He said, she said: Are girls ruining THE BIG BANG THEORY?

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We’ve never found much amusing in THE BIG BANG THEORY, the nerd comedy for our times, but we are distinctly in the minority on this, as it’s one of the signature sitcoms of the day (and the #1 show in Canada!) However, in recent years its girl-fearing cast of hardcore geeks has been joined by all kinds of women — not just the hot chick across the hall but smart women like Blossom and…now, actual girlfriends.

John Doyle at the Globe and Mail sees this as clear shark jumping territory:

It ain’t the same. Now it appears that all the nerdy male characters have girlfriends and there are abundant jokes about dating, sex and jealousy. Stupid stuff. Heavens to Betsy, there are even feelings being tossed around. It’s like watching Friends!

But Comicsgirl finds this same material refreshing, in a post called Alice is the future about an episode where Leonard meets a girl at the comics shop.

Still, even with her scant screen time (although I’ve read Alice may be back), I found Alice refreshing. I may be projecting a bit too much here, but I didn’t feel like Alice thought she was a novelty. She wasn’t going into the comic book store so nerdy guys could fawn over here. She was just going there to buy comics. (Later in the episode, we find out Alice makes her own comics, which is also a cool thing to see on a popular sitcom.)


Admittedly, turning a show about how nerds are uncomfortable around women into a show where women are even dating the guy who owns the comics shop, does seem to be a change of focus. In other words, Doyle is (perhaps humorously) mirroring the feelings of the show’s cast. Comicsgirl is mirroring an actual reality where pesky girls want to horn in on all the action.

What do you think, panel? Is a bleak world of isolation funnier than a complex world of talking about feelings?

Comments

  1. thefreakytiki says:

    The characters are evolving. What’s the big deal?

    the Tiki

  2. “We’ve never found much amusing in THE BIG BANG THEORY,”

    I’m with you on this. I never found it funny at all.

  3. Yeah, I’ve been watching Big Bang Theory off-and-on since it started, and I don’t feel like the presence of woemn is ruining it at all. I like Bernadette as a character more than Amy Farrah Fowler, just because I don’t think Mayim Bialik is all that convincing as basically the female version of Sheldon.

    To be fair, the dichotomy between the 3 giant nerds and the hot girl across the hall is what made the show for me when it started, but there’s only so long you can do that before the show becomes a bit of a one-trick pony. I’m fine with how the show’s developing, and will continue to watch it whenever Community is not on or on reruns. (Heh.)

  4. I DVR BBT b/c I love Community so much more, and I get frustrated with the lowest common denominator nerd jokes on BBT. It’s a bit heavy-handed at times. That said, Amy Farrah Fowler is the main reason I still watch. I love her awkward relationship with Penny and how she is excited about the novelty of having female friends. However, this past week’s episode left me a little put off with AFF’s comments about the comic shop. She seems to defy conventional female thinking in most ways, yet her attitude was (to me, anyway) the stereotypical generic female attitude. Not that she has to be into comics (bring back Alice for that), but I think she’d be a bit more understanding, even on a scientific level.

  5. I have to agree with Tiki, the characters have to grow for it to stay interesting. I think there’s just as much to be said about their influence on the girls than on the girls influence on them.

    Penny’s change over the course of the series has been just as interesting as what Leonard, Sheldon, or Wolowitz have discovered.

    In the end, it is friends — it’s just a friends at a time when geek culture is dominant.

    One of my favorite shows. Also wondering if it is helping DC bec. there is nary a Marvel in sight on the show. :)

  6. Shawn Kane says:

    My only issue is that they paint comic book readers and such with the same broad strokes. I enjoy the same things that the characters do but I also play sports and things like that. You can read comics, like science fiction, and be into the things that they like and not be a stereotypical outcast.

  7. “girl-fearing cast of hardcore geeks”?!?

    They might all be wary of girls, but none of them “fear” them, except Raj who can’t talk to women when he’s sober.

    Watching these characters develop over the past four+ seasons has been a treat.

  8. I never watched it — thought it was terrible for all of us — until it started showing up in syndication and now I can’t stop. I don’t know what did it.

