THE DR CLUB

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REVIEWS

Here's the main dish of the meal. Take your time and enjoy each clause as it sends an impulse of love through the reader. You may feel a bit heavy after a read, but we assure you that you're still hungry for some more...

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"The Graduation Transmission"/S8E22

Posted on April 28, 2015 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Last week I had discussed the various episodes of Big Bang which viewers seem to forget as they don't move any mountains or even contain an outrageous moment of laughter. I feel like many series have these kind of episodes because the writers have a specific plan for the season, but the ideas for this plan aren't exactly elastic accross all 24 episodes. For instance, last year when Sheldon finally told Amy that he loved her, the entire episode was above average. However, had the writers stretched the prom saga for more than one episode and made it an arc, it wouldn't have worked. Chuck Lorre and his team are talented, no doubt, but they aren't as talented as Carter and Craig, who skillfully stretched Barney's proposal over the first half of How I Met Your Mother's eighth season. Big Bang doesn't use any other elements except its comedy, so having one plotline as the backbone of a season isn't really a good idea. That's why I am slightly grateful for episodes like these. However, the inconvenience of these episodes is that the stories explored are rather dull and often monotonous, much like this season's Christmas episode when Leonard, Howard and Raj got stuck in a room with a bird.


This week's B-plot has a very eerie similarity with the bird plot. A couple of physics majors trying to fix a drone isn't a very strong story to go with, but that isn't the gist of this week's rendezvous with The Big Bang Theory. Tonight's episode dealt heavily with emotions in very different ways. Leonard's graduation speech through Skype has a more poignant meaning than Penny organizing it. The final words he spoke were the ones which truly came from the heart, the ones which made the entire story worth it. There may have been a few comic lines in the speech, but the overall meaning was something we had heard of in the earlier seasons. Leonard may have transformed over the course of this show, but he surely didn't forget the days he was treated as if he weren't a human. The speech realy was the stand-out moment from the episode because it was the last thing you would expect from a filler like this one.


The B-plot involves Raj manipulating his parents into giving him more money, and while it isn't the most interesting plot aired on television, it is pretty entertaining to see the competition between divorced parents. Raj's reactions whenever he stepped back into the apartment was another entertaining detail of tonight's mediocre Big Bang. It also offered an insight into Indian culture where a divorce is more meaningful and poignant than in an American society. Raj's ability to act like he misses his perfect family is a typical example of an idealist Indian society, which has often been the topic of discussion between critics of Hindi-language films. The slight nudge at the over-emotional side of Indian parents is surely going to receive some backlash from the critics who support idealistic Indian culture, but the more open-minded and modern critics will let it slide as it is just comedy, and not a documentary. People need to learn how to laugh at life and its quirky little details. 


As far as the accessory idea of the drone is concerned, I have nothing to say except that Sheldon finally admired Howard for his degree from MIT. This detail adds on to the list of why this episode may be above other fillers the show has aired in the past, as it has a few moments which had never been seen in the episodes that first come to mind when you hear the show's name. These few idea; however, can't compensate for the poor comedy throughout and the lack of Mayim Bialik.


Grade: B-

Stray Observations:

 

Stray Observations:

- Howard (to the drone): "Where were you when I was single?"

- Howard: "Sheldon, I have a Masters' degree in Engineering; I wipe my bottom with warranties, except for Apple Care, that pays for itself in the long-run."

- Leonard in a Sexy Graduate costume just cracks me up!

- Call Tech-Support? Blasphemous!

- Penny: "Don't do drugs, and stay in school!" Leonard: "They're graduating!"

- Leonard's re-routed speech was hilarious. I wish someone gave a speech like that at my highschool graduation!




"The Communication Deterioration"S8E21

Posted on April 25, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


 

There are often episodes of a sitcom that make us laugh while they last, but once they’ve aired, we forget about them. Tonight’s half-hour from The Big Bang Theory was a good example of an episode that was mildly entertaining; however, regular viewers of the show will probably not recall its plot. “The Communication Deterioration” isn’t one of the episodes that one would think of as soon as the show’s name is thrown into an argument. As far as I am concerned, whenever people mention this show, I usually think of “The Staircase Implementation”, “The Launch Acceleration”, or “The Locomotive Interruption” because those were the episodes where the characters were placed in situations the audience wasn’t habituated to, thus these were the episodes where character development was a prime factor, or at least it was a feature of said episodes. Having said that, tonight did have its own character development plot, but it was side-stepped into the B-plot.

 


Penny got the B-plot tonight as her career crisis that was central last season returns for a brief cameo. I admire how Penny’s character has matured since we first saw her, and tonight’s episode reminded the audience about how different she is than when she was an actress/waitress. Firstly, she finally has a respectable job where she can gain financial stability. Last season was the climax of Penny’s financial and career problems, especially when the writers decided to take the risk and get her out of her job at The Cheesecake Factory. Tonight’s revelation finally put an end to the question of whether Penny would ever decide to return to her previous career. The short scene before Penny left the audition is a strong one, as we hear her thoughts, but I would have recommended a flashback to when she used to be an actress as a stronger image. (I say that with confidence as the flashback-oriented episodes of this show have always been hits.) However, the idea for it was fantastic, so the writers get credit for that.

 


As strong as the subplot was, it cannot hold the entire episode together since it’s simply a background story that is placed neatly in between the main plot. For instance, in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the subplot had to do with fooling Malvolio, which I admit was entertaining and funny. However, I enjoyed the play mainly because of the intricacies and delight in the main plot: a distorted love triangle. The main plot is the one people will focus more on, but the subplot is the flavoring added, which can change entertainment from good to excellent. As much as I love strong A-plots, tonight’s was a disappointment mainly because of the rehashed jokes and half-baked story. The idea was one that other shows have nailed in the past: communication. (I know it’s in the title. Don’t reprimand me.) However, when an idea has been executed almost perfectly in other shows, the chances that its reprise will be entertaining aren’t high. This week’s A-plot just didn’t do the work it had to; it felt like it was lazily and hastily written. The only parts I liked were the unusual pairing of Raj and Leonard as omega-males and Sheldon’s message towards the end of the episode. Other than that, the jokes were mediocre and overused, especially with Howard and Raj’s friendship coming into play.

 


Tonight’s episode joins a string of fillers that seem to lead me to one assumption: the writers had a few good ideas for this season. Furthermore, the low number of key episodes this season is a good indicator that the finale might actually be something memorable. The decline in quality this season has also brought the show down from its number one spot it held during its metamorphosis stage (seasons 5 through 7). The only way the show can regain its viewership is by improving the quality of the episodes from now on and focus on shaking things up next season. Another weird phenomenon that I have noticed is that Amy hasn’t been doing more than one or two scenes for a while now. Big mistake, writers. Mayim Bialik is a fantastic actress whose presence can change a lot in an episode (For example, "The Indecision Amalgamation" scene when she asks Sheldon for butter).


Grade: B-

Stray Observations:


- Leonard: "When I encountered alien life, I discovered that the key thing is not to sit in its spot." People may hate Leonard's condescending tone, but I just love it!

- The look of relief on Sheldon's face when Penny used his version of knocking on the door is priceless.

- Whenever Cinammon is upset, she urinates in Raj's slippers. Thank God I don't have a dog!

- I agree with Bernadette, telling someone to pop something like a zit while consuming it isn't really mouth-watering.

- Penny started the rumor that another actress was 40 and everything is fake. Her look of disgust afterwards was a good sign of her maturity.

- Aliens on Sheldon: "That soft pink alien looks delicious!"





"The Leftover Thermalization"/"The Skywalker Incursion"/"The Fortification Implementation"/S8E18-19-20

Posted on April 11, 2015 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


These last three episodes of The Big Bang Theory have fallen into the classic trap that television shows often fall into once they've achieved a particular "formula". For instance, Saturday Night Live found its sweet-spot during its 35th season, which admittedly is one of the best seasons its had. However, that season initiated two seasons that implemented the same formula for comedy, which produced comedy that wasn't fully appreciated because of the show's stagnation. This is exactly what's happening with The Big Bang Theory. Last season proved to be one of its best, and the show truly deserved the title of TV's Number One Comedy. However, this season, the topics that were straddled were of minor importance, and the writing often misses a key element that would render an episode near-perfect. 


This trio of episodes is present in almost every season of the show. The ones which are easily forgettable due to their inadequate comic timing and delivery. First off, there's the episode that once again places Howard's fond memories of his mother at the forefront. Don't get me wrong, I was touched when they dedicated a few subplots in Mrs. Wolowitz's memory, but at this point these stories are starting to disrupt the flow of the show as a sitcom and turning it into a daytime soap opera. The dramatic side of each character isn't required for more than two or three episodes per season, but Chuck Lorre and the writers never seem to understand that. They always either have negligible amounts of character development or an overly-detailed development for most seasons. However, the sixth and seventh seasons nailed the equilibrium perfectly, and that's why I've always considered them as the benchmark for the show. 


