Saturday, May 17, 2014

THE BIG BANG THEORY Rejects the "Status Quo"

Article first published as TV Review: 'The Big Bang Theory' - 'The Status Quo Combustion' on Blogcritics.

TBBT1CBS’s The Big Bang Theory finished off its seventh season this week with “The Status Quo Combustion.” Sheldon (Jim Parsons) finds his world rocked when  the university not only doesn’t allow him to pursue his new chosen field of science, but Leonard (Johnny Galecki) mentions moving out, now that he’s engaged, and Sheldon’s place of refuge, the comic book store, is ruined by fire. What’s an anti-social genius to do when falling apart? Run into the arms of his loving girlfriend? Nah. He hops a train out of town, unable to cope with the myriad of stressors surrounding him.

“The Status Quo Combustion” may the purest version of Sheldon The Big Bang Theory has shown us yet. We know he’s persnickety and doesn’t like change, but we’ve never seen just how much it really effects him until all these things come crashing down at once. This side of him, the one willing to abandon his entire life because he can’t handle so much happening in it is new, but also insightful into past actions. Sheldon doesn’t not only dislikes change, he is really psychologically pained by it. His idiosyncrasies aren’t just quirks, they’re part of his mental state. He is neither healthy nor well adjusted–by any stretch.

But this kind of breakdown may be just what Sheldon needs to grow. True, he could be on the autism spectrum and may not be physically cable of making the adjustments. Or, what seems more likely, his disease is in his head, and by forcing him to confront it, he may be able to work through it and grow as an individual. Neither way condemns Sheldon as a person; it just explains more of what makes him tick, which is always a good thing to do with a character seven years into a show. Such delving will keep the series from growing stale and repetitive, something The Big Bang Theory has succeeded at more than most of its peers.

So what will happen to Sheldon now? Obviously he isn’t leaving the The Big Bang Theory, being by far the most popular character. Will he come back a changed man, better able to cope with what life throws at him and a new attitude? Or will he be the same old Sheldon, having just accepted a handful of things he cannot change? This is a question that should keep viewers mentally engaged through the summer. That, and how Amy (Mayim Bialik) will deal with the sabbatical.

While others are supportive of Sheldon’s decision, Amy is not. She sees his time of weakness as an opportunity to get her hooks into him deeper, and when he doesn’t cooperate with her, she is quite upset. I do think Sheldon could be quite happy with Amy if he would only give the relationship thing a real try, but Amy has every right to be upset, having saint-like patience (most of the time) with Sheldon thus far, and still being rebuked. When he eventually falls to her, her win will be well-earned. And while this paragraph may make their coupling sound creepy, it’s not; it’s the only way that stubborn Sheldon is capable of possibly experiencing romantic love.

One of the catalysts for Sheldon’s breakdown is Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) and Leonard’s engagement. This has been a long time coming, and after a number of false proposals, the final one ends up being the worst one yet. Still, it’s easy to be happy for the couple, who have found unlikely happiness in each other, and while it does seem a bit like Sheldon’s parents are leaving him, they deserve to start a life in which Sheldon isn’t around 24/7.

Speaking of parents, Leonard’s mother’s (Christine Baranski) reaction to the news is probably the funniest scene in “The Status Quo Combustion.” Things will never be solid between mom and son, but it’s enjoyable to watch their interactions. Thank goodness Leonard has friends who support him (usually), as anyone who came from a parent like that will have all kinds of self-esteem issues. It’s amazing Leonard has turned out as independent and confident as he has!

I really enjoy Stuart (Kevin Sussman) taking over as nurse to Howard’s mom (Carol Ann Susi). This solves the problem of Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) giving up their lives to take care of her, as clearly that would destroy their marriage. It also gives Stuart another important role in the series, hopefully keeping him coming back even more in the future. All is right for the Wolowitz family.

TBBT2All is also right for Raj (Kunal Nayyar), who finally has a steady girlfriend who is sweet, cute, funny, and enjoys sex with him. Raj is the perpetual loser on the show, second only to Stuart in his failings, and it’s gratifying that he’s come so far from where he started. All he needs is the right girl, and Emily (Laura Spencer) seems to be that for him, at least for now. Happy days!

It’s kind of interesting that Sheldon’s lowest point is basically everyone else’s highest. Yet, that’s the way of things; not everyone can be in a good place all the time. It’s been quite awhile since Sheldon was the worst off, and so it’s his turn. The way The Big Bang Theory allows such shifts and movements in its players is what keeps it fresh after seven years. Hopefully, it will continue this in the future, as it promises to be on the air for quite awhile to come.

The Big Bang Theory has been renewed for three more seasons, and will return next fall on CBS.

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