    I watched a new episode last week and in literally every shot was a DC icon or trademark. Really blatant product placement. Watch this week and see if it happens again. And I agree on evolving narrative, can’t do the same thing forever. I met two women from Oxford England at SDCC a couple of years ago who were there for one reason: to meet Sheldon. That’s not bad for the hobby, right?

    Another thing I noticed is that all of the DC placement on the show was pre-Nu-Whatever. Granted there is a lag time, but still.

  9. @Brad, almost everything for the last few episodes has been New 52, DCnU stuff.

    It is produced by Warner Bros. so the placement isn’t surprising, but it does seem to have increased since the DCnU was launched. There hasn’t been a week that they weren’t placed somewhere. Sheldon or Leonard’s room, the LCS, etc.

    I keep trying to find anything non-DC, but can’t. To which I say kudos to DC.

  10. but of course, there is that issue of Next Men in the pic at the top of the article. doh! forgot about that.

    definitely no marvel that i’ve seen. even the apparel is DC when it can be.

  11. Couldn’t agree less, in one respect… I thought the show had worn out its welcome, but Mayim Bialik as Amy got me interested again. I never watched Blossom, or actually saw any show she was ever in before, but I think she’s hilarious!

    Not only her acting (which, given the fact that she’s just playing a sitcom character is quite nuanced and funny), but I really like Amy’s character arc. It’s like a “what if”: What If Sheldon could actually grown and change as a human, through interaction with new people? That’s Amy, and I’ve found her progression funny and fascinating.

    Now I do agree that there’s a problem with SO many girlfriends. Wolowitz and Sheldon each have one. Lenard had TWO, both remarkably attractive, and then is able to pick up a hot chick at random at the comic shop? He’s officially gone from “nerd” to “playa” at that point. So yeah, maybe there’s a bit too much of that.

    But personally, the more Amy in an episode the better for me. :)

  12. Agree — Mayim Bialik is hilarious, and a very full character. Extra props to an actress who’s willing to make herself that repellant in certain scenes. Melissa Rauch is great, too.

    I thought the comic-artist girl was a little two-dimensional, but hopefully that’ll change if she comes back. The writing has slipped a little this year, but overall, this is a textbook case of a show staying fresh by expanding its cast.

  13. Comic2read says:

    I like the show more with Amy and Bernadette.

    I disliked Leonard’s out of character insults toward comic readers as it was too hateful and hypocritical.

    It’s realistic to show girls reading comics. A friend is a well known model who loves Alex Ross Wonder Woman comics although she won’t admit she reads comics to everyone.

  14. Chris Hero says:

    I had a *huge* crush on Mayim Bialik back in the Blossom days, so I watched a few episodes when I found out she was on. It was not my cup of tea. Like someone else said above, too much lowest common denominator humor.

  15. Scott Rowland says:

    I continue to find it hilarious. I fall into both the comic geek and science geek categories, so I find much to relate to.

    My experience has always been that geeks are constantly making “jokes about dating, sex and jealousy.” So, I find the show true to life, just handled in an exaggerated way, as is appropriate for a sitcom.

  16. Jason says:

    Bialiks character is an exact copy of “Lilith Sternen”. Not an ounce of originality there at all. I’d rather dig out an old issue of “Three Geeks” than watch BBT.

  17. I am only oliquely aware of the show, and that’s recent. I don’t watch TV, so I am out of touch, but I was in a hotel the other night and was about to run in an empty fitness center and it was on the TV and I thought, “What the heck, I’ll watch it.”

    I made it about 4 minutes before the obvious jokes and the really, really heavy handed laugh track killed it for me and I turned off the TV, put on my headphones and went back to podcasts.

  18. my bad — I meant that the iconography itself on the show was all pre-NuDC, but that’s prob. due to timing. I saw an older episode where Sheldon declared that everything after Zero Hour wasn’t real, so maybe they’ll do a similar joke (or maybe not)

  19. I’ve always found the show amusing, but I’ve consistently enjoyed it more than ever since Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch became regulars. They’re funny and talented in their own right, but they bring a new dynamic to the show in their reactions to (and from) not just their respective (or would-be) paramours, but from the entire cast, and it keeps Kaley Cuoco out of “token chick” territory. And Bialik, in particular, is so funny that for me personally, Amy Farrah Fowler is becoming the show’s new breakout character.

