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REVIEWS

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"The Celebration Experimentation"/S9E17

Posted on March 10, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao

EPISODE 200


This isn't the first time I've written about a milestone as momentous as the 200th episode. In fact, merely two years ago, How I Met Your Mother aired its 200th episode, and it was quite the victory. However, the greatness of "How Your Mother Met Me" was overshadowed by the polarization Carter Bays and Craig Thomas caused after the series finale. On the other hand, The Big Bang Theory played it cool with its 200th episode knowing that the decision to do something "big" for the show's 100th episode was acclaimed by both its fans and critics alike. "The Recombination Hypothesis" was truly an original way for the show to introduce Leonard and Penny's fate, but it side-stepped all the other main characters, throwing them forgettable jokes which the studio audience seemed to rather enjoy. This week, the spotlight shifted to Sheldon, which wasn't a complete surprise when you consider how much of a cultural juggernaut Jim Parsons' character has become.


Sheldon's child-like, arrogant, and often hilarious behavior has been slowly modeled by the writers over the years through his relationship with Amy, so whenever the show lets his awkward characteristics shine, it's still a treat for the audience. This week brought his fear of birthdays because of his sister, and while neither his sister nor his mother make guest appearances, it was great to watch the show look inward and give its viewers glimpses into how- despite his personality- Sheldon has such strong relationships with the show's characters, especially Penny. I have always enjoyed episodes which pitted them together, and their heart-to-heart in the bathroom was just the perfect amount of "sappy" the episode required. It reminded me of Rachel and Chandler's good-bye scene from Friends, especially when the writers decided not to drag out the dialogue and let the studio audience ruin the moment. That scene was truly the highlight from the episode, much like the knowing look Leonard and Penny gave each other towards the end of the "Recombination Hypothesis", and it was one which I will file in my mind as one of the deeper-level moments of the show.


Sheldon's emotional character isn't usually a matter straddled by the writers, and for the writers to have him emotionally struggle on a momentous occasion was certainly a refreshing change of pace. Usually, the writers like to have him nag at the rest of the cast in order to generate a row of laughter from the studio audience. However, they do provide us with rare glimpses into him really living his childhood experiences through his mother. Without his mother there this week, the entire plot could have been a disaster, but the inclusion of Penny's pep-talk in the bathroom not only nudged at the close relationship they have, but also the implicit proximity between Penny and Sheldon's mother. It was a unique way to handle Sheldon's tantrum without relying on an overused tool.

 

On the note of Sheldon's mother, she wasn't the only no-show at Sheldon's party. The show decided not to fish through its past nine seasons and bring out every guest star they could. Rather. it chose to shrewdly include the ones with whom Sheldon had a notable relationship, as that was the primary theme of the entire episode. The inclusions of Leonard's mother, Barry Kripke, and Wil Wheaton were accompanied by jokes which most of the audiences would have recognized, but the writers did give its older fans a treat when they brought back Sara Gilbert as a small gesture which lightly polarized its audience and gave its older seasons a little more publicity. In my books, that's a win-win situation, especially when you consider the lack of B-plots to distract us away from the characters with whom Sheldon heavily interacted.


Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

- "You mention his birthday, and he vanishes?" "Where's that information been this whole time?"

- "Okay, we're on the clock here, sweetie! Can you hate yourself and frost at the same time? Birthday party first, pity party later!"

- "What's an Affleck?"

- "Wil Wheaton in the bathtub, batman on the toilet, it'll be like the weirdest Comic Con ever."

- "Hello, some of us need to check our hair because we might have a shot with Leonard's mother!"



"The Empathy Optimization"/S9E13

Posted on January 15, 2016 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Tradition has it that each new year brings about a new set of resolutions, composed partially of previously unattended resolutions and a few newer ones. The Big Bang Theory also has a very interesting tradition about the first few episodes of any year: Sheldon has to learn a lesson and change for the course of a single episode. Last year, Sheldon employed his relationship with Amy to drive his anxiety levels in order to work more efficiently, and it really felt like a drop of rain in the drought of the show's eighth season. However, this year, Sheldon's transformative half-hour seems to lack in quality in comparison to the enriched and hilarious episodes of the show's ninth season.


That's not to say that The Empathy Optimization is a poor half-hour of television, but when it is placed besides the episodes of this season, it lacks in plot development and comedy. For instance, instead of giving the audience a fresh page to view, the writers opted for a joke that- much like Raj's selective mutism- has lost its charm over the years. Sheldon's boorish behavior in relation to the other characters was usually a central joke in the show's early days; however, as the writers started to metamorphosize Sheldon, they decided to use that angle less frequently as the principle catalyst for a plot. In that respect, tonight's round of Sheldon's apologies, combined with his hostile behavior towards Emily, serves as a reminder that despite the show's decision to have its breakout character evolve, it will always have episodes like this in its wheelhouse, as a tribute to its yesteryears.


The plot tonight was simple: Sheldon had been annoying everyone while he was sick, and in turn everyone decided to take a break from him. The simplicity of the story was reminiscent of previous sitcom hits such as Friends or Everybody Loves Raymond, especially when the comedic timing and the flexibility of the plot to be stretched out are taken into consideration. Not every show could have elongated Sheldon's apologies, his distributing of t-shirts, and his incompetence to Emily, but on The Big Bang Theory, the writers make the story nimble enough to engulf an entire episode.  


Grade: B 

Stray Observations:

- "I hope laughter is the best medicine, because this care package is a joke!"

- "Detroit is beautiful when it's sleeting!"

- They still have the periodic table shower curtain! 

 

- Scrubs taught me that dermatologists aren't real doctors, especially with Dr. Cox's long rants on the subject.

- "And there's your next t-shirt!"

- "Wait! I'm a pain in the ass too!"



"The Sales Call Sublimation"/S9E12

Posted on January 8, 2016 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


The challenge to maintain consistent levels of continuity, maturity, and depth in a season is usually one at which most sitcoms fail, including The Big Bang Theory. However, all the aired episodes this season have maintained plot structures which fall under a unanimous wavelength; the audience can finally see an overall plot of the season. Frankly, while I was watching tonight's episode, I couldn't help but think at how much of an improvement this season's plotlines are in comparison to season eight's, which was a major dissapointment after the "golden years" of seasons five, six, and seven. The show's ninth season focuses more on the real issues in the plot and ties up all the loose ends season eight left behind. 


Tonight's episode focuses on the natures and dynamics of the relationships which populate the show. The theme of the episode truly impressed me when it presented romantic, parental, and platonic relationships rather than having the romantic ones steal all the screen time. The different relationships also provided a much-needed change of pace from all the Shamy excitement with which the writers filled the holiday season, even though all those episodes made enormous leaps in their relationship which had reached a dreaded point of stagnation last year. Another reason why this episode worked well was because it provided an even distribution of screen time to all the characters. The three plotlines brought various underlying issues to light, and the incredible wrap-up of the characters being nostalgic illustrated it very well while maintaining an air of comedy due to the final shot of Leonard's sheer joy.


All the different types of relationships aren't just mutually exclusive: they are all webbed together neatly, which places the show closer to reality. The romantic nature of relationships is the dominant one in the plot involving Leonard and Penny; however, in the Howard-Bernadette and Raj-Sheldon plots, it serves as a catalyst to propel the two plots forward. Similarly, the dynamic of friendship is the primary driver of the Raj-Sheldon plot, providing the audience with rare moments of these two interacting while keeping Sheldon as the boor he truly is. The friendship angle is incorporated very subtly in the Leonard-Penny plot as the main catalyst for the discussion of their marriage. This discussion tackles both romantic and parental fronts, the latter of which is portrayed in Howard and Bernadette's screen time after Stuart finally moves out.


This complex web the writers wove could have easily led to a lackluster episode; however, the writers managed to neatly tie all the various aspects of the episode together. This episode may seem as a filler episode, but its true purpose is to add nuances to the primary foci of this season: Shamy's intimacy, Leonard and Penny's marriage, and Howard and Bernadette's possible step into parenthood.


Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

- "Aww, you always know just what to say after I tell you what to say!"

- Leonard: "Did you try wearing the shirt I said was inappropriate for work?" Penny: "The doctor's a woman, but, yes, 'cause you never know."

