It’s time for our weekly dose of geek chic, America. I’m hoping The Big Bang Theory hits its stride soon, as the previous episodes have offered a good amount of laughs, and more than a few eye rolls. The laughs, for me, have come from the over the top intelligence of the 4 geek boys, who have cracked jokes about particle physics and waxed rhapsodic about comic book continuity. The eye rolls have come from the "been here, seen this" formula of giving a geek boy a crush on a pretty but ditzy blond.
After last week’s episode, which I enjoyed more than the pilot, I had high hopes for tonight, but I was sadly disappointed. I think part of this is because tonight’s episode centered on Leonard and Penny and left very little for the other characters to do. Which is not to say that they were not in the episode, but rather it seemed that their presence served no purpose to the story line. While Leonard was focused on Penny and getting a date with her, the boys played video games and showed up at a senior center dance class, with nary a decent debate in sight. There is a brief mention of Isaac Asimov’s "Three Laws of Robotics", but I think the writers gave up after mentioning two of them.
More annoying was how we started the show with Leonard swearing off Penny, again, after seeing her kissing another guy in the hallway. There shouldn’t be something so often repeated that it has become tiresome by the third episode. All the same, he decides to pursue someone more his own speed, a fellow researcher in his lab. It gives us a chance to see him with a former on-screen love, Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene Conner on Roseanne. But her part is too short, with not even 5 minutes screen time. She basically boils down his proposed "experiment" (i.e. date) into a single kiss, and nixes him on the spot. I think it would have been far more interesting to see their interaction play out over the course of an entire episode.
Instead, rejected twice in the first 10 minutes of the show, Leonard gets depressed and Sheldon grouses about having to endure listening to "tedious emo songs" until he gets over it. Are there emo songs that aren’t tedious? When Leonard decides to by a genetically engineered hypoallergenic kitten, Sheldon tries to convince him that an animal won’t be able to provide the affection he craves. Instead, this convinces Leonard to go next door and ask Penny out. And this is where we run into my biggest problem with the show.
Leonard suggests dinner at 6:30 and she agrees, but he nervously tells her she can change the time if she wants, offering "It’s not set in stone!" She smiles and assures him that 6:30 is fine and he jokes that’s he’ll go get his chisel. And she stares at him blankly for a moment before asking "What?" He stares at her for another moment before starting to explain "a chisel, to carve in the….never mind" and simply walks away. Now, I understand the girl is very pretty. But are they really saying that men are such primal creatures as to be completely enslaved to the social and cultural ideals of attractiveness that they are willing to overlook huge incompatibilities, such as intellect? Because, I’m sorry, a guy can look like Christian Bale with a cherry on top, but if he is a troglodyte, he is also sadly undateable.
As such, the dinner is predictably uncomfortable. Such as when Penny asks "What’s new in the world of physics?" and Leonard answers "um…nothing." Indeed. They attempt to go for a charming moment when Leonard tries to impress Penny with a table top trick for getting an olive into a glass without touching it. He overturns the glass on the olive and rotates it in a fast circle, creating enough inward directed force to cause the olive to climb the inner side of the glass, at which time he picks it up with the olive spinning inside. Penny grins and exclaims about him using centrifugal force and he corrects her, saying that it is actually centripetal force. But really, I am more amazed that she knew the term centrifugal at all.
Of course, this means they have been written into a black hole – and one not even a little man with a flashlight could find his way out of. So, the olive flies from the glass, Leonard ducks under the table to retrieve it and instead hits his head and gives himself a possible concussion. Which is the only reason I can think of to explain why he continues to find Penny so fascinating that when he arrives home and Sheldon asks him how his date went, he replies "Incredible!" with such enthusiasm. It must be brain damage.
What say you, fellow geek watchers? Is it high time for the writers to give Penny some dimension to explain why Leonard is so smitten with her, or are we to believe boobs conquer all?