    And I keep hoping they bring Alice back. She seemed way too cool to be a one-off character. She was mightily attractive, yes, but also the sort of assertive, empowered, and confident geek girl that there needs to be more of on TV.

  20. Any show promoting Elfquest, as they did in the last episode, is a good episode in my book. (Ok, I’ve been a huge fan of the show since the start, however, season 5 has been pretty weak).

  21. What I’m hearing is people complaining that the show is slowly eroding its over-the-top geek stereotypes and finally letting these guys (and girls) be relatively normal people like most real geeks actually are. And they’re blaming the female characters for it.

    Not really seeing the problem here, except for the “blame the wimmen!” part.

  22. briguyx says:

    I was watching a recent episode where the guys were visiting the comic shop and looking over the back issues and I realized how unlikely it was that fans of their age with good jobs don’t already have every back issue they ever wanted!

  23. AfterHours Al™ says:

    I get a little tired of the Amy’s suggestions of tacky girl-on-girl action, and Bernadette’s predictable aping of Walowitz’s mother. And Sheldon can go too far.

    But those are small considerations when I look at how good the writing generally is.

    I say leave girls in, it makes for a richer show. And {hehhehehheheh} more guys will watch the show if there are girrrrrlls in it.

  24. Not a good show, though it does bring back sour memories of unfunny sitcoms past (“Laverne & Shirley” after they moved to LA), “Hello Larry,” “Too Close for Comfort,” etc., etc.

    “Big Bang Theory” wishes it was “Community,” and “Community” wishes it was “Spaced.” I’d rather watch “The IT Crowd,” myself.

  25. OtisTFirefly says:

    OH MY GOD!! There is NO way anyone who has watched the show from the beginning can say it is better now (or nearly as good) than before “Shamy” became part of the show. (This being the Beat, I know this becomes an automatic “WOMEN GO HOME/WOMEN ARE WORTHLESS/WOMEN AREN’T TALENTED/WOMEN ARE VICTIMS” conversation solely because it involves… women, but that’s not the case. The GIRLFRIENDS just happen to be women.) What made the show funny was the geek culture, the guys being female-phobic nerds who can’t get a date, etc. Yes, the show has to grow, but as someone pointed out, it’s turned into a standard sitcom where the main characters happen to be nerds but are involved in standard sitcom relationship problems.

    Actually, it’s not even that they’re getting girlfriends that’s the problem as much: When Leonard hooked up with Penny, it was funny because of the difference between the two. The problem is AMY FARRAH FOWLER. The character just DRAGS down the show. Sheldon was a classic tv character… Amy is Sheldon in drag, and that’s just not funny.

    The occasional episodes that touch on the old form are the best… the recent Halloween ep being one. If ANYONE is getting screwed in the whole thing, it’s PENNY (and the actress that plays her). She was a main character and a good one; now, she’s just there for Amy to worship from below on occasion.

  26. some-old-geek says:

    “a show about how nerds are uncomfortable around women” ?

    That was never what the show was about. That was one character trait shared by several members of the male cast. They were (are) also all brilliant in their respective fields. They are all interested in comics. And computers. And science. And science fiction. They all like Indian and Thai food.

    I like the show. I liked it four years ago and I like it now.

  27. I find most of the geek fan base starting to complain more about the show because its no longer making us “look good” and starting to take pot shots at us with some episodes.

    This week’s one basically tore to shreds anyone who plays CCG’s (with a side slam at Cowboys & Aliens to boot) and it seemed everyone who cried foul seemed to be doing so simply because it hit too close to him for their comfort levels.

    I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I found the dialogue in the show hysterical (but then again I’ve never been a fan of CCG’s) but also think that you know, every once in a while we need to have our foibles pointed out to us. Reminds us we do occasionally have some maturing still to do.

  28. the “nerd living in mom’s basement” comments would have gotten all their asses kicked in the comic shop i hang around in. that being said, i started watching the show last year, really liked it, but it was the reruns of the show that have really maade me a fan. are there stereotypes running rampant throughout the show? of course, but that’s what sitcoms do. having the new cast members in the show is a plus as the show would have grown stale with the same jokes about not getting women being done over and over again, tho’ i do agree that they could get back to their nerd culture roots a bit more. oh, and i disagree that this show is comparable to crap like “hello larry”, “laverne & shirley”, “too close for comfort” (tho’ i do miss the yummy lydia cornell), etc.,etc.. the writing on “big bang” is far superior to any of those shows, including “community” (tho’ “community” does have the yummy alison brie). i figure “big bang” will probably be on for another season or three with all the characters eventually married or in stable relationships. the end. and nerd culture marches on.