- "I just have never been in this room while you're awake..."

- "Look at that: an Indian guy outsourcing a computing job to a white fella!"

- "It appears romantic, but it's really just a rock in space that gets me out of Valentine's Day forever."

- "I used to wear tank tops a lot. That was a big selling point!"

- Penny's best quality as an actress: "doable".



"The Earworm Reverberation"/"The Opening Night Excitation"/S9E10-11

Posted on December 18, 2015 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Often, there is so much progress that occurs over the course of a couple of episodes that the audience has to take a refractory period to process the plot progression and understand it as an integral part of a show. Earworm and Opening Night could almost be a two-parter episode simply because of the primarily Shamy-driven plots of the two episodes. The decision to have the couple's reunion be the winter finale was an odd one, especially since it definitely has the potential to act as a season-ender. However, I commend the writers for having their physical act coincide with the premiere of The Force Awakens as it deepens the gravity of Sheldon's decision. Had they aired the plot alongside a regular comical plot it would have been just as exciting; however, the meaning behind the act would have diminished. By Sheldon sacrificing the movie, the writers epitomized his metamorphosis, and the studio audience's reaction to Shamy's post-coitus expressions was apt.


The stakes were high with the latter of the two episodes. Everyone knew that the couple would eventually get back together after Sheldon rejecting Amy last week, but the fans who had been waiting for almost five years would have been rather distraught had their time apart not have an effect on the dynamic in the relationship. While watching The Earworm Reverberation, I admired the structure of the episode, but after Shamy's long make-out session, I questioned what the writers' next move was. By coupling their reunion with coitus, the writers ensured that the audience wouldn't be disappointed and that they could retain a facade of knowing the direction of the show. The word facade does undermine the writers' abilities to tie the season together, but as the past has indicated, the show is usually lost after making a game-changing move. The only exception to this rule was the fifth season opener, where Penny and Raj made peace with the drunken mistake committed, and Penny finally rejoined the group around the coffee table. This time, the writers can either have 2016 begin centered around Shamy, or have them side-stepped and remind the audience that each character is important in their eyes, especially since the last two seasons haven't been kind to Raj, Howard, or Bernadette.


The B-plots in both episodes weren't mutually exclusive from the A-plots, thus the episodes retained their fluidity, and the action of the two episodes wasn't undermined through the use of irrelevant, filler comedy. One might argue that the release of Star Wars should have been saved for another time, maybe even a flashback, but by coupling it with Shamy's "opening night", the writers beautifully paralleled the reactions of the characters basked in awe and hope. The Big Bang Theory ends on a high this year, and may the second half of the season continue forward using great comedy, strong continuity, and developmental creativity.


Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

- Sheldon's analysis of Darlin' is simply him finally realizing what everyone has been telling him over the past few episodes.

- Dave's admiration of Sheldon continues to make me laugh hysterically.

- I like the tradition of Professor Proton appearing as Sheldon's subconscious therapist.

- Star Wars vs Star Trek: the never-ending battle.

- "I look forward to your next birthday when we do it again." "That works for me!"



"The Platonic Permutation"/S9E9

Posted on November 20, 2015 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Last May, when Amy finally ended things with Sheldon, it generated an interesting method to end a season: utter silence and shock. That iconic scene was paralleled tonight when Sheldon rejected Amy's advances. In both cases, Sheldon's witty remarks made no waves with the studio audience as it was silenced. The latter may have only been a minute long, but it completely changed the audience's opinion of the episode: all those jokes and zingers no longer matter, only the final product did.


On the surface, The Platonic Permutation seems like an innocent Thanksgiving episode analogous to the popular ones aired by Friends; however, after the final scene, the context of the plot and the jokes seems to shift towards a more progressive one in relation to the season's plots. This doesn't take away from the impeccable jokes neatly buried in the episode along with the episode's fluidity, but it side-steps them as mere accessories to the volta in the dynamic of Shamy. Their chemistry during the visit to the aquarium is undeniable, and the eventual natural flow of their conversations remind us of the "golden years" when they worked well as a "couple". After Amy's terrible date which eventually brought Sheldon back in full-circle into her life, it was only natural for the writers to have her finally accept him, oblivious of his impending proposal. By creating the following dynamic where Amy is more invested than Sheldon, the writers have opened up the arc to Sheldon coming back to Amy, which is beautifully symmetric. This open-endedness of the episode bodes well for the writers, unlike last week when they closed the door on a possible arc that might have given us some great comedy.


If we take a step back from Sheldon and Amy's situation, we can observe how well the comedy has been arranged in that there a smaller voltas in focus that mirror the major change in Shamy's dynamic. With Leonard and Penny, it was a simple shift of who's the one at fault in the marriage. Yes, the idea is quite simple; however, the reveal of Penny's birthday makes it worthy, as well as the final scene with Leonard dancing for Penny when everyone walks in for Thanksgiving dinner. The playful back-and-forth of the story makes the episode flow freely, and makes the episode seem harmless when, in reality, it involves an enormous shift in the tectonic plates of the show. Another aspect which distracts the audience from the larger plot progressions is the array of zingers that Howard had under his belt tonight. All of his comments, whether aimed at Bernadette or Raj, were reminiscent of Ray Romano, and the volume of laughs he received was just a vindication of his talent at delivering his lines impeccably. 


Grade: A

Stray Observations:

- Lines like "If you can't support me when I'm lying, then why are we married?" and "Six hours? I don't want to complain for that long!" sound like they were directly inspired by  Everybody Loves Raymond.

- "If there were a list of things that made me more comfortable, 'lists' would be on the top of that list."

- "This reminds me of highschool! I was in India: it was humid and smelt funny!"

- "Just because you have that accent, doesn't mean what you say isn't stupid!"

- "You mixed them! No wonder gentleman calls are knocking on your door!" 

- "I don't want people to see this! I don't even want to see this!"



"The Mystery Date Observation"/S9E8

Posted on November 13, 2015 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


It's strange to think that a few years ago Howard and Raj put Sheldon up on a dating site as a joke and introduced Amy Farrah Fowler into our lives. Amy was the last character to join the show's updated roster in 2010, but she has definitely brought about some major changes in the dynamic of the show, and this episode heavily indicates how Amy changed Sheldon, the breakout character and one of the primary foci of the show. Looking back at the original Sheldon we were introduced to, one would have never guessed that he would voluntarily search for a female companion. However, here we are, nine years in, and Sheldon wants to find a new girlfriend since his love for Amy will never be fulfilled. 


The romantic gear is heavily employed in tonight's episode, with both Sheldon and Amy venturing into different relationships to get over each other. It's a change from the use of both the scientific and romantic gears, but it certainly is welcome: the "golden years" of seasons five, six, and seven heavily focused on the relationships which held the show together. These two plots occur almost mutually exclusive: there isn't much interaction except the initial scene when Sheldon tells Leonard and Penny of his plan. However, even though they don't tie together, the two plots seem almost perfect for each other, much like Sheldon and Amy, as they bring about the failures the two have when they try to find others to fill the void.


As I said before, Sheldon employing Howard and Raj to find him a girlfriend is uncovered turf for the writers. Thus, watching the guys construct the quiz to entice women and looking at how Sheldon reacted when someone showed up were actually entertaining. It wasn't a recurring joke that was less funny than when it had originally aired: it was a fresh joke, and the reactions elicited weren't partially due to nostalgia. They were due to the sheer comic ingenuity of the writers combined with the impeccable delivery of the actors. These moments were sparse last season, and it eventually lead to the show missing out on their usual Golden Globes nominations. However, the writers weren't entirely at fault: season eight didn't fall into the "glory years" only because it was a rebuilding year, much like the fourth season of the show. Season eight's primary goal was to appease the dwindling original fanbase without turning the new fans off the show.


Now that the writers have more experience on handling more than one gear, this season can run a lot more smoother, and with a more defined general plot. However, that doesn't make the results perfect. In relation to tonight's episode, Sheldon's reaction to dismiss Vanessa was predictable. but I would've preffered that Sheldon at least give her a shot instead of dismissing her because she missed some deadline. The Vanessa-Sheldon arc would have been an interesting parallel to the Amy-Dave segment that aired tonight. The irony in their date was delicious enough that the writers stretched it without any fear as the jokes were often coupled with Mayim Bialik's phenomenal expressions or a sneaky Bernadette walking in the background. The Bernadette-Penny segment is less of a plot and more of an accent on Amy's date, thus it is reasonable to consider them as the larger plot of tonight's episode. The side jokes involving Bernadette's spying skills were mildly entertaining, but there were some great lines packaged in that made a big difference, much like the punch lines that propelled Everybody Loves Raymond.