The subplot of Leftover isn't of much importance either as it repeats an issue the show has dealt with many times: Leonard and Sheldon fighting like children. The show often succeeds at extending the idea and giving it layers, like they did with the fantastic season three episode "The Staircase Implementation". However, this time around, the plot was unfunny and often difficult to watch without having a side-activity to distract yourself until a worthy moment comes on. For this episode, the idea for which I will give the writers props is the idea of everyone eating at one table remembering Mrs. Wolowitz. It didn't escalate dramatically, but the amount of food provided an opportunity to escalate comically. I loved everyone's joy at Bernadette finding more Tums. Other than that, the episode was pretty flat, with nothing special to offer.


The second episode at hand is "The Skywalker Incursion", which I saw as nothing but a massive filler because the writers ran out of ideas. It's a common mistake to visualize the final three or four episodes of the season, and in that excitement forget about the last few that build up to those episodes. The A-plot escalated from delivering a speech to visit Skywalker Ranch, and after that Sheldon went crazy and entered the place without legal permission. Sheldon's behavior with celebrities has been dealt with enough in the past seasons, so when the writers ran with the same idea but with a different setting, I decided to zone out and focus on Leonard during the A-plot. That's when I realized that Leonard's sarcasm has developed brilliantly ever since he started dating Penny, especially with regard to Sheldon. Many fans may feel that it's irritating to see Leonard like this, but I think it's amazing to see him cold towards Sheldon, especially when you think about how badly Sheldon treats him. As for the B-plot, there's nothing except that hilarious Dr.Who ending and Amy's reaction to Sheldon repeatedly entering through the tardis door.


Finally, we come to the worst of the lot, "The Fortification Implementation". I only have one question for an episode like that, "Why?" The three individual plots were bearable, but once you put them together you get a catastrophe. It was as though Mr Bean was handling which plots should go together and formed a concatenation. All three plots were huge, but there was a time constraint, thus they couldn't be executed effectively. Normally, I would enjoy an episode involving Penny's career, Shamy's big step or Howard's character development. However, if you put them together, you get an underdone episode that is often so quick-paced that it ends up making three big movements without even giving any importance to any of the three. It's like how Saturday Night Live episodes where Kristen Wiig's recurring characters were frequent were often regarded as the nadirs of the particular season. Similarly, these three episodes, along with the first five, form the lining of the season that won't give the show a Primetime Emmy award....


Grade: C-/B-/C-

Stray Observations:

 


- Raj: "My uncle was a worshipper of Krishna, but after he died, you know what we found? A statue of Shiva!" I feel like that line was lifted from an Indian soap opera. Those get on my nerves!

- Howard: "That's why my people roamed the deserts for 40 years! It took them that long to walk it off!"

- Penny: "You know, when they chase you out of there, you only have to run faster than Sheldon."

- Amy can serve like a pro, but she can't even align her racket correctly to return Raj's serve in ping-pong.

- Bernadette's controlling nature is on full display during the second episode.

- The GIF argument: I just say the three letters because it's an abbreviation. In that way, I'm neutral and not a part of this war that is slowly dividing the human race.

- Penny's constant jabs at Wil Wheaton were a true delight to watch, especially since it was Wil's radio show.

- Howard's brother: "Because a hand's all you need, right?"





Why we stopped reviewing A to Z...

Posted on March 19, 2015 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


When NBC announced their Fall 2015 lineup, I was elated to see this show as one of the new sitcoms airing on NBC. Thus, I decided to add the show to our regular coverage at The DR Club. At first, the show was like an action-packed short film; however, after the third episode, I felt like every episode moved very slowly, and the plots didn't really seem to intrigue me as much as those of previous episodes did. After the calamity that we can call "D is for Debbie", I knew that NBC would be doubtful to renew the show beyond its 13-episode order, and boy! was I right! NBC soon cancelled the series and the ratings continued to decrease. As the next few episodes aired, I completely lost interest in the show and I eventually stopped writing the reviews for it becuase then writing would be more of a job rather than my passion. I started this website to express my opinions and elaborate on what I interpreted from various plotlines and dialogues. And A To Z's one-dimensional method of storytelling bored me. I had then decided to stop reviewing the sitcom, as there was not much to observe or even writre about for that matter...


Series Grade: B- 


"The Colonization Application"/S8E17

Posted on March 19, 2015 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Ever since the early 2000s, television audiences have become addicted to scrutinize unorthodox television couples. For instance, if one were to log onto Tumblr or Twitter, one would find countless memes of different quirky dialogues one half of an odd couple said to another. This need for a new type of relationship was the reason people were refreshed when they saw Marshall and Lily's happy relationship in How I Met Your Mother. They were one of the rare TV couples of the day that wouldn't hate each other or have awkward dinners. Instead, the writers decided to portray them as sweet and loving people with problems the crowd could relate to. As for Big Bang couples, Chuck Lorre's writers took the need for an unorthodox couple and made it their skeleton for forming couples on the show. If we scrutinize each of the couples, we can find plenty of odd aspects; however, the only couple that really stands out is Shamy, because every baby step for them seems to be a milestone. When Leonard and Penny first said, "I love you," the writers cut the scene right after that, but Shamy's love confession was pulled for longer, as the fans truly relished that patricular moment and Mayim Bialik's expression when Sheldon knew exactly what to say...


This romantic aspect of their relationship isn't at the forefront this week, as the writers set their relationship on fire this week with the news that Sheldon might be moving to Mars. The subtlety with which the A-plot was diverted is what I appreciated the most of this episode, as the writers managed to switch from a light-hearted plot to a bombshell without interrupting the flow with which the episode went. Furthermore, the show stayed true to its sitcom nature by balancing these plots out with comic filler plots that didn't advance the plot, but added depth to the characters and their relationships. This equilibrium of both sides of a television program is what made the episode a strong one, even though the comedy was off during the filler plots. The comedy provided during Sheldon's video for going to Mars was actually a highlight for me, as we got to see him throw a pie at Leonard and watch Leonard's perfect reaction. Many have scorned Johnny Galecki's sarcastic method of delivering of lines, but frankly I love how he mocks Sheldon. It shows how his relationship with Penny has in fact has an impact on him. The entire plotline was so sophisticated that I mentally applauded when Sheldon told Amy that she could join him on his trip to Mars. It's no When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless In Seattle moment, but it's up there for Shamy...


The romantic nature of the episode would have completely ruined this week's half-hour had the other subplots been romantic as well. Leonard and Penny's story was a reminder to the viewers that they are no longer the couple that can't get along anymore, they're now the perfect couple. Therefore, there won't be much of a conflict with respecting each other. That leaves a plethora of stories for the remaining couples on the show, but I wouldn't advise the writers to add more conflicts into the relationships. However, I would appreciate a more subtle shift to careers for the first half of season nine as it would be a refreshing change of pace. The change of pace is exactly why The Anxiety Optimization was regarded as a boon for the season. After that one great episode, the writers once again fell prey of the comfort zone and decided to attach a string of average and above average episodes which staddled the fences of relationships once again. Furthermore, the plots are starting to knaw at me, as their content seems to be degrading by the episode. This week's Raj-Emily fuss was a horrible one, and I think the writers ought to place Raj in a relationship he is stable in. The fans waited six years for him to quit his selective mutism and another year for him to get into a normal relationship. Please, writers, give us a spark in Emily and Raj's relationship! It would be much appreciated...


Grade: B



"The Intimacy Acceleration"/S8E16

Posted on March 6, 2015 at 2:10 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao

 

The word "nostalgia" shouldn't be taken lightly. I often reminisce of the past and remember how simple things were back then. For instance, this week, when Penny and Sheldon were staring into each other's eyes as part of the experiment, Penny smiled and remembered the first time she met the guys. Honestly, when season one began, I recall having no hope for the show, but I did enjoy the pilot episode. There were no couples like there have been since season five. I usually classify the first four seasons of the show as the seasons when the friendships among the characters strengthened, while I classify the recent seasons as the couples' turf. I find it amusing to see how everyone's changed over the past few years, and I often do recall the episodes which marked a change for specific characters. For Sheldon and Penny, I always remember it as the trio which made them incredible friends: "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis", "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency" and "The Robotic Manipulation." I regard these episodes as the building blocks of the incredibly intimate frienship they currently share. This week's A-plot was a kind reminder of the relationship and how they do care for each other despite the snarky remarks they make.