  29. Andrea says:

    The show is called the Big “Bang” for a reason – it’s not just about science nerd guys it’s also about SEX. Which, last I checked, involves women for these straight guys.

  30. John W says:

    Are girls ruining THE BIG BANG THEORY?

    No. They’re making it a better show.

    Amy Fowler’s character is hilarious.

  31. The show was created to entertain, like the Seinfeld show. Some TV show could easily be considered stupid, and yet funny and entertaining. That is entertainment!

  32. Diary of Jane says:

    No. The Big Bang Theory is ruining The Big Bang Theory. (It is a terrible show, hope this helps.)

  33. Tom Galloway says:

    Since no one’s mentioned it, I figure it’s worth noting that Amy Farrah Fowler is the very rare instance of a neurobiologist being played by someone with a Ph.D. in neurobiology (yes, that’s Dr. Mayim Bialik to you, and I do wish they’d list her in the credits that way).

    No problem at all with the addition of girl geeks to the boys. Most science/sf/comics boy geeks do date similar girls (my own girlfriends have included CS, physics, and chemistry types, including several with doctorates), and Caltech’s a not unreasonable place to run into them in the LA area after all.

  34. Amy Ferrah Fowler is one of the only reasons I still watch the show. I didn’t know Miyim Bialik has a Ph.D. in neurobiology! COOL.

    Women have improved the show. It’s not brilliant, but it makes me laugh often enough to keep watching, and that’s all I really require from a sitcom. Also, some of the humor is specifically catered just to geeks (the mundanes I know don’t get half of the jokes).

    I’d wish they’d stop trashing geeks so much, however. Again, stereotypes.

  35. Aurora says:

    I agree that the girls are a symptom of what’s wrong with the show now, but the root is that the writers don’t know how to write what they have. They keep shoehorning interesting women into cookie-cutter stereotypes (Amy is obsessed with the sex she never gets, Bernadette is the relationship-obsessed neurotic, and Penny is the regretful old maid (have you SEEN how much she’s been drinking lately? I really hope they stage an intervention soon!). The actresses are brilliant, though, and have been doing everything in their power to raise themselves above it, with enough success that they continue to stay interesting despite the writing problems. Another big problem I see is that the writers just don’t seem to understand geeks. I dislike how the 4 geeks all seem to be geeks of everything, unlike all the geeks I know who are specialists with varying small knowledge elsewhere. I’m not saying give them only one interest, but shoehorning in computer geeks, gamer geeks, science geeks, card game geeks, mmo geeks, fps geeks, comic geeks, ren fest geeks, and movie geeks into one person is forced. The writers also seem disdainful of the people their characters are based on, and take the opportunity whenever they can get it to slip in a jab at geeks for being geeky. What I think the show really needs is writers who are geeks, and at least one of them a woman who can show them that women are just as dimensional as men.

  36. Xenos says:

    “It ain’t the same. Now it appears that all the nerdy male characters have girlfriends and there are abundant jokes about dating, sex and jealousy. Stupid stuff. Heavens to Betsy, there are even feelings being tossed around. It’s like watching Friends!”

    Wow. A friend of mine, a female nerd friend of mine mind you, said pretty much the same thing recently. She was saying how she kinda liked it in the beginning and it felt more genuine then. Now she says it seems to be Friends with a gilded layer of nerd references on top. Polish on a turd, I said.

    She also said she didn’t care for the female nerds they added. She felt they were even less genuinely written than the male nerds.

  37. Jason Green

    you do realise that the character she plays is pretty much her actual life as she is a neurobiologist

  38. This show used to be funny before the annoying female characters ruined it! Its impossible to enjoy it now.

  39. they aren't nerds says:

    those so called nerds are tapping more Ho’s than a rock band. show is a joke now.

  40. Charles says:

    A lot of feminists scrubs here…

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