Grade: B+

Stray Observations: 

- "I need a new woman in my life to ignore so I can hyper-focus again!"

- "No one bought me drinks at a bar just because my brain just popped out of my shirt!"

- Sheldon: "People compete for jobs and trophies. Why not me?" 

- Raj: "I'm actually jealous of the people who get to do it." Howard: "Me too! And we've seen the prize!"

- "That's why I left England. It reminded me too much of her: cold, gloomy, and easily accessed by a French man through a tunnel."

- "One minute is a long time." "I've been telling that to women for 20 years!"

 


"The Spock Resonance"/S9E7

Posted on November 7, 2015 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Watching Sheldon walk away from Amy's building without any live studio audience sounds was an unforgettable image. This arc of him being separated from Amy is unlike any other television breakup, i.e. Sheldon doesn't need to find himself. This separation serves as his realization that he was truly happy with Amy, and this episode climaxes with him storming out and putting on human feelings: a trait which the writers have only recently tapped into. It's a very heavy subject to put at the forefront of an episode of a sitcom, but with practice The Big Bang Theory has improved its inclusion of drama into a traditional sitcom narrative. This week's episode, while being funny, carried a lot of weight due to the emotions the writers decided to play around with, not only in the A-plot, but also with the subplot of Howard and Bernadette's future, where Bernadette angrily confesses the real reason why she's delaying her pregnancy.


The confession of Sheldon's frustration was unravelled elegantly, with the writers wrapping it around an interview for a documentary (which is actually being shot currently). Had the episode not slowly build up to Sheldon's loud denial, I would have never appreciated the raw emotion Jim Parsons brought to the screen tonight. The show has often focused on Sheldon and his quirks, but for once they've focused on a key aspect which highlights his growth. I commend the writers for tonight's show not just for the emotion portrayed in the A-plot, but the underlying emotions hidden in the comedy of the B-plot.


Bernadette and Howard haven't had many changes in their marriage since 2012. The idea of children was brought up when Howard performed as a magician, but then never popped up again. The writers finally decided to bring the couple's future on the tracks and discuss it while dissecting Sheldon's repressed anger and frustration. What seemed as an innocent argument between the couple over renovating the house turned into a talk between them about parenthood and the unknown. In the past, the show has failed to provide the audience with raw emotion in relation to Howard and Bernadette's marriage due to the limelight usually shining on the two power couples. So, with the writers catching them up to the growth the other characters experienced, I was impressed at the handling of the delicate plotline. Furthermore, we got another set of scenes with Bernadette's father, which are always a treat to watch!


The Big Bang Theory has evolved over its eight-year run, and the ride has been enjoyable due to the writers being fearless and making changes in the series. Some of my favorite changes were to start including small bits of drama as forms of punctuation and reduce the wilderness of the live studio audience. These improvements have enabled the show to grow and claim the title as television's number one comedy, and episodes like these are the ones which make me believe that the show is worth all the acclaim and success its received.


Grade: A

Stray Observations:

- "This is a documentary about Mr. Spock. I'm sure if there's nudity, it will be tasteful."

- "It's not everyday I get to meet someone whose life's journey began in my hero's scrotum."

- Howard: "When is your visa up?"

- Sheldon hid all the Pop-Tarts in the floor safe because Penny was eating them all.

- Bernadette's tap-dance: "EARTHQUAKE! AFTERSHOCK!"

- The comic timing of Bernadette's father walking in the dining room as Howard is trying to seduce her is fantastic. 

- "Those are very wide words. It would be so much more comforting if they came out a television." 



"The Helium Insufficiency"/S9E6

Posted on October 26, 2015 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


The Big Bang Theory used to be known for its scientific, nerdy nature in the initial seasons; however, as time went by and the cast was expanded to include more women, the focus of the show shifted to the relationships between the main characters. This volta lead to a multitude of complaints from the show's original audience stating that the show had sold out since its primary focus was no longer the unique characteristics of scientists but rather the different arcs of the relationships of the show. Faced with the threat of losing their fanbase, the writers immediately switched gears in the eighth season to include both scientific and romantic ventures of the characters; however, the quality of the comedy and the plotlines was compromised. 


This entire back-and-forth of the fans and the writers has produced the string of episodes of this season which are certainly an improvement from the eighth season, but they also give the show fans from both sci-fi and rom-com genres, much like Taylor Swift did when she released her album Red in 2012. However, unlike Swift, the writers for The Big Bang Theory aren't being reprimanded for including different sensibilities into the episodes. Rather, this season vindicates the versatility of the writers, and this episode is an epitome.


The main plot and subplot fall into the sci-fi and rom-com categories respectivelty. The former involved Leonard and Sheldon venturing into the black market for liquefied Helium while the latter was a commentary on the increasing popularity of Tinder. Theoretically, the merging of two plots so different into a cohesive half-hour sitcom episode seems unlikely; however, The Big Bang Theory knows exactly how to hit the nail both comically and in relation to the pertinence of the season's plot. Both the plots and the comedy involved fit aptly into the show, as the writers kept the big picture for the season in mind while constructing this episode. It was brilliantly executed, and the types of comedy integrated only helped their case that this show is ready to keep one foot in the rom-com genre and another in the sci-fi.


Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

- "How many questions is 'too many questions'?"

- "If you lose the game, you have to go out with Stuart."

- "If you wanted me to stay out late, you should've given me more spending money."

- "If he's good in bed, she can throw him a fish!"

- "You being related to a metal container explains a lot."

- Michael Rapaport was hilarious tonight as he was on Friends.





Brooklyn Nine Nine: "Halloween III"/S3E5

Posted on October 26, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn't your conventional cop-comedy involving a terribly fat cop eating donuts, drinking coffee, and making bad decisions: the show instead plays on how the intellectual can have various nuances to their characters. A fine example to this stand-out trait of the show is its trio of Halloween episodes involving challenges that are almost impossible to overcome, and it always involves a multitude of background action that is eventually explained after a victor has emerged. The formula almost seems repetitive, but each year the writers manage to change the supporting actor's roles in the eventual heist to ensure that the audience has a different experience each time a Halloween episode airs. However, when the third installment of the show's Halloween special came by, it did pose a problem: how could this year's heist be different from previous years' when there can only be two possible victors? 


A: They used all the character development they've nicely sandwiched over the past year, most of which involved Amy and Jake's relationship. Placing Amy as both Peralta and Hoult's enemy was a smooth move by the writers, along with the formation of teams reminiscent of high school gym class. The plan itself is brilliant, to provide an alternate perspective of how the heist was done, but the one problem that lingers from within is how the characters seem to be so predictable to others in the show. The halloween episodes may be entertaining, but the sequence of events combined with the logic employed doesn't produce real results. This largely contrasts with the show's comedic view on the serious job of a police precinct which doesn't cliché the characters. 


The back-and-forth in relation to possesion of the crown was the show at its finest, as the jokes inserted were both intellectual and self-aware of the time period in which these episodes air. The idiosyncrasies were as they've always been, and I like it that way, simply because it brings the show closer to "iconic" status. For instance, Gina's constant condescending of her co-workers is analogous to Phoebe's odd beliefs and thoughts on Friends.


Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

- Boyle has an emergency costume in his car. And they say he has no Halloween spirit!

- "After zero consideration, I'm happy to say, 'Hard Pass!'"

- "If I die, turn my tweets into a book!" - Gina Linetti

- I love that handshake between Hoult and Terry!

- "Why does the word 'who' even exist if I'm not even allowed to say it?"

- Kudos to the writers for placing that Nadia twist at the end. 



