#1 TV show, Monday, 9/19/16
15.82 million viewers
What it is: A CBS sitcom about nerds and their sex lives. In this episode, the Season 10 premiere, Leonard and Penny’s extended families are in town for their wedding.
A friend recently warned me that this blog makes it seem like I “hate everything,” and to be honest I do struggle with tone here: How do I balance my desire to understand the apparently widespread appeal behind the stuff I’m covering with my desire to criticize everything because I’m a smug asshole? But give me some credit: I don’t hate The Big Bang Theory, and EVERY smug asshole hates The Big Bang Theory. Really, what’s to hate? It’s dumb, but it’s far from the dumbest sitcom out there, and certainly isn’t the most socially retrogressive or spiteful. I think one of the biggest criticisms of it has been that it exploits and misrepresents geek culture, but we all now agree that elevating geek culture to the mainstream was a bad idea and that it needs to stay in the basement where it belongs, right? So what’s the problem?
As for this episode in particular, as usual it does spend most of its energy on crass sexual innuendo, in this case based around whether or not Leonard’s dad and Sheldon’s mom had sex after the events of the previous episode. But the wedding scene at the end has some genuinely sweet moments, so that was nice.
More interesting than the story, though, is the parade of guests brought in to fill out the ensemble. It’s pretty funny to see prestige-TV stars like Jack McBrayer (Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock), Dean Norris (Hank on Breaking Bad), Katey Sagal (Leela on Futurama) and Laurie Metcalf (the woman who practically monologues through an entire episode of Louis CK’s Horace and Pete) playing bit parts on a show that their fans probably consider beneath them. It reminds me of an old Alan Sepinwall blog post in which the comments section featured some contributions from Michael Kostroff, who’s known for playing Maury Levy on The Wire but went on to a recurring role on the Disney Channel sitcom Sonny with a Chance. According to Kostroff, “a national Wendy’s commercial would pay approximately one gabillion times more than an episode of ‘The Wire,'” and I’d imagine the same goes for an episode of Big Bang Theory vs. an ep of some critical darling on AMC or wherever. But Kostroff also says he loved working on Sonny, so the people who actually work in the entertainment industry may just not have the same sort of snobby prejudices some of us smug assholes live by.