 

The remainder of the episode wasn't as charming as the A-plot because the writers didn't want us to focus on them. After the episode was done, all that came to mind was the expriment. I mean, it was an apt catalyst to get the characters to open up about themselves, much like how the writers used the theme of letting go last week before announcing Mrs. Wolowitz's passing. The subplots this week partially forwarded the storyline of the show, as the aftermath of last week was still being discussed. It was refreshing to see Howard loving his mother for who she was, not making fun of her. However, I was disappointed at Bernadette's lack of sympathy for Howard. I mean, the man just lost his mother. How would you feel if none of your parents were there for you anymore? Howard's emotions were another attempt of the show's to dabble in drama, but luckily they didn't bomb and actually succeeded this time. The drama wasn't too heavy for a traditional sitcom, and the writers did add some good comedy in there, so I would call that plot a hit. As for the other plot, it was just a filler, but I must say I do enjoy Emily spending more time with Raj's friends. The relationship he has with Emily reminds me of Ted's relationship with The Mother. All the years of waiting finally culminated in finding his soulmate. While I'm unsure if Emily is Raj's 'The One', I am happy to see Raj also in a couple, as he was side-stepped for a long period of time when the show began using the couples as plotlines.

 

This week's review is also short, becuase I don't feel like anything substantial actually happened. This episode will fit snuggly into season eight and maybe won't be remembered as a fan-favorite, but I can assure you that if fans do rewatch the episode, they would have a huge smile on their faces as they remember the pilot episode of the show: where it all began...

 

Grade: B+

 

Stray Observations:

- Raj: "I don't need science to win her heart! I have my parents' money for that!"

- Sheldon: "You're not supposed to drink alcohol while operating heavy machinery." (While he points to his brain)

- Emily: "Are you being polite or scared?" Leonard: "Yup!"

- Penny: "I just felt a wave of affection for you." Sheldon: "Are you sure it's not just bible juice."

- Bernadette: "One way or another we're walking out of this airport with a dead woman!"

- Penny: "Can you believe it's been eight years?" Sheldon: "And you're still eating our food!"



"The Comic Book Store Regeneration"/S8E15

Posted on February 20, 2015 at 5:30 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


The title of this week's episode is an oxymoron that I would have never expected from a traditional sitcom such as The Big Bang Theory. Tonight's episode was mainly about "letting go", and eventually the insignificant theme bloomed into one of the biggest bombshells in the characters' lives. As far as the readers as concerned, this plotline was one of the few options the writers had to explain why Mrs. Wolowitz wouldn't be heard anymore. Although I knew about this plotline weeks in advance, I was still reflecting on Mrs. Wolowitz's passing after the conventional toast for her at the end of tonight's episode. A smart move on the writers' part was to not completely eliminate the show's comic traits for the news and to opt for a more sophisticated comedy in the form of memories.


However, the structure of this week's episode is formulaic if we consider the television industry in general. For instance, in 2011, an episode of How I Met Your Mother called 'Bad News' aired. If we were to watch 90% of the episode, we would consider that the bad news was Marshall's infertility. However, at the end of the episode, the writers gave us a twist and revealed that Marshall's father had passed away. A similar tactic is employed here by the writers of the show: they made the focus of the episode the idea of letting go, and then brought in the big news of Mrs. Wolowitz's passing as the true purpose of the episode. Sheldon's struggles to let things go are now palpable to others, and they can sympathize with his inability after hearing the grave news. The bombshell also gave us a rare glance at the human side of Sheldon, who offered one of the most heartfelt advices ever heard of on the show. Moments like this one or when he confessed his love for Amy before she did are what have allowed Sheldon to evolve, even if it is by a small degree. The plot's culmination may have been a cliché, but Sheldon's moment before that is what got me. 


As far as the remainder of the episode is concerned, it was average. The plotlines aren't original, but rather dull, and the comedy didn't have much of its punch this week. However, we finally got a series of flashbacks when Penny remembered all the puzzles Amy got her, so that's a plus point for the writers! Furthermore, I think very highly of Nathan Fillion, and his cameo was funny. Other than that, I would like to end this week's article on a nostalgic note as we remember all the hilarious Mrs. Wolowitz scenes the writers have provided us with, and how much they made us laugh...


Grade: B+

Stray Observations: 

- R.I.P Carol Anne Susi (1952-2014)



"The Troll Manifestation"/S8E14

Posted on February 6, 2015 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


I often view the eighth season of The Big Bang Theory as a compilation season, much like a greatest hits album. I observed how the writers were attempting to synthesize the finer elements of the first and second halves of the series into episodes that would play well with their original set of fans and the others that hopped on the bus as the years went by. It's similar to what How I Met Your Mother did when it used to air episodes involving running gags such as The Slap Bet. Those are the moments when the evolution of the writers' qualities are depicted best. For instance, last week, when the A-plot revolved about Sheldon's work and how it affected his relationship with Amy, I found it quite refreshing to see the characters engage in their romantic relationships and scientific discoveries. This week eliminates the former and places its focus entirely on Leonard and Sheldon's careers, while the females are given the relationships plot.


The A-plot placed Sheldon and Leonard on the same side of the equation, instead of the usual Leonard gets annoyed by Sheldon plots that were dragging on for a while. The paper they wrote is at the forefront of the plot, but the point of the plot was to get the audience to realize that even though they have been arguing over the past few episodes, they are still roommates who can often tolerate each other. Furthermore, it's worthy to note that Sheldon wasn't a boor when Leonard brought the idea to him. I would first think of these aspects of the episode would someone mention it. Furthermore, I would recall the quirky little improvisation act that Leonard and Sheldon put together for us. Other than that, the plot was mediocre, with a weak resolution that admittedly does make sense. I would have prefered a sequel to "The Zarnecki Equation" that would have improved upon its flaws...


Now, onto my favorite part of the episode: the embarrassing things one does. I found this one more relatable than the first one because we all have things that we regret and that we choose to forget. For instance, Bernadette's pageant days and Amy's fanfiction were not the cheek-reddening aspects I expected. Bernadette's video was a treat to watch, especially since it wasn't an anecdote this time. However, I would tell the writers to cool it with the visualization of Amy's story, as I got a little uncomfortable during those scenes. If I were to neglect those scenes, the story is a perfect easter egg in the episode, especially since the girls got deeply invested in it. Kudos to the writers for thinking of this plot!


Grade: B

Stray Observations: 

- Leonard: "When you talk like that, I wanna take you right on this table!"

- After all these years, Sheldon finally appreciated one piece of work Leonard did and gave him a cat sticker that says "Mewow!"

- Sheldon: "You mess with the bull, you get the horns! I'm gonna show you just how horn-y I can be!"

- Penny: "I really wanna know what happens! And Bernadette really-really-really- wants to know what happens!!!"

- Penny's reaction when Cooper returned to Amelia in Amy's story was priceless.

- Amy in the House Of The Prairie outfit reminded me of her Blossom days, and how Andy Samberg impersonated that on SNL once. 



"The Anxiety Optimization"/S8E13

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Shows like The Big Bang Theory have run for a sufficient amount of time for them to assemble followings who would, for example, light up when Penny sang Soft Kitty to Sheldon this week. If the show were to discard its prime qualities during its reinvention over the past few years, the fans would have left and been replaced by the others like how my friends and I left an ex-friend because every other day he would tweak his personality by a certain angle until we couldn't recognize him anymore. I am not exerting that change is a negative aspect of life, but one must not change every aspect of one's self. Change should only be accompanied with need. For instance, Chuck Lorre's re-invention of The Big Bang Theory came after season four, which I always hold as the nadir of the show. Had Lorre not changed the direction of the show, it would have bombed, and the show would have been cancelled. Hence, a new direction was mandatory. 


However, this week, the writers employed a script whose content reminded us of the early stages of the show, specifically when Sheldon would focus all of his attention on work rather than on his social skills. I recall an episode entitled "The Einstein Approximation" which aired roughly five years ago. That episode garnered my attention due to its airing on Einstein's birthday and the fact that the code for the episode (3.14) was the approximation for the irrational constant pi. Another reason why I remember it is that has always been a Big Bang classic episode for me. I always remember the ball pit scene when Leonard chased Sheldon in a children's play area in the middle of the night. Such episodes are deemed classics because not only do they have such moments, but they can also take the credit for giving the show a larger audience. The latter hasn't been applicable for about 3 years now, as the show is still TV's Number One Comedy. 