"The Perspiration Implementation"/S9E5

Posted on October 19, 2015 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao 


It will take a while for Sheldon and Amy's breakup to officially sink in and not be a principal theme running in the episodes primarily because they were one of the two power couples which have received the significant amount of media coverage. This week's episode once again places the breakup at the forefront of the A-plot and the subplot,  with some significant results as to how the two are struggling to move on from each other. This season is already showin various signs of improvement from last season's lackluster overall plot: the writers seem more informed about what changes each character needs, much like how they shaped the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons. Those three seasons were the show at its finest hour, as the characters were more dynamic and the comedy included was apt. The writers had lost that last season when they tried to reprise the scientific and nerdy aspects that dominated its earlier seasons. While the episodes still need a lot of polishing before a perfect equilibrium between the newfound comedy and original characteristics is found, the writers have upped the ante with the inclusion of both elements this season, and tonight's episode is no exception. 


The idea that Barry Kripke would be the one to ask Amy out had never occurred to me, but having Stuart do the same was good planning on the writers' end, considering his loneliness and the one date he had with Amy when Sheldon officially became her boyfriend. The tie-in of the subplot with the main plot doesn't actually happen until deep into the episode, but the signs of Stuart creeping on Amy are present throughout the half-hour as the ladies dissect exactly why the comic book store, even after regeneration, hasn't really seen many female customers. The subplot explores all the behind-the-scenes action involving Stuart's creepy and awkward behavior. The idea of Stuart's social awkwardness hasn't been explored much during the show's run due to the guys trying to escape their shells. However, now that their metamorphosis has reached fruition, the writers have finally turned to Stuart for that form of comedy. The reason why this plot works is that this type of comedy hasn't been overused for the past few years, thus the audience actually finds it funny. Had this plot aired during the time of Raj's selective mutism, it would have bombed due to the repetitiveness of the comedic style at the time. The choice of airing the subplot this week and the timing is a vindication of the writers' shrewdness of when to include certain jokes in the show. 


The A-plot takes on the athletic abilities of the guys, another comedic style which hasn't been explored much since the show started to invest its airtime into the couples. It also included a glimpse into Howard and Bernadette's marriage, which hasn't really received much attention after the wedding. The entire plot revolved around fencing lessons with Barry Kripke, the humor the guys' nerdiness added to the experience, and how eventually the A-plot tied in with the subplot of the episode. The humor included this week wasn't too heavy, which made the overall episode feel light although the writers were working with forces which could move the entire current focus of the show. The fleetingness of the plot and the smooth running into the Cooper-Kripke argument was another indication that writers are more in control of their thoughts on the show and the direction its heading in. While the audience doesn't know if the writers will get Sheldon and Amy to get back together, it is aware that the writers have a plan as to how the show will handle the gigantic tectonic movement in its dynamic.


Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

- Sheldon: "You had me at flag, lost me at football."

- Raj: "I'm here because I thought it would be like Game of Thrones."

- "That doctor didn't insult your honor; he just checked your prostate."

- "My name is Darth Vader. I am your father. Prepare to die!"

- "I told the weird owner that I liked his shirt: he took it off and gave it to me."

- I love how the show immediately cut to credits when Howard's cheating mechanism was caught.



Brooklyn Nine Nine:"The Oolong Slayer"/S3E4

Posted on October 18, 2015 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Television is a very interesting medium as it often opens up the possibility of commercialization, i.e. merchandise. As a show moves forward and hits a certain season, it begins to gain a certain following. This following may or may not be interested in official merchandise, but the fans of a show can often quote lines from various episodes, remember plotlines vaguely, and even allude to the show sporadically. The first two are the results of the writers' out-of-the-box thinking and detail-orientedness while the latter comes from how much exposure the show gets. There are often many shows with impeccable writing and contemporary jokes that miss out on being astronomical simply because they aren't aired on one of the Big Four networks. For instance, had Friends not been broadcast on NBC back in '94, a lot of things would have changed simply because the show wouldn't have been able to reach the audience it currently still has. Even Full House, which aired on ABC back in the day, eventually got cancelled simply because the actors didn't wish to down-step the channel on which it was being aired. While it left many fans upset that the show never received a proper conclusion and well-written conclusion, it was a smart choice due to the lack of national coverage offered by the CW in the 90s.


Brooklyn Nine-Nine is currently on Fox, the same network which has brought us the hilarious Simpsons for almost 30 years now. When considering the success of Nine-Nine's neighbour on Sundays, the show may seem overshadowed by the three-decade-long household names. Furthermore, the two shows, regardless of their format, are placed in the same genre of television: sitcoms. Nine-Nine, while being a great show with impeccable timing and great characters, hasn't been able to make its breakthrough yet. There hasn't been that one episode where we finally can see the show has finally been transformed into a large show like Cheers or How I Met Your Mother. So, al the episodes which Andy Samberg and his team have worked so hard on, seem to be a premature phase of the show, i.e. a phase during which the show perserveres endlessly to gain a following like larger shows. (I recall https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31QZg2c6v4Q" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Ellen Pompeo mentioning how initially many scenes were strategically placed in order to reel the Grey's Anatomy fans in.)  


Needless to say that Nine-Nine is doing a great job, and this episode, once the show hits it big, will be one which its audience will fondly look back on a little ways down the road, especially considering how it breaks the temporary displacement like when Monica and Rachel re-acquired their apartment in Friends. The episodes which start and end a major change are always memorable, and this week's Nine-Nine is no exception. The pairing of Peralta and Hoult and Gina's constant interruptions make for a hilarious and nostalgic A-plot which culminated in a moment which portrayed that while Peralta is an immature and insensitive boor on the outside, he is actually a genuinely good person. Moments like these are why I love sitcoms so much: they give the characters a good amount of depth for an acceptable amount of time. The rest of the episode, as is with any Nine-Nine episode, had some hilarious moments, but those were interspliced with a few emotional scenes like when Santiago and Diaz were watching the Vulture play in his band. I actually remember those moments more than I remember the funniest jokes cracked throughout the half-hour of television. Moments that rise above the comedy and make us think differently are exactly why I'll never give up on sitcoms, even though a large chunk of them aren't really doing anything great with their plotlines right now...


Grade: A

Stray Observations:

- "What do you say we make like Boyle's mom and you debrief me?"

- "Terry loves responsible agricultural practices!"

- "I will skraight-up skedaddle with no further a-do-do."

- "Now I'm feeling objectified by your male gaze!"

- "You only get one shot at your brother's widow."

- Breakthrough selfie! (PS: It was great to see how tolerant Hoult was to Peralta's ideas this week.)




Brooklyn Nine Nine: "Boyle's Hunch"/S3E3

Posted on October 13, 2015 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Why do we expect television shows to have a perfect run of A-grade episodes? I find it unreasonable to expect every single episode of a season be perfect, especially since that would create a form of monotony. I know that it may seem contradictory, but I strongly support a television show that has a few dips in quality over the season because those are the episodes that make up appreciate the better ones. Otherwise, you would have people say that a specific show was good, but when asked about a recommended episode, they wouldn't be able to conceive of one.


In the case of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, there haven't been many major disappointments, but there have been a few sub-par episodes that give the show a more grounded feeling than others. As a television critic, I find it easier to review episodes it you have a handfull of them of different qualities and structures, which is why I liked reviewing How I Met Your Mother. Was every episode right on and concise? No, but the several little details instilled in them and the areas of improvement were always a treat to mention. With Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it isn't a piece of cake because the writers' ideas usually flow so easily that con converting the visual media into words was a little difficult for me.


That's why tonight's episode is significant to me as a writer: it represents a change, a slight downfall, and a chance for me to elaborate on how the episode could be improved. Think of the situation like going to an academic advisor with a few doubts versus visiting the advisor with a plethora of questions. As far as I am concerned, if I were to this advisor getting only students from the former category, I would be bored and would feel slightly unwanted. However, with a balance of students from both categories, I would be happy with what I was doing because my job would be interesting. Tonight's episode fits the latter category since it's not perfect, unlike a good portion of episodes from Nine Nine. This week's punchline was Boyle going "full Boyle": an idea the show has explored before. The idea of Boyle's unorthodox imagining of romance was funny for the first two seasons of the show, but now that the show has started its metamorphosis into a show that's staying for a while, Boyle needs to transform before his punchline starts to grow old, much like Raj's selective mutism over at The Big Bang Theory.


