The Big Bang Theory
|Sheldon (left) and Kripke (right) play basketball to win the office of a retired coworker in 517 "The Rothman Disintegration"|
I want to love The Big Bang Theory. More specifically, I want to love each and every one of its jokes, and each and every one of its episodes. But the unfortunate, sad truth is - it manages to make me laugh not that often. In its early years (seasons 1-3), nearly each episode had some sort of gut-busting joke of sheer brilliance, where each episode was something splendid and hilarious. Season 4, things started to waver - which is entirely understandable. Plenty of shows sort of lose their way in their fourth season, it seems to be the 'do-or-die' year for many a series. So that season was rather rubbish, with very few laughs or interesting plots. And this brings us to season 5, boasting 24 episodes where only, say, four or five are truly worth watching.
Interestingly, my favorite episodes of season 5 seem to deal primarily with Leonard, and the episodes I detest usually focus on the really-needs-to-grow-up Howard Walowitz and his sexually ambiguous friend Raj, two roles that function more as easy objects to make fun of instead of appearing as real, dimensional characters; they're the butt of jokes, not the thing stories are made of. And the once brilliantly comical Jim Parsons can't even seem to breathe life into Sheldon anymore, a character that is more and more losing his touch. That said, Sheldon's interactions with newly christened official 'girlfriend' Amy usually are seasonal highlights. When Sheldon and Amy are together, that's comedy gold - Amy's willingness to experience life and its many physical offerings, and by contrast, Sheldon who has no desire from the relationship outside of the meeting of two genius minds. But it's Leonard and his horrible luck with women and decision to forgo all premeditation and just take a chance with an old flame that make his character the more engaging of the year.
In regards to Howard and his relationship with Bernadette, here's hoping that the two of them together will help propel Howard into the neighborhood of becoming a character instead of comic fodder. Still, Howard is leaps and bounds a superior role in every way to Raj, who has less of a presence this year than ever before. I understand that the writers can't allow the characters to change too much or do something too extreme for the sake of plot generating and the necessity of jokes, but Raj being Raj has overstayed his welcome - time to evolve, dude, or get off the show.
The series has already been renewed through the ends of its seventh season (must be nice to have that sense of comfortability few shows seldom know), so I sincerely hope the writers can craft some funnier episodes with loads more character development. Amongst the season's highlights, "The Russian Rocket Reaction" , "The Good Guy Fluctuation" , "The Ornithophobia Diffusion" , "The Recombination Hypothesis" , and "The Rothman Disintegration" . If the show can find it's groove again, The Big Bang Theory will be marvelous in its sixth season. Until then, I'm cautiously optimistic. Also, surprisingly, the series works best when watched in quick succession, with no week hiatus - makes the bad episodes less bad and the good episodes really shine. Overall Season 5 Grade: C
|Jeff and Britta infiltrate Greendale to bring an end to Chang's imperialism in 321 "The First Chang Dynasty"|
Not every episode is a rousing success, unfortunately, but every episode honors character, and that's something rare in this breed of comedy television. And the most important thing of all, each episode is absolutely worth watching. There's not one atrocious, mind-numbingly bad bit in this batch. There's not a lot to say that extends beyond "OMG! OMG! Love love love brilliant funny love love haha!" But here I go: as a Doctor Who fan, every instance of Inspector Spacetime was a warm welcome. Analyzing Abed's personality dominates quite a few episodes in the backhalf of the season, which were very enlightening and entertaining - and helped Annie come to a realization of her own concerning Jeff. There seemed to be a heavy emphasis on real life vs. movies/television this year - Abed's part in documenting crazy Greendale shenanigans, or Abed's escapism in the Dreamatorium affecting how he perceives the world and acts in it. Reality is further tested in 319 "Curriculum Unavailable", where the study group is presented with the notion that all their experiences in the last two years have been a result of their psychosis. Community continues to be funny, dark, complex, and daring, and I love it for that. Season highlights include "Remedial Chaos Theory" , "Foosball and Nocturnal Vandalism" , "Virtual Systems Analysis" , "Basic Lupine Urology" , and "The First Chang Dynasty" . But really, every episode is great fun. Overall Season 3 Grade: B+
|Peter learns more about the mysterious Observers from September in 414 "The End of All Things"|
In the end, I feel, with 22 episodes, much more could have been done than what was presented to us. There felt like an alarming amount of filler, so much so that when we arrived to the two-parter finale, I was freaked out a little - there was still so much unexplained that how could two hours possibly do it justice? Amazingly, prophecies were fulfilled and the endgame reached, leaving the tale open for the fifth and final season. Having Lincoln included in the mix in this new timeline was refreshing, it added a new dynamic to the team that was greatly needed. It's a shame that around the halfway mark, Lincoln's importance in events began to dwiddle exponentially. And this brings us to the ultimate flaw of season 4: there just is not enough. Not enough Lincoln, not enough explanations, not enough smart usage of episodes, and not enough difference [this is a brand spankin' new timeline, yet by episode 15, it felt like a simple amalgamation of the prior two].
