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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Big Bang Theory of Leonard and Penny

     CBS's The Big Bang Theory continues its story last night with "The Beta Test Initiation." Leonard (Johnny Galecki) suggests doing 'Bug' lists when Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is annoyed with him to help their dating life go more smoothly. But she is very displeased when she reads the list he does about her. Raj's (Kunal Nayyar) dating life finally picks up when he falls for his iPhone's voice program, Siri. Amy (Mayim Bialik) continues her strange relationship with Sheldon (Jim Parsons) by helping him do a video series on flags.

     After the amazing 100th episode last week, The Big Bang Theory has a lot to live up to. "The Beta Test Initiation" just doesn't quite cut it. Rather than reveling in Leonard and Penny's reconnection, or putting it on the back burner, screentime-wise, as is often done during their earlier dating run, the series chooses to tackle the pair in a very typical, predictable way. NBC's Up All Night did their own version of a 'bug' list just a couple short weeks ago. It's really an idea that has been done to death on sitcoms, and it never, ever ends well for the couple, making the ending of the plot way too obvious. "The Beta Test Initiation" is no exception to that rule. The Leonard and Penny bits of the episode were tired and useless. Hopefully, they will pick up a bit better next week.

     However, the saving gave of this week's The Big Bang Theory involves Sheldon and the flags. It's a minor subplot, to be sure, but it really steals the show every single time it comes on screen. Perhaps it's seeing Amy in costume, or hearing Sheldon's frustration as take after take is ruined, something the perfectionist genius didn't predict would happen when filming in his living room, the hang out spot for their group. He also clearly doesn't know anything about editing. But the concept is wonderful, the story believable for the character, who geeks out over all kinds of things, and it gives Sheldon and Amy more time to spend together, which is always welcome.

     One must wonder what happens when Leonard and Penny's relationship progresses this time. After a rocky split, it seems unlikely that The Big Bang Theory will break them up again. With any luck, this is it for the two, who will eventually get married and live happily ever after. Should that happen in the next season or two, it seems like a likely result will be Amy wanting to move things with Sheldon to another level. Though, for Sheldon, another level might involve a little making out. But how might the series change if this happens? Could Leonard move in with Penny? Might Amy try to force her way into Sheldon's apartment? Might he agree to it if she stops pursuing a physical connection? What kind of dynamics would that result in, and would it energize or kill the series? So many questions to ponder that are greater than this week's episode itself.

     The other story in "The Beta Test Initiation" involves Raj's love life finally happening, though in the form of dating a computerized voice. As the other characters around Raj grow and mature, he alone seems stuck in who he is. His inability to talk to girls without alcohol in his system is funny, but it's time for him to get over it. It's time Raj gets a real girlfriend who pulls him out of his shell. With the success of adding Amy and Berndatte (Melissa Rauch) to the cast, the timing of a fourth female addition seems ripe. Not that Raj's girl needs to be a main character. In fact, it might be more fun to take Raj done a slutty path once his fear is overcome. The point is, though, there's been enough of sad Raj feeling lonely and sorry for himself. He should step up and claim his rightful place in the cast, the series, and the romantic world.

     The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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