Having a weak punchline for the A-plot of a show leads to an episode being on shaky grounds due to the majority of screen-time being devoted to something that turns the audience away from the episode. Furtunately, for Nine Nine, Andy Samberg, whose puerile energy has never stopped being fascinating and humorous, is almost always in the A-plot, thus intersplicing daunting material with slight bursts of humor like he did when he was a regular at SNL. I may want Boyle to change and be "normal", but Peralta as a character is eerily similar to Joey on Friends in that they both have a charm even though their maturity levels are stagnant throughout the run of the show. However, what actually makes these characters likeable is the moments when the comedy is actually side-stepped and their maturity is put on display. Those are the moments I enjoy the most, so when Peralta tried to console Boyle towards the end of the episode, the audience doesn't care for all the jokes he makes at Boyle's expense, they only focus on how he truly cares for him. 


With the subplots this week, they were the show at its finest because they were reminiscent of the small moments I recall from the opening season. Rosa's anger issues, Santiago's nature, and Gina's sass are all elements that made them who they were, and while I was discouraging Boyle's static character traits, these ones are better since the audience has had moments when the three women were out of their element. For instance, Rosa's relationship with Marcus is mentioned in passing, and it really is a testament to how multifaceted she truly is. As for Gina and Santiago, we didn't get to enjoy any new character traits, but their typical natures were apt for the plot they were written into tonight. Unfortunately, their plot had a lot going on, especially with Hoult apologizing to Gina, and often felt to steal the main plot's thunder. I wouldn't mind having the roles reversed, but with an overpowering subplot and a sub-par A-plot, the episode didn't feel like Nine Nine in its element...


Grade: B

Stray Observations:

- "She eats octopus balls, and she sleeps on the floor: She's the perfect woman!"

- "Let's get an unbiased opinion from your straight-up swimfan!"

- "What's step two?" "Tell their widows they were thieves."

- "Dem knight boobies is crazy!"

- "They didn't even put a comma between 'Die' and 'Pig'!"

- "Once again, my advice has, like, saved the city!"

 


"The 2003 Approximation"/S9E4

Posted on October 12, 2015 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


The idea of moving in with one's significant other and leaving one's friend has been widely covered by television. For instance, way back in 1998, Friends aired an episode in which Rachel and Monica struggled to part ways in order for Monica to live with Chandler. The episode revolved around Rachel's denial and how she was making the transition difficult. An almost identical A-plot runs this week on The Big Bang Theory, with only the gender roles being reversed. While Rachel made it hard on Monica on the night before she was supposed to move out, Sheldon does this after his former roommate leaves. He handles his pain in a very early Sheldon method by placing himself at a time when he was devoid of emotion. 


The early seasons of any show are always deemed the most memorable as the episodes aired were the ones which caught the eyes of the viewers which remain with the show during its decade-long run. Nowadays, it is much more difficult to obtain a loyal fanbase, but The Big Bang Theory has managed quite well to form a fanbase which truly cares about the characters on the show. That's why each and every move the show makes, especially after its expansion to include Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, has an impact on television. Thus, the decision to separate Amy and Sheldon mustn't have been an easy one, but nonetheless it was one which did have a large impact on the show's audience, especially when considering the angry Tumblr posts. The frustration experienced by the Sheldon during the breakup returns as Leonard has now chosen to "abandon" him in order to live with his wife. Even though Sheldon is irrational, Jim Parsons does a great job by getting the audience to sympathize with him and forget all the negativity he inflicted on Leonard over the past few years. Tonight's episode was another example of why Parsons deserves his Emmy awards for Sheldon: it's not his robotic enunciation that puts him over-the-top; it's the episodes when he plays a frustrated Sheldon with a slight drizzle of emotions. 


As far as talent is concerned, the B-plot certainly displayed Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg's vocals as they wrote a "filk" song. The concept of Thor VS Indiana Jones is reminiscent of the show's earlier days, when sci-fi references were a staple. Now, they serve as an indication that while these characters have certainly evolved, they will always have the sci-fi knowledge that once characterized them. Furthermore, I enjoyed having a Howard-Raj interaction without any sarcastic remarks from the former. Howard has turned into The Big Bang Theory's version of Chandler from Friends, i.e. he frequently uses sarcasm to condescend the other characters. While I'm most certainly not against using Simon Helberg's impeccable delivery of sarcasm, I do enjoy the episodes where his friendship with the other characters is at the forefront, not his humor. It is once again reminiscent of the show's earlier days, a theme which is prevalent throughout the stellar episode. 


Grade: A

Stray Observations:

- "You know what they don't sell at the container store? Something large enough to contain my disappointment!"

- "I like all kinds of music, but my favorite genre is free": Taylor Swift respectfully disagrees. 

- "Remember the Arc of the Covenant? That's how much we're going to melt people's faces off."

- "I would say it was a happier time, but I was disengaged from my feelings. So, who can tell?"

- "You really shoulda gone on the internet and checked how long that kinda thing lives before you got one."

- Raj's Indian accent isn't forced! Yes, Kunal Nayyar's Accent Is Real!

- "Thor and Dr. Jones! Thor and Dr. Jones! One plays with lightning; the other plays with bones! One runs from Loki, the other runs from stones!"



Brooklyn Nine Nine: "Funeral"/S3E2

Posted on October 6, 2015 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


I often muse at the idea of television as a medium for communication. On one hand, it offers impeccable entertainment and moments to which we can deeply relate. On the other hand, there's a great number of entertainment slots that offers its audience content that's derivative and puerile, which undermines the audience. The funny thing is that more often than not sitcoms would be more engaging to our brains than dramas with serious overtones. I think that the latter genre of entertainment often crosses the limits of reality and enters a region of imagination that is trivial and irrelevant. During those moments, television is mocked and belittled, and what I passionately do each week is mocked subtly by comedy sketch shows like Saturday Night Live. It's hard to work under circumstances where people often view what you're doing as a "waste of time". According to a large portion of my friends, I dissect scenes, put the broken pieces into a bigger picture, and ruin the fun for them. As far as I am concerned, every time I write a review, I feel like I've learned something about television or about writing through the mistakes I make. What you're currently reading is the final product, but en route to this piece is a plethora of tiny mistakes which include, but are not limited to, typos, hitting two keys at once, writing non-sequiters, and grammatical errors. 


While watching tonight's effort put forth by the writers at Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I was trying to imagine this episode in the master plan of the show. Ever since How I Met Your Mother's polarized ending, I have been placing all the little elements in random episodes into the big picture, and it really helps me in understanding the creative direction the writers choose whenever the show meets a forked road. As far as this season of Nine Nine is concerned, I am considering it as the one which will stand out when the show eventually has its own legacy for a number of vital reasons but mainly because it is the one where the writers decided to shake things up, i.e. the one where the show caught up to modern trends and offered its audience some fresh material, especially since the string of ending episodes last season were weak: they simply involved the awkwardness between Amy and Jake while also indulging the audience in an interesting back-and-forth between Wunch and Hoult. 


This season continued exactly where the last one left out, but instead of having things run slowly, this season offers a change of pace with a rapidly changing atmosphere of the show. We are still confused as to how Hoult will work his way back to his home, but we do know that the journey to get there will be a significant part of this season. What I commend the writers for this week is keeping the ongoing chemistry between Hoult and Peralta and not ditching it for an awkward "reunion" with a former colleague. Had that been the case, I would have immediately lost interest and assumed that the rest of the episode would tank. Fortunately, the pair's chemistry was as great as it was initially, but with this episode, the audience relishes it because it knows that the future episodes may or may not contain the light-hearted banter from Peralta complimented by the grave tone of Hoult. With the episode turning a cheek and focussing on the close bond between Hoult and Jefferds, I almost got nostalgic of how the precinct used to be run by Hoult. The small moments with serious undertones, like when Hoult utters 'pain' dramatically, makes the audience root for the "good guys" even more now that it knows how close and friendly the workers were, and still are, to the Captain.


