The Big Bang Theory has been breathing rarefied air lately – it’s one of the top rated shows on television, and, by all accounts, has completely outgrown its initial niche as that little show about a bunch of nerds. Indeed, The Big Bang Theory has somehow turned into a work place comedy, two buddy comedies and a relationship comedy all rolled into one. And it still occupies that unique place in the geekosphere that gives it license to explore storylines most other shows won’t or can’t.
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The formula for The Big Bang Theory’s success is, in part, completely conventional: great writing, comedically strong ensemble, recognizable characters, originality. But in reality, The Big Bang Theory also took a major risk, adding two major characters to its already chemistry heavy mix, at a time when the show was still going strong. Most sitcoms bring in new people in hopes of injecting life into a stagnating format (“Kids, meet your cousin Oliver!”) but The Big Bang Theory wisely didn’t wait around for people to get tired of its formula, and took major steps to shake up the status quo. Adding Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik can only be described as an inspired act of genius. Both are tremendous, and Bialik is so good she got an Emmy nomination. In the process, The Big Bang Theory was able to set up new dynamics within its group. Now the show was about the four nerdy friends AND it was about the three single female friends. Now it was about Leonard’s (Johnny Galecki) relationship with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) AND it was about Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette’s (Ruach) marriage AND it was about Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Bialik) the most hilariously unhinged, mismatched, perfectly matched pair of misfits on television. A show with nothing but Star Wars and Star Trek jokes? Like hell.
Hopefully, the rest of the sitcom universe has taken some notice of how The Big Bang Theory took a big risk and made a good show into a great one.
SOME MORE SHOWS are now on winter hiatus, so let’s take a look at how they decided to leave us hanging:
Arrow: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the fledgling season of this show thus far, which has been a terrific twist of mythology, conspiracy theories and kick-ass superhero action. The midseason cliffhanger reveal that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) is the Dark Archer is more than enough to tide us over ‘til January.
The Dark Archer
Scandal: This show is certainly enjoying a banner second season, and it’s had a high-octane storyline brewing for a while. The winter finale quickly dispelled the “Huck (Guillermo Diaz) is the shooter” cliffhanger from last week. That was good, because it let us dig into the many other cool storylines, including a nice showdown between dragon lady new President Langston (Kate Burton) threatening Judge Thorne (Debra Mooney) while she was in her hospital bed, until the Judge turned the tables near the end. This was one of the stranger episodes overall of Scandal, and it featured two very strange pairings. The whole Huck and Becky (Susan Pourfar) story is a bit weird, and having her turn out to be some super assassin is a little too convenient. Equally strange, but much more emotionally satisfying, was the reconnection between David (Joshua Malina) and Abby (Darby Stanchfield), although the door was left open on how that will play out. Overall, the cliffhanger aspects of this episode focused on the biggest two stories: the shooting of the President and the election fraud story, and Scandal has left itself some fertile ground to till in the second half of Season 2.
Beauty and the Beast: It can be tough to craft a good season finale (or midseason finale) if, like Beauty And The Beast, you’re a show that’s done a better job telling the short “story of the week” than the overall big picture story. I’m still not sold on Katherine (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent (Jay Ryan) as a couple, but the slow build toward someone discovering Vincent’s secret has started to pique my interest and I will certainly admit, I did not see the ending unfolding in the way that it did.
Parenthood: After much speculation about the fate of Kristina (Monica Potter), Parenthood gave us a feel good ending in its midseason finale by taking her out of the woods healthwise, although she’ll still be getting treatments for her cancer. I have to admit, as much I would have missed Monica Potter, I’d have been intrigued to see this particular show handle such a gut wrenching plot twist if they had decided to kill off Kristina. It’d have been something to see. Less happy was the decoupling of Amber (Mae Whitman) and Ryan (Matt Lauria), and I do hope we haven’t seen the end of that pair yet. Finally, Parenthood hooked up Hank (Ray Romano) and Sarah (Lauren Graham), and even though everyone saw this coming for weeks, it was nevertheless a terrific moment in the show, and I’m hopeful they keep these two together at least through the end of Season 2.
Graham & Romano
Dylan McDermott back on American Horror Story? Awesome! Can they bring back Taisa Farmiga too? That would be DOUBLE AWESOME!
Educational TV. Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) The best part of success is when you get to tell everyone else that they can suck it (2 Broke Girls); 2) Emilia Clarke got punched by a Viet Namese prostitute (Jimmy Kimmel Live); 3) Optimus Prime does not appear in the King James Bible (The Colbert Report)
And it only took 10 episodes for Glee to work out a truly funny way to make a Marley and Me joke at the expense of Melissa Benoist’s character. I have to say, however, that patience pays off. Jane Lynch, of course, nailed the delivery and the segway into a melodious Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas made the wait well worth it.
Observations From Geek Heaven: If you watched SyFy Channel’s 20th Anniversary Special, I’m sure you weren’t disappointed. The segments on Stargate SG-1, Farscape and Battlestar Galactica, felt like visiting with long lost old friends. Seeing segments on current shows like Lost Girl and Being Human reminded me that these shows will be returning soon (although not soon enough for me). And we got a look at some upcoming shows, in particular Continuum and Defiance which both look incredibly promising.
This week’s Elementary had Holmes and Watson pursuing a legendary thief named Le Chevalier. This was a rather clever literary device, as Le Chevalier is actually a character who appeared in a number of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, and is widely considered to be the inspiration for any number of fictional detectives who came later including, of course, Sherlock Holmes.
Dexter and Homeland air season finales on Showtime on December 16.
NBC will air a sneak peek at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on December 17.
Gossip Girl airs its series finale on The CW on December 17.
Guest star alert: Seth Green will appear on How I Met Your Mother on CBS on December 17.
The Voice season finale airs on NBC on December 18.
Jersey Shore airs its series finale on MTV on December 18.
The series premiere of Cheer Perfect airs on TLC on December 19. Think Toddlers and Tiaras takes gymnastics lessons.
The season finale of Burn Notice airs on USA on December 20.
The season finale of The X Factor airs on Fox on December 20.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and The League wrap up their seasons on FX on December 20.
Can’t wait for Christmas Night to unwrap the Doctor Who Christmas Special? Then dig into one present early and watch The Brit List: The Doctor Who Ultimate List of Lists on BBC America on December 21.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email: RobNJ564@yahoo.com. I welcome your input!