However, that doesn't imply that the current batch of episodes is any less than the inital ones. Tonight's episode is another one that side-steps the couple issues, as the fans had gotten a little suffocated with all the couple plots over the past two to three seasons. I found it refreshing to view Sheldon asking everyone to irritate him and try to prove him wrong, and that's why I loved tonight's A-plot. The premise was Sheldon's inability to come up with a theory for proton displacement, and the rest of the episode revolved around how efficiently he could work. That does remind us of the previous seasons of the show, but alas there are less scientific facts thrown out there than before. The plot's conclusion with Leonard and Penny looking happily at Sheldon was also reminiscent of the final scene in "The Spaghetti Catalyst". These little throwbacks are what the show had always been missing, so I enjoyed it. Furthermore, Sheldon's look with that cap on his head was just down-right funny, even when he blew off Amy's romantic dinner. 


The B-plot this week was another one that we haven't really seen much of, as Raj's dating life had just started to pick up in season six, when he finally lost his selective mutism. Howard's game Emily or Cinammon? was one with plenty of humor in it, as the relationship Raj had with the dog resembled the relationship he had with Howard until the latter met Bernadette. (Speaking of her, she needs more screen time, writers!) The various questions did provide comedy in an already saturated episode, which was great. Another thing that I have noticed about the show is how the laughing track, along with the comedy, is being used more as punctuation and less as a wild eruption of laughs. The various reactions brought about the studio audeince feel more natural. So, kudos to the writers! Also, thank you for an episode that provides the viewer with a plethora of the show's finest aspects...


Grade: A

Stray Observations:

- The various "lies" that Leonard and Penny tell Sheldon at the start of the episode are worth a mention. I laughed louder when Leonard quickly switched clauses when Sheldon removed his noise-cancelling headphones. 

- Howard: "Emily, or Cinammon? 'Check it out! I got us matching sweaters!'"Leonard: "We all got the Christmas card: Cinammon."

- Sheldon's bipolar reactions to his stress levels were hilarious!

- Penny: "Clearly you haven't seen him on the beach with his metal detector." Kaley Cuoco's method of delivering lines has never ceased to amaze me. 

- Sheldon: "Taylor was right! Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate!" 

- I wonder why Emily found a strand of dog hair in Raj's mouth?

 


"The Space Probe Disintegration"/S8E12

Posted on January 9, 2015 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


It has been a while since our last liaison, hasn't it? Well, I'm not the one to blame here, as the famous television hiatus season is here! We won't be seeing a lot of each other from now till about April, when the schedule is more regular. Speaking of regular, I wanted to actually share a thought I had the other day while I was binge-watching the second season of the show. I've realized how regular Sheldon's growth as a character has been over the past few years. During the first three seasons, we saw Sheldon opening the doors to a friendship with Penny and the two becoming close. Then, for the next three years, the writers tried to transform the robotic Sheldon Cooper into one who could be in a committed romantic relationship. Now, ever since the seventh season, we've seen Sheldon taking leaps in this relationship with Amy. 


The two big leaps that I can think of are last year's Valentine's Day episode and this season's prom night episode. The two episodes represent a huge Shamy first that then translated into Sheldon becoming accustomed to his relationship with Amy, and as a result the group now takes their relationship seriously. However, this week, the character trait which I am describing isn't his evolution with respect to females; it's his friendship with Leonard, as it was put to the test. We have often seen brief moments when Sheldon expresses his care for Leonard; however, we often consider them as comic moments the writers use like Shakespeare would use syntactic inversion for poetic effect. However, this week, I realized that these moments were bigger than they seemed, as they led to Sheldon's emotional burst when Leonard wanted to move in with Penny. These are the moments when the writers' skills truly come to light. Even though Sheldon has evolved and changed significantly, there are moments when the audience feels as though Sheldon never welcomed any female company into his life. Together, they give Sheldon the complexity of an amphoteric and a breakout character. That's what makes him popular. The fandom doesn't enjoy the other characters as much as they enjoy him simply because of his complexity, similar to Barney's situation during How I Met Your Mother's run or Jesse's popularity in Full House. The three characters had quirks which often formed the base of the comedy employed in the respective shows, and while others may find it unoriginal, I find it comforting to see a breakout character being himself or herself. That's why I like it when Sheldon is unaccustomed to change; however, I criticize how they handled this problem during the season seven finale by sending him away. It is one thing to let the quirk generate comedy, it's another to let it generate plotlines that bomb. 


The A-plot was a light-hearted shopping scene where the show focused more on friendships than on the couples that have often stolen the limelight over the years. The B-plot continued with the friendship theme by placing Raj in a stressful situation and Howard as the comforting friend. While the plot may not have the potential to thrill, it certainly performs its function by keeping up with the comic nature of the episode and making sure that the show doesn't get caught up in the emotional state like HIMYM often did. The viewers who have kept up with the show since season one have something to rejoice for in this episode, as its base is on friendship, not on romantic relationships. Many have often expressed scorn over the new nature of the show, but they do not realize that even though Leonard is the protagonist, the show revolves around Sheldon. Everytime the writers tweak his personality, they change the possible course of the show. I would have never imagined the show running beyond its third or fourth season had Sheldon and Amy not gotten together. Introducing their relationship was the start of a chain of relationships that were formed by the fifth season and cemented by the sixth. Now, we get to see these characters do things beyond these relationships, except for Raj, who has only spent a year and a half talking to females while sober...


Grade: B+

Stray Observations:


- Raj devoured a two-pound steak on Diwali. Oh, the irony!

- Bernadette: "Told you not to wax down there! It's itchy when it grows back!"

- Penny: "Somehow he managed to take all the fun out of it." Sheldon: "Once again, that's what I do."

- Raj: "Is this a story about patience and waiting, or just another reminder that you went to space?"

- Sheldon's "Son of a biscuit!" lines are a treat to watch!

- Penny: "You've got great friends, you've got a boyfriend, you're pretty, you have zero fashion sense!"

- Sheldon actually does notice the mean things the rest of the group says to him...




"The Clean Room Infiltration"/S8E11

Posted on December 20, 2014 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (2)

By Dhruv Rao


While watching tonight's episode, I realized how much Sheldon has tranformed over the years. Not how I didn't use the word "change", as I observe his character development as a positive aspect of the revamped version of The Big Bang Theory. His relationship with Amy has been a key aspect in this metamorphosis, and everytime Shamy had taken a small step, Sheldon took a leap. He has become less robotic and more humane: he tries to understand feelings. For instance, tonight, he tried to terrorize Amy by giving him a very personal gift, but he ended up making the situation better. His amelioration in communication with the other characters, specifically Amy, has proven that Lorre, Prady and Molaro are holding the steering wheel correctly. They have controlled the show's several characters over the last four seasons, and the comedy has actually bounced off the characters well. For instance, last season's "The Indecision Amalgamation" is a perfectly executed episode. I have often re-watched the episode, and not once have I kept a straight face for more than one to two minutes. The episode is just one of the few gems the writers have created, which includes this season's "The Prom Equivalency".


Tonight's half-hour provided some strong moments; however, the A-plot wasn't completely resolved. The contamination of the clean room was never going to be a plot that could hold the episode together, so making it the principal focus of the episode was undoubtedly a mistake. The plot did provide some funny moments, but the lack of flow in the story made it a fiasco. Furthermore, it employed the same trio as last week: Raj, Leonard and Howard. It was gold last week, but this week it seemed tired and elongated. The story should have been as small as the Bernadette plot in "The Indecision Amalgamation". If it were an accessory, the story would have been tolerable, but I simply got bored halfway. 


I found the subplots rather amusing and refreshing. Firstly, we finally saw Raj's father communicate with the other characters, so there was a win there. Furthermore, his sarcastic comments on his wife were hilarious. His appearance was the highlight of the episode for me, especially when he was left with Penny and Amy. His attempts to score with Penny and Amy, similar to Dr. Lorvis in "The Misinterpretation Agitation", a great episode of this season, are other comic moments that add to the value of the plot. Furthermore, the Victorian Christmas dinner plan by Amy was as hilarious as it gets, especially when they played the parlour game. The dinner was a sweet culmination of the plot, with Amy and Sheldon being happy together while Raj getting a slap for stealing one of Sheldon's cookies. The ending tied well with the other subplot, during which Sheldon visited Santa, while being his own "quirky" self. As far as I am concerned, the moment I retain is the one when Sheldon confessed that he truly did love Amy, a confession that has become so casual yet so special for the viewers.


The lackluster main plot this week couldn't be saved by the well-executed subplots. The combination of the three plots was definitely not a good holiday gift for the viewers: it was as though the audience was eating a meal in which the appetizers and the dessert rocked, but the main course bombed. No one would be satisfied by the end result of that, as the audience would still be hungry for a proper "meal".


Grade: B-

Stray Observations:


- Tomhanksgiving sounds awesome!