The B-plot this week marked the return of Gina's blunt and hilarious attitude towards he coworkers while also keeping in mind her love for gossip.  The triangle of Boyle, Gina and Rosa is always an interesting one because it always ends up with one character's known trait to be blown perfectly out of proportion to give the audience a good laugh. Moments like when Boyle discovered that Singh was a vegetarian and threw a fit in the middle of the funeral are ones which protect the show from the use of a laughing track. It doesn't require one, becuause the comedy here isn't as subtle as it was on HIMYM, it's evident yet excellent. It's something very special about this show: it can take a joke already made by another show years ago but can still offer an own original take on said joke such that the audience feels like the joke was written only for Nine Nine. The fleeting nature of the writing does help the comedic moments, and this week was no exception: the episode ran smoothly, and time moved at the right pace. The comfort here indicates how the writers have officially settle into this new season: there are no moments of butterflies, no over-the-top speeches, and the audience isn't aware if there might be a big change coming for the characters. This episode, along with many others that build upon the stories the premiere and previous finale, shape the way for the show to go while maintaining a fairly cool mood. Let the good times of Jake and Amy trying to figure this out roll!


Grade: B+ 

Stray Observations:

- "I'm going full douche!"

- Terry's favorite mango yoghurt got discontinued: what a tragedy!

- The bagpipes playing while the Vulture was cussing is a television classic, and I loved it!

- "Well, never wearing these again!"

- I feel bad for Captain Dozerman: three speeches yet none were actually about him.



"The Bachelor Party Corrosion"/S9E3

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


The Big Bang Theory has only had two weddings so far in its eight-year run, and the emphasis on the nuptials for each wedding has been different. When Howard and Bernadette tied the knot back in 2012, many of the prenuptials and the actual wedding itself were given much significance. However, as far as Leonard and Penny are concerned, their wedding was an impulse decision which took place under murky circumstances. That night was a strange one indeed, as it involved the dissolution of Shamy and the destructive catalyst of Leonard and Penny's future. However, as much as the writers did focus on those two plots and their aftermaths, the writers completely side-stepped Howard, Bernadette, and Raj by giving them trivial plots which one wouldn't even recall. This is the season's third episode, and the writers still haven't navigated the plot outisde the box of the married couple versus the broken-up couple. Ever since Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch were inducted into the show's main panel, the show has sometimes felt too crowded as many characters other than Amy, Leonard, Penny and Sheldon were made to wait a couple of episodes before any major plotline involved them. I love the new direction the show took four years ago, but they still haven't managed to create a solution for the amount of screentime per character. 


This episode doesn't solve the problem but perpetuates it even further by having the guys take off to a bachelor party while Bernadette and Amy try and convince Penny to tell her father she eloped. However, it does give the audience a break from the relationship dynamics of the show, which have been central to the plots since its fifth season. The idea of a conventional bachelor party isn't played around with this time, which is surprising considering how often the show depicts the nerds' version of a significant event, like when Howard and Bernadette's wedding was hosted on the roof in order to get the wedding on Google Earth's image of Pasadena. This episode barely grazes the surface of what this party would be like, with Richard Feynman's van breaks down en route to Mexico. The episode then changes shape to become a commentary on how people with brains aren't gifted in the area of common sense. After that plot twist, I was pretty much disinterested in the A-plot, so I decided to focus more on the subplot of the episode and how it could be more entertaining and interesting than the dull A-plot.


It was refreshing to see Penny's father make an appearance on the show almost five years since his first appearance. The family dynamic is barely touched upon on The Big Bang Theory, and it often leads me to question how the show claimed its primetime leading position without having to tap into the various dynamics for which other shows are well-known. (Ahem, flashbacks...How I Met Your Mother?) However, the show gained its audience by primarily being a reflection of the academic brilliance and poor social skills associated with scientists. Though the idea may not be revolutionary, the path the show has carved by initially introducing the scientists as awkward and then breaking them out of their shell is brilliant, as it gives the characters a fresher feel even eight years after the pilot episode was aired. The show may seem very different from what it was during its first few years, but change is often the only constant in life. The resonance between the characters on the show and real people is often very faint, but with certain ideas like how the socially awkward can be rendered more pleasant to talk to is one that has lined the main plots of the show since its fifth season. While the show is on a constant state of improving the writing and comedy it provides it users, the ride towards the inevitable end is seemingly more and more enjoyable...


Grade: B-

Stray Observations:

- Sheldon: "I'm getting too old for this crud!"

- Penny: "Lock up your daugthers or Sheldon may lecture them about the North American Free-Trade Agreement."

- Amy's wardrobe-changing announcement and the reactions it received are examples which illustrate the progress of the show over the years. 

- Penny's pig is part of the family: "The Breakfast Family!"

- Amy's mother forced Penny to lock her up in the closet.

- "I had to spend the night with Sheldon!" "You win!"



"The Separation Oscillation"/S9E2

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


 

The writers over at The Big Bang Theory have been approaching the situation they've dug up quite well in this strong half-hour of television. It finally seems as though a cliffhanger introduced in May will actually be given a complete story, i.e. the writers are going to unfold how the aftermath of Amy breaking things off over the next few episides while trying to get Leonard and Penny to work on their marriage.


I would have never thought that those two plotlines would have actually be imbued into the show, so I'm enjoying not knowing where this is going yet. However, if these complications introduced are going to be dropped quickly and irrationally, I'm going to be décu at the writers for getting my hopes up. I always have this fear that the following episode won't be able to match the sheer fluidity of the premiere. Fortunately, everything is under control for now as the writers make the Shamy break up actually make sense and be integrated into the bigger picture of the show, which actually does come up this week. Furthermore, the portrayal of Sheldon as a jealous and miserable ex-boyfriend is one that I am completely backing because he is often portrayed as aloof and devoid of any emotion, more like a robot than "a real boy". His separation anxiety is beneficial to the new season and direction of the show, but I just hope that the writers know how to keep this part of Sheldon without tarnishing the core of the character. The future for these two is murky, and the audience is well aware that eventually they will get back together. However, as was the case with Friends, we will have to endure a long period of them having chemistry yet being apart from one another. I feel like the decision to give Amy some dignity and let her breakthrough things off with Sheldon can bear the writers a good fruit, but only time can tell if the plan will be succesful or not.

 

Speaking of success, Penny and Leonard's disastrous marriage might actually receive some now that Mandy is out of the way. The writers knew that various people would have questioned the idea of Leonard cheating on Penny, but this episode reveals what I had been thinking all along: Penny brought Leonard out of his shell, i.e. who he is today is because of Penny's intervention in his life. Had this been their initial attempt at being together, Penny's infidelity would have been logical. But flash forward six years and the tables have turned, Penny is the faithful one, even though she currently has the entire package: financial security, maturity, and good looks. Those are the traits that Leonard brought out in her. The realization that the new versions of themselves is largely because of their significant other is a good one for The Big Bang Theory, especially since Leonard and Penny were often portrayed as the couple that didn't really know where they stood.


So, the B-plot with Leoanrd and Penny making up, a mirror opposite of what happens with Shamy, is a good amount of symmetry for this episode, which balanced drama and comedy a lot better than the season premiere did, even though the latter was pretty darn entertaining. Furthermore, the second episode actually put Howard and Bernadette into the action, revealing that they've known about Leonard's infidelity for a long time. The involvement of a larger proportion of the cast is always encouraged, so I'm satisfied with how the Wolowitzes were in one the main plots this week, unlike last week where they were mainly used as comedic inputs into the Shamy drama. These small improvements are impressive considering how season eight never touched upon them like how this season currently is working on.

 

Grade: B+



Brooklyn Nine Nine: "New Captain"/S3E1

Posted on September 28, 2015 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


When Brooklyn Nine Nine had piloted about two years ago, one of my main concerns was the decision made to cast Andy Samberg as the lead of the show. Truth be told, he is a fantastic comedian, but during his seven-year  at Saturday Night Live he was the "little brother" : we rarely saw Samberg as the main driving force for a large number of sketches. Once the first season had officially been put into place, I noticed how even though Samberg was the main character, his character seemed like Chris Pratt on Parks And Recreation, i.e. he was the root cause for the great jokes that cracked me up while watching the initial set of episodes ordered for the opening season. Samberg's comic delivery in each episode improved, and though he maintained his next-door-boy charm, he is the biggest star of the ensemble cast and became the face of the show. 


