wish they'd dial down the Howard-is-a-perv sometimes.

    I feel like it really hit its stride with the addition of the Bernadette and Amy characters. That certainly helped deepen the Penny character and one of my favorite developments was Amy's complete change in attitude toward Penny.

    And it's not for nothing that sometimes my message alert tone is "[knock, knock, knock] Amy" in Sheldon's voice.

  7. The other stereotyping problem they still have is with Raj's sexuality. I had hoped the "no longer needs to be drunk to talk to women" angle being dropped would resolve that, but there've been a LOT of uncomfortable jokes the past couple of seasons there. (That said, the stuff with him and Kate Micucci was pretty great.)

  8. Joseph Finn1:30 PM

    Re-reading your entry, I had to go and look up what the hell Cane was. I'd forgotten Jimmy Smits had a series in between West Wing and Ghost Dad Lawyer.

  9. Andrew1:51 PM

    I do not watch BBT regularly, and every time that I've jumped in, I've found the writing to be hacky and the jokes either cringeworthy or telegraphed minutes before. Pretty much any time that I've watched it, I feel as I would have better spent the time watching a Friends, Parks & Rec, or Always Sunny in Philadelphia* rerun, since those are the sitcoms that consistently do many of the things that BBT tries to do and often fails at.

    That said, it's not a bad show, just a mediocre and/or inconsistent one. There's good stuff in it, and if there are episodes that are its equivalent of "Slap Bet" (where each plotline works well independently AND it comes together to something better at the end), I'd watch that/those episode(s).

    *Only somewhat an apt comparison, because BBT often crosses the line into portraying its characters as loathsome caricatures of people while Sunny knows its characters are terrible, misanthropic people and goes there. Its much more of a direct descendant of the Seinfeld paradigm, while BBT is in the Cheers/Friends style.

  10. vaildog8:49 AM

    Laugh track??? WHY?

  11. The Pathetic Earthling11:21 AM

    I just don't watch sit-coms anymore because I have so come to hate the laugh track (or, even if live, the rebalancing of the laughs).

  12. christy in nyc8:42 AM

    I've come to the conclusion that while the actors are consistently really good--and the main three really great--it varies widely on an episode-to-episode basis in terms of the quality of the writing. I haven't done a scientific analysis, but my overall impression is that there are individual episodes crammed with lazy jokes that buy into and reinforce negative/harmful stereotypes about every group represented, and a few groups that are not. Then there are episodes where those stereotypes are beautifully subverted, and then there are still more episodes where the writers just seem to know how to write funny jokes and funny stories that are not about someone being female or Indian or Jewish or on the spectrum or GASP ACCIDENTALLY GAY!

    I actually think that the gay panic jokes are the ones that bother me the most, because they're never really subverted. The show seems to take for granted that Raj and Howard should be embarrassed by the perception that they could be attracted to one another, and outside of jokes like that, it's 100% heteronormative. (I think even Two and a Half Men has a better track record than Big Bang in this area!) I wish they would make an effort to turn that around somehow. They still have time, apparently.

    I do really like it--I think even the lazily-written episodes are elevated by the cast, and when the writing rises to their level, it can be super enjoyable. I think the idea that nerds are the butt of the show's overall joke is way off. I love that they added female nerds, though I'd love to see one who loves comics and pop culture as much as the guys. Also, being a huge TV-nerd myself, especially of sitcoms of the 70s-90s...the extended cast is a huge treat.

    My favorite episodes are definitely the ones where Sheldon makes strides socially, or when he's thrust into a situation where he has to adapt socially. But I'd think it would be hard to fully appreciate those without seeing a healthy sampling of the episodes where those things don't happen.

  13. tshack@yahoo.com2:43 PM

    Yes! I think I might actually enjoy this show but I am totally turned off by the excessive laugh track. This cast is full of actors who have great timing, just let them show it and let me laugh on my own.