- "Santa thinks dating you is punishment enough."

- Kaley Cuoco nails her lines in his episode, especially when she is condescending towards Amy's parlour games.

- Amy inhaled a ball of wool. 

- Mr. Koothrappalli: "Forty years the woman never cleaned a thing!" 

- Sheldon: "I really do love her. Now, let's find something that makes her feel small and worthless."



"The Champagne Reflection"/S8E10

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Tonight was all about the final result of one's efforts, thus the word "reflection" appears in the episode's title. There are various ways to celebrate one's life once they are gone; however, when a closer look is placed on it, the years and years of effort amount to money in a bank, and in this case, tons of sporadic data that causes Leonard to reflect deeply on the meaning of his career path. The scenes do have a certain poignancy in them; however, the writers neatly balanced them with certain moments of well-crafted comedy. For instance, when Leonard first pronounced "Roger Abbott", Raj immediately noted the similarity to 'Roger Rabbit". Although the joke lacks the sophistication that the show has acquired over the years, its ice-breaking ability makes it apt. Another example is when Howard simply threw away the papers Professor Abbott wrote right after he pondered on the significance of scientific research. Once again, the writers didn't come up with the perfect ice-breaker, but they perfectly timed its delivery to mask its flaws. Furthermore, the gravity of the plot shadows the comic moments, thus providing the viewer with an impression that lasts. And that exactly is what I find memorable in television shows: an episode that makes you think about life or any known topic in a refreshing way. 


I knew this episode had a lasting effect when I often ignored the comedy in the A-plot and focused on what Leonard was trying to argue: the poignancy of a life that amounts to nothing. The thought process that this plot evoked was remarkable, and that's why I commend the writers for writing such a refined episode. Furthermore, I appreciate the balance in the episode between light-hearted humor and plots like these. The B- and C-plot provide for the former, and they do their job well, as the episode can easily be categorized as one of a sitcom. The comedy they provided is the type that shows like Seinfeld and Friends often employed: they used the default character traits and placed a certain "twang" on them. For example, the B-plot this week gave various flashbacks to the high points in Fun With Flags' run (232 episodes). The disrupted sketches of Sheldon and Amy donning various attires to represent the flags they were discussing was hilarious as all the Fun With Flags moments. In addition, they provided us with extra Shamy moments to cherish in the future. I can just picture a major chunk of this plot being uploaded to YouTube under "Season 8 Funny Moments".


The C-plot was not as great as the first two; however, it did have its own momentum. The individuality of the three plots is what make this episode unique: the various members of the group are on their separate evenings, and no "coincidental meetings" occur. This method of scriptwriting is often employed on The Big Bang Theory, as the show likes to segregate the three plots for convenience. However, not all shows can pull it off, for the same reason why not all sitcoms can easily and smoothly incorporate dramatic elements in them like How I Met Your Mother did. This plot was a good digestive for the episode, as the solemn nature of the A-plot was a little too solemn. The topics touched upon were of little relevance to the big picture of the show, but the comedy they provided scrutinized on the accentuated character traits of Bernadette: she is a bully dressed like a sweet little girl. The scenes have a few flashbacks that the show have often used, but they are unfortunately only through dialogue and lack a visual representation like how How I Met Your Mother used to do it. A few years ago, I would've been upset at the writers' inability to include them, but now I just let it slide. The show isn't known for it, so why should I force the writers do something they're uncomfortable doing...


Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

- Bernadette: "I'm like the sweetest person I know! Look at me! I should be in a tree, baking cookies!"

- LeVar Burton agreed to appear on Fun with Flags in exchange for Sheldon deleting his contact details. 

- Amy's "I PRESSED IT!" is perfect. It's moments like these when I realize how great of an actress Mayim Bialik is.

- What's the best part of a scientific achievement? Leonard: "Rubbing it in Sheldon's face."

- The company's employees have been paying for Bernadette's coffees for the last five months.

- Bernadette's private bathroom was meant for the entire floor.



"The Prom Equivalency"/"The Septum Deviation"/S8E8-9

Posted on November 28, 2014 at 5:30 AM Comments comments (10)

By Dhruv Rao


Sometimes, while we wait for something to happen, we often become pessimistic that it will ever happen. Sheldon's confession to Amy this week is something she has been craving ever since the latter half of the fifth season, and over the years we have seen her become cynical towards it ever happening. For instance, last season, she remarked that Raj and Howard would achieve the intimate relations she desires before Sheldon and her do. In the spur of the moment, the viewer may think it to be funny, but truth be told Amy really did feel like it would never happen. However, in this year's valentine episode, Shamy made a huge leap on a train to Napa Valley. Looking at those moments now, they seem very small steps in comparison to Sheldon's huge "I love you too" this week. Furthermore, his response before Amy's explicit confession is what made her gape. Dear writers, before we continue, I must commend that scene as it will be one of the "big moments" that will fit into the highlight reel of the series.


The rest of the episode wasn't a letdown either, as it exemplified the new subtle writing techniques the writers have acquired over the years. For instance, giving Howard's cousin a name (Jeanie) and a face after the writers barely mentioned her five years ago is something the writers would have never accomplished a few years back. (PS That episode, "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency", is one of the classic episodes because of the Penny-Sheldon scenes). Furthermore, tangling that element with the ongoing saga between Howard, his mom and Stuart was a nifty trick. The result was a limo ride filled with bursts of comedy and a few awkward moments when Jeanie mentioned the awkward relationship she had with Howard in her father's Corolla. The scenes mingle well with Leonard and Penny's moments when they reminded me of Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother. For example, when they were dancing and said that the wished no one were coming, I knew right then that they were Marshall-Lily quality. A silver lining in the episode is Emily, who seems to be getting serious with Raj now. I admire how the writers have placed Raj in a fulfilling relationship, and how Emily loves thriller movies. 




The first episode was almost perfect with a few clichées here and there; however, the second episode didn't completely absorb that momentum. The plots were not as funny and flowing as those in Prom, especially the A-plot regarding Leonard's surgery. Admittedly, I liked how the writers portrayed Sheldon's deep care for Leonard and his obsessive nature simultaneously. The various punchlines from Sheldon are everpresent, and they render the entire plot a lot more funnier. Furthermore, Penny and Leonard's relationship seems to be strengthening, a sign that the writers will soon discard their plotlines and focus on the other characters in unstable relationships. That is my educated guess after watching HIMYM side-step Marshall and Lily as murals in the ninth season. Another positive element of the episode is the balance between geek and sophistication, as the B-plot advances Raj's personal life: his parents are splitting up. The timing is key here: we hadn't seen them in a long time, and the last we saw them, they were unhappy. The writers once again took advantage of their given situation and made Raj's parents split, and gave the reason of bottled up feelings. The various cameos of the Koothrapallis makes sense now, and so does Raj's unhappiness. The line that caught me the most was that he would have to celebrate Diwali twice: a strong oxymoron. The continuity of the series has considerably improved since its early days, and that's what matters the most here...


Grade: A/B

Stray Observations:


- Bernadette: "Howie let go of him!" Howard: "Not until he stops humping his way up my family!"

- Raj told Emily about Howard and his cousin's awkward encounter on their first date.

- The "Say Cheese!" was a perfect closing moment for the episode, especially the "Say...COUSIN!"

- Amy can fit 56 fava beans in her mouth. Mayim Bialik's expression while delivering the line was priceless! 

- Sheldon thinks Jay-Z is a typo.

- Raj made coasters for Bernadette and Howard with his face on them: a good reason why his parents got divorced...

- Leonard is Sheldon's "mucus-powered white-noise machine"...




"The Expedition Approximation"/"The Misinterpretation Agitation"/S8E6-7

Posted on November 14, 2014 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


I have a theory that a show is very inflexible when it comes to its timings: when it doesn't air at its usual spot, things get out of hand. This hypothesis of mine was supported by the first few episodes of this season. Not only was the quality sub-par, but the overall comedy was also hackneyed, the character development was ignored, and the subplots didn't neatly and peacfully amalgamate into a cohesive half-hour of television. Moreover, the fans expressed disdain over the resolution of the season-seven cliffhanger: an unfunny, below average season premiere with relatively minimal intrigue. All these elements, once taken into consideration, would have easily led the show down the path it went down during its fourth season.


However, these two chapters of season eight have brought the show's game back. The comedy is on point, the subplots link up, and there is the feeling that the show is advancing: a feeling that the audience had for the last three seasons. Furthermore, there are the moments when the show proudly boasts about the character's clicheed flaws, which take the standard of the episodes to a whole new level.