Fortunately, he did a good job at representing how the show works. At its core, Nine Nine has a phenomenal cast with great ranges so it needn't worry about the actors failing the writers. It's actually the inverse statement that I was initially fearful of, i.e. in this time of short-lived shows, will Samberg's show be able to survive past its initial order of episodes? As we stand here at its third season, the show's writers have proven themselves by giving its audience episodes whose scripts are so fluid that the half-hour we spend watching the show seems to pass by us instantaneously. It's qualities like those in a script that have given Nine Nine such acclaim; it's how well the dialogue and plotlines flow with minimal awkward friction between scenes. Furthermore, the apt acting from all members on the cast adds to the overall effect the sitcom has on its audience. The easy and flowing feeling the writers have incorporated into the show brought it past its first season and into its second.


However, in its second season, the show's writers decided to add drama to the episodes to show that the tectonic plates of the show weren't stagnant. The issue I usually have with drama on a sitcom is how the writers decide to deal with it in the long run, i.e. how will this one dramatic element change the future of the characters? Furthermore, as a sitcom, a show shouldn't completely abandon its roots and become a drama series for one episode before it reverts back to its original form. That breaks the fluidity. It shatters the mosaic.


For a sitcom to incorporate dramatic themes and elements into its plots, it must know the boundaries it has before the audience is completely dissatisfied with the episode. The fans of How I Met Your Mother were used to drama being placed strategcally into the sitcom's episodes, but for a show which has destiny as a major theme, dramatic elements are suitable. For comedy shows that don't look at the bigger picture of life, comedies such as Nine Nine or The Big Bang Theory, it's more about stopping where it's required. Nine Nine made sure that the drama didn't offset the comedy, but towards the end of last season, I had seen a large degradation of the episodes. They didn't seem as fluid and funny as the ones which have become my favorites. So, coming into season three with all these loose strings, I had no idea what to expect, which is good as I usually want a fresh mind while reviewing season premieres.


This season for the show is looking good if the premiere is a perfect representation of what we can expect. The writers have assured us that while they are changing things up, they aren't going to stop putting on a great show.The cold open brought out some of the biggest laughs of the episode, especially considering how Bill Hader's character completely unfolded within that limited time space. The rest of the episode picked up the pieces last season left and tried to put them back together in a different way. The one thing that I liked is how the A-plot at the precinct and the B-plot at the PR department were left to occur almost independently. There wasn't much Hoult going back to the 99th precinct or Gina talking to anyone there. This episode was more about each party from this forced split trying to cope with the new situation. I liked how the wrtiers wrote Hader's character, especially since his charactersitics provided for some great reactions by the cops. Furthermore, the chemistry he and Samberg have from their Saturday Night Live days is very much visible during the scene when Peralta butters Dozerman up and when Dozerman is disappointed at Peralta. However, the Hoult-Wunch tension that was a key element last season actually died down during the episode, to the point where it felt dragged out. I actually anxiously waited for those scenes to end as they really weren't as exciting as when Wunch was initially introduced.


The telelvision season has offically kicked off! With two great premieres to review this week, I feel optimistic about the coming seasons of both the shows we're covering this year. I just hope that the fresh feeling that the shows have given the premieres won't fade away mid-season. I really do hope to see a fluid season with good writing and great comedy!


Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

- Rosa's threat to Terry is to play the hell out of some backgammon.

- Boyle has already written a bestman speech for Jake and Amy's wedding.

- "We could get super drunk?"

- "I Hope It Wasn't A Mistake: title of your sex tape? Title of our sex tape!"

- "Tell my wife I love her...work ethic."

- Gina's reality show will be called Linetti, Set, Go.





"The Matrimonial Momentum"/S9E1

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


There was a large amount of the Big Bang fanbase which was disappointed by the direction season eight eventually took after the various cliffhangers placed in the finale. I wasn't completely on board with their thinking; however, I did doubt whether the direction the writers intended to take was the right one. As the weeks building up to the finale passed, I didn't pay much thought to this show. However, last week, after I wrote the season recap, my mind somehow started to wonder towards the possibilities this season had. Then, I looked around and read the taping report. My thoughts? Impressive, but a little too much for a show which usually doesn't step out of the traditional television narrative style, i.e. the larger risks the writers take aren't often well-received.


However, after this premiere, I would like to commend the writers' courage to completely tear apart Shamy and have the season focus on that development instead of the premiere quickly stitching the loose ends of the last season. Furthermore, the writers must have taken a lesson from the staff over at Brooklyn Nine Nine, because the comedy and the script seemed to have a fluidity that was absent from a large portion of last season. This comedy made the drama involved in the episode so much lighter that I almost forgot that the show has had quite a few misfires with drama over the last two seasons. I was watching the episode with a group of people this time around, and the fact that they were reacting sharply to every single nuance presented, from facial expressions to explicit actions, is a clear indicator that the writers are prepared to take on this challenge knowing that the audience isn't 100% supportive of the path they're taking. I think that bold risks evetually pay off, as with the case of How I Met Your Mother's finale, which to this date is a controversy among the fans. However, as of late, you'll find people who thought it over and, upon dissecting the episode, found that the ending made sense. In a similar fashion, if one were to look at all the various indications that Amy was fed up of Sheldon placed somewhat strategically over the last few seasons, one would understand that this decision to split the couple up was one that had been built up for years. And that's why I support how the split was handled. The plot was simply a plethora of reasons why Amy's decision was justified, ranging from Sheldon's insensitivity to his inability to sympathize with others. Furthermore, his demeanor with the remainder of the cast didn't help his case that he was boyfriend material.


The rest of the cast, excluding Leonard and Penny, was side-stepped once again and were mere "catalysts" for the Shamy plot. There were various moments of comedy provided by them; however, I am still awaiting a big development for any of their characters. Maybe once the season isn't as fresh as it is right now they'll be given their moments in the limelight. I'm hoping for some big changes for them in various fronts, but really looking at how much work the writers have between the two main couples of the show, it is very much possible that these changes may be postponed to the second half of the season or maybe even the next and possibly the final season. (While that discussion is very much relevant here, I feel like I will be able to discuss the pros and cons of the show going beyond a tenth season after gauging their performance on these loose ends.)


Finally, I have to talk about the wedding. The writers jumped in and got the two characters married, even though their situation on the way to Vegas was rather murky. And while placing their argument after their marriage invites more problems, it's a shrewd move because it's the lock that opens up so many possible plotlines that may reveal certain questions we've always wanted to know the answers of. The cuaways between the Shamy drama and the tie-in with it at the end of the episode was a brilliant way to end the premiere. Furhtermore, the image of Leonard and Penny on the phone with Sheldon and Amy respectively as the opening of the new season was one that evoked a great amount of laughter from me, due to Sheldon's insecurities. That image also evoked how big of a show Big Bang is right now, with the current report of an audience of 17.48 million people. The entire episode could never be pulled of by a newer show, as the various complications and inside jokes that were embedded into the plots were done so subtly that it would require a loyal fanbase that knows the big picture along with minor details at the back of its hand. And while popular shows often have a mediocre premiere, The Big Bang Theory started off with a knock out of the park, with a premiere that was comparable to the fifth season premiere, the best season premiere in my opinion. Here's to a season that makes me forget the mediocrity of the last one!


Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

- "Knock-knock-knock, Penny!"

- Is it me or does Simon Helberg's hairstyle just deteriorate each season?

- Sheldon's zingers this week were on fire, but the one which I think made me laugh the most was "thos eggs you're toting around have a sell-by date".

- Raj's first appearance this season was the classic joke that a show like this one would pull. However, I still laughed laugh because I'm a sucker for a good joke, even if it's been used before by shows like Friends.

- Penny: "We've put this off long enough. Let's just do it!" Leonard: "Aww, that's exactly what you said the first time we slept together!"

- Stuart's creepiness is a major laughing point in this episode, but does it hint to something else? If we've learnt anything from the last few seasons and indications, there probably will be some tension with Amy and Stuart.

- Bernadette and Howard fist bumped because they won, i.e. they had a better wedding.

- Leonard's face when he was carrying Penny accross the threshold, classic!