But there was a lot done right. John Noble continues to impress over and over as Walter Bishop, a man tormented by the atrocities he's committed in the past, and a desire to remedy that in the here and now, and a man with absolutely no social skills, providing some of the best comedy bits of the year. Lincoln is, as mentioned, a season highpoint as well. Learning a tiny bit more about the Observers than previously was also very interesting. Above all, even though the year was advertised as Peter's year, I was most impressed with Olivia Dunham and her arc - at least, hers was the most engaging. With Peter, they had this tremendous opportunity to explore new things - after all, this is a man in a whole new world - but he quickly fell back into the mix of things. Olivia was a brand new person for a dozen episodes, with a different emotional state, different memories and trajectories and relationships, and the Olivia that emerged after her memories began to resurface was a stronger, more confidant Olivia than we have ever seen on Fringe. Actually, here's another nice way to summarize the fourth year of Fringe: tremendously successful on the character front, sadly lacking on the plot and forward momentum.
Season highlights include "Neither Here Nor There" , "Enemy of My Enemy" , "Welcome to Westfield" , "The End of All Things" , "Letters of Transit" , "Brave New World" [421/422]. As it has been confirmed that next year's fifth season will be its last, the Fringe team appear to be facing off against the enigmatic Observers (as referenced in the superb future episode 419), and I can't think of a better way to send the series off in the sunset. The series will be greatly missed, but I will always be thankful with how exceptionally brilliant Fringe has been year after year. Overall Season 4 Grade: B
|Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) refuses to lend a hand in 313 "Slaughterhouse"|
Here's some random, general thoughts on season three: Dickie Bennett can leave the series at any time, he has overstayed his welcome for me. Every scene with Wynn Duffy is golden. Need a example? Look at the season finale, and tell me if there's ever been a better yelling of "Jesus Christ!" ever filmed. In the category of bad guys, Quarles (Neal McDonough) is magnificent, and that's saying something huge, because I initially was not looking forward to this character. But his brilliant introduction in the premiere set the tone - Quarles is a threat, a maniac, a crazy dude with a pistol in his sleeve and one hell of a rage issue. Every second with that man was intense, and how it culminates in the finale is surprisingly completely satisfying. In fact, how this year plays out is very much satisfying. McDonough, though, just creeped me out. Reminded me of Heath Ledger's The Joker, honestly. It's there. Overall, the season was firing on all cylinders. The only huge problem I have with the series is how each episode barely scratches the 40 minute mark. I'm used to shows on FX lasting in the (minimum) 44 minute range, and with a lot more content thrown in. Thing is, I love Justified, but at only 13 episodes, 40 minutes a piece, it's simply not hugely fulfilling. I want more, damnit. So if they can increase the runtime by just two more minutes, that would make me a happy camper. So, in conclusion, Quarles was amazing. Frightening to the core, magnificently played by McDonough. Raylan's situations were constantly interesting and humorous [e.g., "You shot me. I can't believe you shot me." "Neither can I."]. Storylines more often than not were engaging and unique. Characters weren't used the best they could be, but were fine overall. And Boyd - my god, give that character some direction, and give Walton Goggins something juicy to work with. And give me season four, like, nowish. Overall Season 3 Grade: B
|Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and the gang celebrate their last day as a group in 124 'See Ya"|
The first eight episodes is the obvious period of adjustment and creative understanding of the show, and by around episode thirteen, the series hit comedy gold. Near perfect runs all around, leading to a fun (albeit rushed) season finale. New Girl also has the distinction of being one of my few Destination Programming that I refuse to miss. That's a testament to how damn well the show is. I'm not going to spend a lot of time regaling you all with my affection towards New Girl, so I'll summarize: one of the finest first seasons of a show I have ever seen, with each episode offering the laughs without fail, and a diverse, hilarious cast that works tremendously well. It's a series with heart and intelligence and yet also boasts the balls to be super crazy. Season highlights: every episode. Overall Season 1 Grade: A
Tune in next week, as I review two freshman shows Once Upon a Time and Revenge, and give my thoughts on returning favorites Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, and The Walking Dead.