The first half-hour of television is "The Expedition Approximation", i,e. the final episode of the show to air on a Monday. The rhythm here is perfect, as we can see the characters in their comfort zones, mocking each other, making the classic jokes we've loved for years, and somehow making us feel like the show has completely changed. For instance, when Sheldon and Raj had their meaningful conversations in the mine about Hannah Montana, it reminded me of the time Sheldon hired Raj and "Eye of The Tiger" played everytime they would put on their thinking caps. Furthermore, when Sheldon left Raj for his personal safety, the entire plot's purpose is defeated, just to portray Sheldon's boorish qualities. And that's the beauty of the A-plot, which culminates in the entire story occurring in a span of eleven minutes. It's a small detail, but it redefined the context of the previous scenes. My favorite gag this week was Sheldon's voice memos that Raj kept on repeating the obvious: Sheldon is a terrible friend. Those little splurts of comedy is what made the fans fall in love with the show, and as the show has progressed, these moments have become more subtle, i.e. they have acquired a style that the show is now known for.


Meanwhile, the B-plot of the episode advances the upcoming nuptials of Leonard and Penny while giving us a rare insight into Howard and Bernadette's marriage. The back-and-forth handing of the money was blithe, but the following events in the Wolowitz's home overpowered it by a drastic measure. The image of Howard as a boy in a man's body is furthered here, and I love it: the replacement of Bernadette as a "motherly" figure is a perfect example of the sophistication the show has acquired over the years. Moreover, the moments when Leonard tries to make Bernadette feel better and when Penny enjoys the couple fighting add a zing to the scenes. For example, when Penny said that she wanted to wait and see if Howard were to get a star for doing his chores, I literally laughed hysterically- my sister even came into my room and asked me if I was okay. These moments make the audience cherish the show, and they add value to the comedy. Without them, the show wouldn't have reached the peak of comedy viewership in the country.




The second episode of the lot adds to this value by introducing a middle-aged version of the old Howard Wolowitz and extending Leonard and Penny's maritial problems.  Dr. Lorvis' character may be a depressed version of the characters of the guys in season one, but it is interesting for the guys to openly portray their geeky nature. The excalamation of the guys at various operations Lorvis had operated, especially on celebrities, was a moment to relish. Furthermore, the concentration on Donkey Kong instead of the fact that Dr. Lorvis locked them in the basement was another big laughter moment for me. The comedy here is The Big Bang Thoery being itself in the best manner possible while completely redefining big comedy episodes in shows. The introduction of Penny's flirtation at work is a major plot development that could easily lead to intense episodes in the following weeks. It reminds me of How I Met Your Mother's classic episode "How I Mer Everyone Else", when the characters narrated how they met each other in various comic tones. The comedy is classic HIMYM, but the rich character development made the episode a classic. Many episodes in the following seasons have alluded to that one, and that's what made it a fan-favorite. In the case of TBBT, there aren't as many allusions, so fan-favorites and classics are solely based on how much they advance the plotline while balancing the comedy element of the show.


If we were to use those conditions to measure the greatness of the episode, it would be given an A star rating. However, there were moments when the comedy felt overused, such as Dr. Lorvis' switching of girls as soon as he met them. Furthermore, I felt that the Amy-Bernadette fight wasn't resolved completely, thus leaving a tiny but observable loose end in the episode. However, the rest of the episode integrated the plotline and the comedy well, and thus showed us that the writers have not lost their touch...


Grade: A-




A to Z: "C is for Curiouser + Curiouser"/S1E3

Posted on October 25, 2014 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao

 

Every episode of A to Z has a very predictable structure. It will always discuss some first for Andrew and Zelda, leading to them getting insecure, jealous and crazy. For instance, this week discussed each character’s past, and everything spiralled down from there. I like that A to Z has a warmth that many sitcoms lack, but this repetition in plot structure is getting a little monotonous. There is only one voice during the narration, we are only seeing the story as mere outsiders, and Andrew always seems to be the one to make a larger mistake than Zelda. One of the things that I loved about How I Met Your Mother was that the writers had various narrative techniques up their sleeves. Even though they had a framing device (which A to Z also possesses, but it is vaguely defined), the writers constantly challenged themselves to introduce new framing devices for certain episodes, or even seasons!

 

The advantage for such narrative perspectives is that they offer a certain bias in them: not enough to make the story completely change, but enough to punch in an extra ton of comedy. A to Z’s narrator is doing a good job, but we are unaware of her identity and how she knows everything about the characters in this story. As far as we are concerned, she is none of the characters in the series, so she most probably won’t be bias. For instance, this week, the narrator didn’t side with either side of the couple during the stalking moments and calling them out as “bad people”, and that adds a more overseeing-image of the narrator. That’s another problem I have here. This story isn’t a support in an essay, but it is a form of entertainment, whose pertinence to reality often has a limited scope, and it’s story should have more perspective. The former’s limitation is actually high as the B-plot for most episodes involves an insight into the running of an internet dating website. The latter needs to be explored in further depth, and needs to be made more interesting.

 

Having said that, Curiouser isn’t a bad half-hour of television. However, its quality seems to be compromised if we compare it to last week’s great episode. The whole story revolved around the “gutter”: how people in a relationship google each other. How I Met Your Mother explored that in “Mystery Vs History”, and essentially A to Z have expressed the same idea in two plots. The former involved Andrew and Zelda’s promise to keep the mystery alive. It’s not an original plotline, but since A to Z is a wonderfully clichéed and cheesy, it works. The writers of the sitcom are aware that most of the hilarious ideas have been taken by shows like Full House, Seinfeld, Friends, and others that have lasted for more than six or seven years. Thus, instead of trying and failing to be overly original, they decided to keep the story as cheesy as they could. The story lead to the couple digging up information on each other, which culminated in an unexpected confession: Zelda was married. That, right there, was what caught my attention, especially after Andrew’s “Damn” after looking at Gustav’s current picture. After an unfortunate arrest, the couple patch things up and have a great moment during which we see how the two weeks have gotten them to see each other differently: another classic romcom moment, but A to Z is the television adaptation of those. Overall, the plot was mediocre, with a hint of moments that were of a higher quality.

 

The running of Wallflower continues to amuse me. Not only does it add a new and refreshing aspect to the show, but it also adds some gems like Parvesh Cheena and Cristina Kirk. This week, Lydia found out about the Big Bird nickname and went on a stalking frenzy. The scene when the programmers gave Andrew Zelda’s wallflower profile is a blithe one, during which they overly flatter Lydia, only for her to claim that she likes the two of them. The resolution of the plot, when Lydia proudly called herself Big Bird, is another funny one, especially with Kirk’s movements. The inclusion of this plot and its intersection with the A-plot is another reason why the show is most likely to prosper. Furthermore, the silver lining of the writers starting to solve the Stu-Stefi conundrum of the pilot really fascinated me. Once again, the plot revolved around Wallflower, but added a warm moment when Stu and Stefi decided to act as friends even though they were at the terms of enemies, just for their friends. I really hope their problem will be solved, as it might bring some interesting double date, or even friendship plots in the future...


Grade: B

Stray Observations:


- Stu: "What do women want? Gold. Benedict Cumberbatch. Money."

- Andrew is the emotional one in the relationship.

- Stu and Stefi have the same size breasts.

- Lydia's reaction to the employees calling her Big Bird was hilarious. Right on, Cristina Kirk!

- I will be taking a two-week vacation from this site to finish some other tasks. You'll see the latest The Big Bang Theory and A to Z reviews after that...




"The Focus Attenuation"/S8E5

Posted on October 22, 2014 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (3)

By Dhruv Rao


I commend the writer's decision to introduce a new chapter in Penny's career. Her frictional unemployment last season provided for many emotionally charged scenes and some hilarious episodes. Furthermore, this season, her career shift to a pharmaceutical company has given her a sense of maturity: a sense that she's lacked for the past seven years. Her financially stable position is easily attainable, and I am beyond excited for the writers to explore that in depth. However, this week, the writers took to task introducing Penny's new attitude towards work: an attitude so serious that she decides to study on a holiday weekend to Las Vegas. The setting is one with endless possibilities, and most of them including high dosages of comedy, just like this episode did. The overall episode was a simple evening of friends spending some time together with no actual plot advancement: a style of writing we haven't seen since it was over-used in the show's fourth season, AKA the nadir of The Big Bang Theory.