The Big Bang Theory "The Commitment Determination"/S8E24 + Season Recap

Posted on September 20, 2015 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


It's been a long time coming with this article, hasn't it? To be perfectly candid, I was never comfortable with writing this review because of the nature of the season eight finale. I found it to be quite anticlimactic to have the season end at a nadir, giving the writers the Herculean task of patching things up with the first set of episodes of the new season, which begins tomorrow. To be perfectly candid, I completely support the writers' decision to let things be completely different from what the viewers had originally expected. As far as I am concerned, none of the viewers were expecting Amy to actually end things with Sheldon. The introduction to that arc of the show begun during the last scene of the finale, which was a controversial one, much like the ending scene of another CBS show, How I Met Your Mother. Usually, I would argue that the writers are creating controversy in order to stir up a higher audience; however, with a show successful as this one, is that really the function of controversy? 


The writers have been changing the way the public views Big Bang since the second half of the fifth season, when the addition of Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch came into full effect. These changes have proven to be some of the best ones, as the show was able to gather its twenty million-strong viewership due to it. The new image of the show had a larger audience attracted to it, but the writers had forgotten that their original audience didn't want couples out of all these characters. This season was when they had started to synthesize scripts with elements of both ends of the spectrum of their ideas. So, essentially, this season was the trial-and-error one, the one which we shouldn't judge harshly. I saw that the writers were making strides to include the original quirks of the characters into the newer plots, so I gave them credit for that and decided to lower the bar for this season only. That generous gesture expires today, as we enter the show's ninth season, which they had an entire summer to work on, put newer and fresher ideas into, and most importantly to test and smoothen: have we all forgotten the disaster that was the eighth season premiere?


As of now, the tension between all the different characters is quite high, as the finale didn't quite feel like the process of wrapping things up as much as it did feel like the complication of various storylines. These complications weren't foreseen, but they were hinted at, and for that I commend the writers. For instance, throughout the course of the season, starting from the premiere, Sheldon had been treating Amy as though he were her only option for love. Even the way Sheldon revealed his love for Amy was driven by his urge to avoid her and the festivities of the evening. It seems as though the writers were blatantly giving the audience examples of why Amy shouldn't be with Sheldon. It's a good catalyst for introducing a plethora of new plotlines, but the real issue here is will the writers pull it off? Various fans on Tumblr have a few ideas as to where the Shamy train will go next, but I am keeping an open mind and judging the situation based on what the writers make of this new plot twist. 


The second prime factor that irritated fans to the core was the reveal of Leonard's infidelity. I do understand the criticism of the randomness of the reveal, but as Leonard and Penny are finally tying the knot, there is a certain unspoken honesty policy that gets placed into effect. It may not be the best idea to most of the audience, but I had decided to once again give the writers a chance: I analyzed how this reveal actually fits in well with Leonard's character development. Leonard has changed so much over the last eight years, and it's all because of Penny. It's all because she brought him out of his shell. Over the years, he slowly moved away from the shy, socially-awkward physicist (a stereotypical image) to a more normal person. His social interactions have shown us how he isn't the inferior one in this relationship anymore, and this reveal is the one that sets his character development into full stride as its the one that finally tells the audience that he is comfortable with who he is, but is he really comfortable with his situation with Penny? This last-minute reveal doesn't help him with that answer, but I'll leave it to the writers to handle that answer.


The eighth season pushed the characters of Howard, Bernadette and Raj far away from the limelight. I feel like since this season is probably the penultimate one, the writers should consider placing them in A-plots and have them go through more major life changes. The only remaining plot left for both of them is being unable to end a relationship. That plot is old. In fact, I just saw the exact same thing happen on Friends. But do you know what was really the difference? Friends made it funnier and only involved one character in that plotline. So, it is my sincere hope that the ninth season will be the one of equality, where all the characters get their own plots, their own fair share of screentime, and their own developments. May this season actually exceed the mediocre expectations I keep of it! 


Episode Grade: A-

Season Grade: B


Stray Observations:

- The final scene and the Gollum reference were scenes to remember because the studio audience didn't mess that experience up for me.

- The whole "let's give you some bad news on your birthday" plot has been overused to the point where I scoff at it now.

- I was wondering why Amy's involvement towards the end of the season had diminished. Apparently, it was due to her family commitments,and she'll be here full-time next season! So, we might get to see a few more "Please pass the butter!" scenes.

- The studio audience's reaction to the plan to elope was actually a good soundtrack to the reveal as the audience had expected the wedding plans to just keep on getting postponed. 

- I wonder if Raj's situation with females will be worked upon again. When they removed his selective mutism two years ago, I was happy. Maybe it's time to improve the improved Raj?

- My prediction for the premiere: It will do its job, but like most premieres, it won't hit the right spots just well...




"The Maternal Combustion"/S8E23

Posted on May 1, 2015 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Raising a child isn't as simple as one may think it is. There are various different methods that different types of parents employ to get the children on their own definition of "the right path". Often, there may be arguments as to which method is a more effective way to raise a child. Tonight, The Big Bang Theory tackled this issue which several other sitcoms have discussed successfully in the past few years. However, as far as this show is concerned, the argument has some large twists where the characters prefer other mothers over their own. That little detail adds an X-factor into tonight's show that makes it enjoyable without reminding us easily of other shows' stories. After the episode aired, I immediately thought of the How I Met Your Mother episode "Murtaugh", in which Lily and Marshall argue over each other's parenting techniques while coaching a basketball team. The overall effect of the plot was above average, a grade which tonight's A-plot is worthy of.


Truth be told, tonight's episode was the first time in weeks that I actually thought this plot was thought of. It wasn't one of the fillers this show has gained a reputation for. Tonight's plot was definitely planned for a long time, since rumors of the two mothers meeting have been circulating since the show's sixth season, but the show could never get to it because Christine Baranski had her duties on The Good Wife. However, after all that planning, they finally got the two mothers together, and it was a delight to watch. All the scenes when Beverly criticized Mary's techniques were an enjoyable back-and-forth, especially watching the expressions shot between the ladies and Penny's attempts to make peace between them. The odd couples, i.e. Leonard and Sheldon, were just bearable, but I didn't really find their scenes as funny as those with their mothers involved, especially when you consider how we've seen and heard these jokes every time one of their mothers is in town. Other than that, the idea that Leonard and Beverly will try to mend their relationship as a culmination of the plot is a solid way to end the A-plot, as was the idea to introduce how Leonard could afford Penny's engagement ring. (Props to Kaley Cuoco on her drill noise with the ring)


The B-plot, much like the string of fillers that have aired, involved Howard and Raj without letting them interact with the A-plot. I'm not really a fan of such plots since we don't get to see the entire bunch of friends around the couch discussing each problem like they did in "The Indecision Amalgamation". The reason I loved that episode was because of the prolonged couch scene where each and every character present had a running joke in the episode. Tonight's disjointed B-plot stuck to the theme of raising a child by using Howard and Bernadette's unhealthy relationship. Bernadette has often been seen as the one who wears the pants, but you can't blame her for doing so: Howard isn't exactly "the man" in the relationship. He is portrayed more as a teenage boy locked inside a man's body, and you can easily blame the late Mrs. Wolowitz for that. She hasn't been around for a while, but ever since her death, the writers have managed to include her in every plotline. Tonight was no exception as Mrs. Wolowitz's treatment of Howard as a little baby created the problems faced in tonight's B-plot. It's a subtle point which I actually didn't entirely catch until Raj mentioned it while cleaning the refrigerator.


As far as I am concerned, this plot is a hit for portraying Bernadette as a little more patient and sticking with the maternal theme of the episode. However, it bogs down the momentum that the A-plot carried. It is only when the three men start to sing "Hard Knock Life" at the end of the half-hour. It brought the string of filler plots to a close as next week the season finale airs. I would like to see how the writers want to end this season of highs and lows on and some more Mayim Bialik please! It would have been fantastic to see her interact with both the mothers! Let's hope she can get some more air-time next week!


Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

- The argument between Beverly and Mary reminded me of the never-ending "Creationism VS Evolution" debate.

 - "I love you. I'm just embarrassed by the things you believe, do and say." Mary: "I love you too, my little bowl of lion-chow."

- If people don't follow the pants rule at home, there is no way they are going to start following others any time soon.

- Leonard: "You are a dirty double-mother-suckler."

- Sheldon: "My mom made me spaghetti with chopped-up hotdogs whenever I wanted, so who cares?"

- Mary: "I'm sure she loves you very much, in her own cold, Godless way."

- "Oh my son! Oh my mother! Oh my God!"



 



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