A plot situated around role-reversal isn't the most original trick under a writer's sleeve. We have all watched episodes during which a main character's behavior deviates from the norm. For example, in the Full House episode "The Trouble With Danny", the titular Danny tries his best to be the complete opposite of what he is: "a psycho with a mop". Likewise, tonight Penny's job interfered with her comportment: she stayed in studying over the weekend in a hotel in Las Vegas. (I love how each phrase in the previous sentence adds more emphasis on the point I'm about to make...) It was refreshing to see her take her new job seriously while the scientists sit in the bar, drink and go to a strip club. What Amy and Bernadette do while drunk is classic "big show" humor: jokes that are only employed by shows as big as Full House or How I Met Your Mother that remind us that the show deals with a worldwide fanbase. For example, only a show with a large fanbase would base an episode on how an intelligent scientist got drunk and wounded up gagging over Australian strippers. Meanwhile, the serious Penny was working in the strip club, while giving the strippers a good condescending and inifferent look: a fine example of how great of a comedy actress Kaley Cuoco is.


The second, mediocre Focus plot discussed how the guys have diverted from their intellectual conversations and new inventions to small talk and gossip. This change in topic was due to the girls' presence in their life, so they decided to eliminate that factor in order to get some work done. These little moments when the guys revert to their geeky, nerdy state is due to an apparent change of heart in the writers. However, after slowly abandoning that genre of comedy, it isn't easy to bounce back. This episode is a perfect example of why the writers should stick to their new formula, which is taking them places. The jokes were funny, but after viewing many episodes of sophisticated comedy, they seemed relatively bland and immature. Sheldon and Leonard's little squabble for what could be considered as a tangent was funny, but it would've suited the season four version of the show. However, Raj's eyebrow joke was hilarious. The humor considering Raj has always evolved, and that's what I love about it. The smartest thing the writers did was elminate his selective mutism and place him in awkward situations with women. Furthermore, the writers finally picked his love life up, got him dating, and created more jokes on how feminine he is. 


The overall feel-good and have-fun vibe of the episode was prominent, and it stuck with me throughout. Another interesting plot trick used by the writers was making Leonard and Penny the serious ones in each group, instead of Sheldon and Amy. It's intriguing to see how their engagement shadowed a sense of responsibility and maturity on them...


Grade: B

Stray Observations:


- Sheldon really needs to learn what 'sexting' is.

- Raj (to Howard): "Boy, when you met Bernadette, the field of robotics really took a hit."

- IF the guys discover how to master the hoverboard, they can make Andrew from A to Z really happy.

- Everytime someone goes off topic, they get their arm hair yanked off.

- Amy (to Bernadette): "How big are those Hadron colliders?"

- Amy: "We had some pretty hot corpses in my anatomy class, but none of them moved like that!"




"The Hook-Up Reverberation"/S8E4

Posted on October 17, 2014 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (4)

By Dhruv Rao


If any television program runs successfully for more than half a decade, it is possible that the writers may have created what I call land mines: episodes which is so rich in content that it can be successfully alluded to in future episodes. For example, How I Met Your Mother had land mines laid out throughout the show, like "Slap Bet" or even "No Pressure". Full House's pilot episode was a constant throwback in future seasons. Likewise, the fourth season finale's cliffhanger was really a stunner, and a land mine for the writers. The advantage of introducing land mines into a series is that any time the writers are stumped, they have an idea in stock that can bring the show's legacy to a whole new level. When Lilly left Marshall in HIMYM's first season, the writers had resolved it early on in its second season. However, just this year, they reprised the idea in the biggest fight of Marshall and Lily's marriage. Likewise, Chuck Lorre reprised the season four finale idea to add depth to Raj's new relationship. I commend this gesture, especially because Raj's "relationship" with Lucy was a string of awkward dates whose culmination didn't really occur. 


The writers have really been challenging themselves in the office lately, and you can see the results in the seventh season of the show, where everything changed. This season is just starting, but the show has already put into motion a plan which will solve Penny's career crisis for a while: they gave her a job at a pharmaceutical firm. It is a good ploy, as it led to the confrontation scene between Penny and Emily. I don't think I would've picked up on Penny's new career direction and use it to help in advancing a plot. The story itself took a whole circle, with Emily and Penny still hating each other towards the end. If I were to quote a TV character's ex who had conflicts with the former's friends, I would easily name the Full House episode "Joey's Funny Valentine" because the conflicts were risen without the viewer even knowing. Furthermore, the resolution was the family getting to know Roxy from the start. It was refreshing, but that was 1994, a time when most of the good ideas for sitcoms weren't completely taken. That's why modern shows are often accused of being "cheesy" or "unoriginal", such as this show right here. The idea of a girl or boyfriend having issues with the character's friends has been used many-a-time in sitcoms and even dramas. Each one could be resolved differently, but at its core it's the same plot device. For instance, in HIMYM's fourth season, Karen had a problem with all of Ted's friends, and the episode ended with the couple breaking up because of Lily's scheme. The Big Bang Theory didn't resolve anything, they simply introduced the subject, built it up, and let it crash and burn towards the end by giving its ending no actual originality. However, the comedy bits in between the plot, especially Penny's talks with Amy and Bernadette, were hilarious and a joy to watch.


The second plot was an amusing one, with the guys deciding to own a new comic book store. The posh comic book store makes another appearance this week, and the guys decide to invest into Stuart's store. Howard's main reason is to get him out of his mother's house, and it really is refreshing to see his relationship with his mother roll on a new leaf. Furthermore, the various ideas the guys come up with to get this investment to work was a treat to watch, especially because they often don't get to be themselves with the girls around. With the girls not around, we get to hear their inner nerds blast forth into an explosion of comic books, super heroes, and most importantly science. The plots do go on, but the writers formally remind us that the guys aren't the same people they were when the show started: each one tells their significant other about the idea. The inclusion of those scenes was a subtle reminder to the viewers of how far the show truly has come, and how the writers have improved their writing skills. It's a good combination of funny and geeky, and it wasn't too heavy to digest. Furthermore, Howard's shout to his mother brought back the old days when he used to live there...


Grade: B

Stray Observations:

 

- Stuart has seven HBOs on his cable paid by Howard's mother.

- Amy: "I'm with him three years: nothing. She's with him two minutes and he's taking his pants off!"

- Penny shily agrees that Emily isn't the first girl who's hated her.

- Sheldon's comeback to the customers: "You don't work here. Shut up!"

- Howard gets emotional. Bernadette: "That story's made up, isn't it?"

- Amy: "I'm feeling a little backed into a corner, Sheldon." Sheldon: "Perfect!"




 


A to Z: "B is for Big Glory"/S1E2

Posted on October 11, 2014 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


After last week's episode, a lot of theories flew around regarding the endgame for A to Z. The most obvious choice would be an inevitable breakup, but an engagement or even a death is highly likely. This engagement in a series is both beneficial and threatening for a show, especially a sitcom or rom com. If people are engaged in the plot's direction, there is an expansion in the show's fanbase, like in How I Met Your Mother. However, almost simultaneously, the investment in the characters and the story often leads to a hightened expectation from the writers to wrap up the show and tie all the loose ends the way the people want it to be done. If the fans of HIMYM had been more invested in its journey rather than its end, then the series finale would have made no impact on their lives. Nonetheless, people cared deeply about how the characters would end up, and when the writers chose their work ethics over popularity (the artistic debate is not to be made here, people!) it spelled doom as the finale's reaction was highly "polarized". 


Having said that, I don't think A to Z has to worry about such a far-fetched problem in its first season, but there should be a plan set in place. I like how the narrator has already told us that this romance was doomed in the pilot (much like Ted's revelation about Aunt Robin in the series pilot of HIMYM). Thus, we know that this dating phase isn't going to last. However, if the last few decades of television have taught us anything, we know that the main part of any show is to enjoy the bridge, i.e. the journey to the end. One watches a television program regularly because one wants to enjoy it, right? Then, why would one envision the end of the series? A: Human nature: sometimes the writers poke too much fun at us for us to handle, and we immediately crave closure. So I advise all of the viewers out there to stop worrying about the ending of a show. If the show's run was amazing, nobody should care for its ending. That being said, the running of A to Z is pretty strong for now.


As we recall, last week Andrew and Zelda kissed, and then the episode closed. Then, we get back to the next morning, which resonates the previous night (typical rom com move), and starts off magically for the two people in the pair. The episode's cold open strongly contradicts its plot, and that's what I like about it. The fact that just a few minutes before starting the "making the other jealous" game, Andrew and Zelda confessed how they truly felt about each other. The description of the previous night was good, but I would have enjoyed a little more content. The night which was described in "B is for Big Glory" is of utter importance in the television world: it's the confused phase where no one knows if they're exclusive yet. Yes, it is overused, but it is also a boon for a plether of jokes, intervening friends, and various other classic sitcom attributes that some of us need. For example, the sexual innuendos used this week were of great use, as they clearly helped define the show as an 18-49 sitcom, not a fairytale young romance. This defining is more important as it helps the viewers take the show on a more serious note. If HIMYM hadn't included various scenes of emotional power, the viewers would have disregarded it completely, but because of the writers' detail-oriented scripts, the viewers payed attention to every little detail expressed in the episode. A to Z may be a rom com, but moments like insights into Zelda's childhood are perfect examples of why there is more meaning to this show. The final scene with Cristin Milioti's emotionless dialogue helped me get this show into an adult show's shoes.


The A-plot this week was exaggerated by an enormous amount, but it somehow worked better than the previous episode. The B-plot was simply the beta-test of the new Wallflower app, and that too provided a good amount of laughs, especially regarding Christina Kirk's acting. I must commend the writers for having this online dating edge within the show, especially with the behind-the-scenes of the dating apps like Tinder. Furthermore, I like how the show is open to the modern mode of living, and isn't clinging on to the traditional television style of living that was often seen on The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. The inclusion of homosexual couples is always welcome, and I must also give the writers a firm pat on the back for not excluding them. That's something to think about...


Grade: B+

Stray Observations:


- Dinesh saved Lydia's contact as "Big Bird".  (Also, I loved Parvesh Cheena on Outsourced. He needs a few more scenes in the show!)

- The simplistic style of the theme music of this show makes me love it. I love the colors standing out from the white background, and I also love the fact that the name of the episode is shown.

- Cristin Milioti's fake smile is on point, and I ansolutely adore it. 

- Lydia: "There is a time in every organization for the employees to eat their own dog food!" I really didn't know where she was going with this one...

- Narrator: "For 18 minutes, they small-talked, discussing the most innane crap ever!" That sudden shift from formal to relatable was remarkable.

- Andrew starting writing down their celebrity super-couple name: "Zeldrew." I actually find that to be rather catchy.




"The First Pitch Insufficiency"/S8E3

Posted on October 7, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


Couples pinned against other couples isn't necessarily the most original sitcom plot device ever used. It is an attempt to bring in humor using a show's characters' caricatures; however, the attempt is more failed than successful. When HIMYM made their attempt two years ago, their performance received mixed reviews from critics, and now that The Big Bang Theory has had its whirl at it, I can safely declare that this plotline is a dead-end: it's simply one of those ideas that are only funny at first, but as they continue to appear across the television industry, you start to feel frustrated. 


This week, the couples that the writers decided to stick to asunder poles were Lenny and Shamy. (Yes, I am completely aware of all the ship names.) It was interesting to see how the competition would end, as the victors weren't very clear. On the one hand, Shamy has had one of the biggest fan followings of the entire season, and all of its big moments are depicted with grandeur. On the other hand, Leonard and Penny are now engaged to be married, have been together for a solid 3 and a half years (counting season three), and they love each other. To be honest, I would have to agree with Sheldon as I did see the spark between the two dim ever since this season started, but Leonard and Penny insisted that they were a force to be reckoned with. The resolution could have easily been Sheldon winning and getting his way for the millionth time, and, guess what, the writers did exactly that. Not only did Sheldon win, but he also managed to drive a wedge into Leonard and Penny creating a heated argument of their fear of marriage. I was hesitant on letting Sheldon win the argument, but after seeing the heartfelt confession Leonard gave Penny to end the fight, I'm not as cynical of the plotline. It was simply an anecdote to reassure the viewers that Leonard and Penny getting married is a real thing, and the writers aren't kidding about that.


That was a sweet moment, which was followed by a moment of scorn as Chuck Lorre once again tried to shove comedy down our throats. I could have easily settled for Amy's tear-filled line, but they had to add Sheldon's arrogant punchline, didn't they? And speaking of Sheldon, I am rather puzzled as to what he thinks of his relationship with Amy. In the premiere, we were shown that their relationship was going through a rocky stage, but tonight they are shown in a smooth relationship where they share affectionate looks, food and personal knowledge. The continuity inconsistencies are really nerve-wrecking, especially for someone who loves a show which can neatly sow the seasons together using continuity (You guessed right! How I Met Your Mother it is). That's another complaint I'd like to lodge about the plot, but on the whole, in comparison to the first two episodes, this plot was a good improvement.


The second plot was more of a run-of-the-mill type story. Howard's attempt to throw the first pitch at the Angels game would have never been funny enough to last an entire episode. Granted that the gym-scenes were a little funny, the overall feeling of the plot was nothing but redundant. Neither did it advance the characters' lives, nor did it provide us with the essential laughs we require to get through an episode of TBBT because, as a known fact, sitcoms are two to three minute lectures in university without the comedy element. The final part with the whole stadium booing as Howard's proble sluggishly advanced to 1st base was as mundane as watching the guys dressing up for comic-con, missing it and then laying around in the desert to take pictures. It just reflects negatively on the writers who had brilliantly crafted the last three seasons before leading us to this season, what I feel like calling the second nadir after season four...


Grade: C+

Stray Observations:


 

  • Sheldon thinks that a double date counts as two dates.
  • Penny: "Isn't this when he says 'Bazooka!' or something?"
  • Howard: "You realize this isn't one of those times I want you to exaggerate how long something is."
  • The people at NASA still call Howard "Fruit Loops."
  • Raj: "I love how they put a waterfall at center field. It really ties the whole stadium together." Penny: "Look at you talking sports!"
  • "You suck Wolowitz!"


 

A to Z: "A is for Acquaintances"/S1E1

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

By Dhruv Rao


As soon as HIMYM ended last March, a lot of romcom sitcoms were announced. It seemed as though every one was trying to chase behind HIMYM's success as a show of the genre, as Alan Sepinwall had said. As far as HIMYM is concerned, this pilot has so many things in common that this might as well be HIMYM's soulmate. Not only do we know the fate of this relationship, but we also get the cliches (which I live for on television) that HIMYM often spoiled us with. Many reviewers found the show to be a little too light, but I reckon that since we've only gotten one episode out of this series, we might mistaken it to feel 'light'. Another reason is that we are comparing it to HIMYM, a show with a structure so complex, that often the writers would have to find loopholes to answer the fans with raised eyebrows. 


In many ways, A to Z's pilot is a sitcom's adaptation to a huge, blockbuster romantic comedy. (I used Kristen Wiig's method to define a rom-com.) I know the pilot's gist isn't set exactly in that manner, but don't tell me you didn't think of When Harry Met Sally when we saw the flashback to 2012. Also, another similar trait with HIMYM, the flashbacks. We often see the narrator (who is anonymous, and who I guess to be a stalker for both Andrew and Zelda) going back to explain how this came about. That is a trait that I often like in sitcoms, especially because all or most of the questions the audience have are answered. However, with this vague date of 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour, the writers are setting themselves for something they wouldn't be able to handle: a pre-planned ending. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas got over the fans' rage because they knew how they would react, but they stayed true to their ending. If the writers of A to Z follow suit, they must realize that this is a show that many people are considering their "Back Up HIMYM". They want this series to end the way they want it to, not how the writers intended. 


Now that all of the big talk of the show's done, I feel like I need to say that the show, while cheesy, is warm and adorable. It's a feel-good show with positive vibes that I think will fill that HIMYM-sized crater in my heart. The Ben-Cristin chemistry is more than enough for a viewer to fall in love with this show. I mean, two opposites attracting is the plotline of any romcom, but this show sticks to the male and female stereotypes. It's an uncanny resemblance to How Harry Met Sally and how we view a typical relationship. Both the actors have the potential, as seen in the office scene before the big kiss, when Zelda sadly stared at an empty office's lights being switched off. That kind of acting made me nostalgic to the How Yor Mother Met Me episode earlier this year because in both cases she is struggling with love. Nothing can beat the compelling scene she had as TM to say goodbye to Max, but this episode's certain somber moments will do a little more than ''just fine'' for us. Moreover, the supporting cast seems stronger than ever. I recognize many of them, but my favorite must be Parvesh Cheena from Outsourced. I just love how his dysfunctional relation came to light when he was trying to dissuade Andrew from trying to hard, which is exactly what the writers are doing. They're giving the episode the correct amount of attention and light-heartedness, but alas! it isn't something we haven't seen before...


Grade: B

Stray Observations:


- Andrew: "This place used to do real matchmaking. Now all we connect are penises and vaginas!"

- Q: A scenic view of the Wallflower office? A: How do you feel about watching a reggae poster that says "It Be Jammin'".

- The fact that a girl may or may not have a university degree does not affect the choice a man makes in regard to whether he wants this girl or not. 

- Stephi: "That's it. We're doing a cleanse. The lemon one that Beyonce did!" 

- A to Z also has a trademark like HIMYM did: the silver dress versus the yellow umbrella. 

- Theory: I have a feeling the deadling is just when they take their relationship to the next level.




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