It was recently announced that one of my favourite sitcoms, The Big Bang Theory, which is currently in its seventh season, has been renewed for three more seasons. But recently, the show has not been as enjoyable as it once was. Granted, as seven seasons have passed, characters have evolved and changed, but those that we have grown to love are a far cry from how they used to be. Nowadays, I will leave an episode of The Big Bang Theory more upset for my favourite characters than I was before, and the most recent episode, The Mommy Observation, was no exception. And I know that I am not alone. Only 3 episodes from Season 7 are among the 50 highest rated in the series, while 11 are in the bottom 50*. So this is my plea to the writers and producers of one of my all-time favourite shows to bring back what I once loved about it. Here are five suggestions that I have that, if the writers were to see them, they could take as constructive criticism for bringing back the joy that they once created.
1. The guys are not that dumb.
It has been a running gag from the start of the show that while each of the leading men on the show is brilliant in their own scientific field, they are fairly socially inept. But the characters have come a long way since then: Leonard has come out of his shell, Sheldon has a girlfriend, Howard is married and less of a sleazebag and Raj has overcome his social anxiety. And while these characters have learned a lot, it has become quite common that they are put down and made to look clueless and manipulated next to their girlfriends or colleagues.
When the show first started, Penny just made the guys seem like fish out of water when she would bring up certain pop culture references and ideas. Lately, however, the men have been made to look completely ignorant, illogical and gullible. This is not exactly a character regression; as I just pointed out, they have come a long way. But at the same time, it would be nice to see their cleverness being put to good use, like in grand romantic gestures or bettering their reputations at work (as opposed to their seemingly endlessly worsening ones, dare I mention Sheldon’s “discovery” that was harped on far too long?). And then there was Howard’s time in space, which began as a good idea, but after a while, we just watched him suffer. The near revival of this story line in this season was cringe worthy and should never happen again.
2. Enough putting down Raj and Stuart.
Since the big reveal at the end of season six that Raj was no longer unable to talk to women while sober, the only major story lines that he has been involved in have shown him whining about being single and having nothing to do while the others are all on their date nights. We can assume that his inability to speak to women previously prevented him from dating; an issue that he had learned to work around by the end of season six. But since then, there has been no change in his love life. Same deal with Stuart. While he was never very strong of a character to begin with, he was always a genuinely kind and likeable guy, and he has only developed more pathetically in recent seasons, constantly being excluded and ridiculed with no sign of redemption. This is the same guy who briefly went out with Penny in season two. Surely, he should not be underestimated.
To further this point, it is almost as if the writers of the show are making it look like it is wrong for a man to not be in a relationship. In a day and age where people are willing to speak out against women who are portrayed by the media as needy or reliant on their men, why does no one seem to care about this unfair portrayal of Raj and Stuart? Is there some double standard in the social commentary and analysis? Raj is clever and deserves to be treated as such every now and again; and if Stuart will continue to be cast in more and more episodes, then he deserves to be thrown a bone every once in a while.
3. Reintroduce character consistency.
Even though characters evolve and change, they do so for a reason. Sudden inconsistencies can throw off an audience and confuse them about their favourite characters. This was very evident in multiple characters in this past week’s episode. While Howard, Raj, Stuart and Sheldon all seemed to act and react as their characters would, the others seemed completely out of line. When Raj introduces the idea of a murder mystery game, all of the characters were unnecessarily hostile towards him. In episodes not too long ago, Leonard would have played along gladly, Penny would have played the game and fallen for every twist and turn, Amy would have been excited to be included and Bernadette would have fought competitively to win. Instead, the characters’ reluctance towards Raj made a potentially funny story awkward and uncomfortable (and again, giving Raj unnecessary hate and portraying Stuart as a total loser).
In the episode’s other major story line, Sheldon discovers that his mother has developed a romantic, sexual relationship with another man. While Sheldon’s mortified reaction is completely understandable, the fact that Sheldon’s strictly religious and conservative mother is having sexual relations with a man that she is not married to makes no sense, much less the fact that she would do it in her living room with the curtains open where anyone in the neighbourhood can see. She later brushes it off as a mistake, having been seduced by lust. A more consistent ending to this story could have involved Mary Cooper remarrying and waiting for the right moment to tell Sheldon, but perhaps that did not occur to the writers at the time. In short, if characters act differently from how they once were, they should have a reason for doing so.
4. Reduce Penny’s hopelessness.
The life of an actress is tough, which probably explains why Penny (who, might I add, does not even have a last name yet) has been having so much trouble finding a good part. But as far as this sitcom goes, we have watched her being upset about not becoming famous, disliking her waitress job and turning more and more to alcohol for seven seasons. We saw a character that was once upbeat and peppy grow sarcastic and bitter. Perhaps it is about time that Penny gets a real opportunity and grows to become a bit more successful (perhaps a good idea for a season finale?), even if it’s just enough to support herself without the others making jokes about Leonard paying her way.
Penny was also never the smartest of characters, but she has taken a bit of a downward spiral. Having a nervous breakdown when trying to learn physics was one thing, even falling for Sheldon’s behavioural alterations was within reason. But for crying out loud, a grown adult should not struggle with glue so much! This is behaviour that we would expect from Zack, her intellectually inferior ex-boyfriend, not someone who has lived across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon for seven years.
5. Bring back the fun experimental nights between the guys.
Whatever happened to the days when the guys would send electronic signals around the world or build killer robots just for fun? We never even see them playing Klingon Boggle or enjoying their Halo nights anymore. No wonder Raj seems so depressed without his friends! While he still wants to hang out and do fun stuff, we only ever see the gang eating dinner when they are all together. No more 3D movies or secret agent laser obstacle chess. Let’s bring back some of these fun elements that made the first few seasons so memorable.
Some might argue that since three of them are in relationships, their motives have shifted and the girls might not appreciate their activities. Realistically though, the girls still spend a lot of time on their own and so do the guys. This leaves a lot left to creativity. And who’s to say that the girls might not enjoy partaking in some scientific fun once on a while – well, Bernadette and Amy would partake and Penny would provide moral support.
The Big Bang Theory was once fun and hilarious, but has grown bitter, cynical and more depressing. For the show to become as enjoyable as it once was, the writers will have to bring back the content that had us laughing at the characters’ mishaps and quirks, not feeling awkward when they are mistreated and put down. The Big Bang Theory will last for many more years to come if the writers can continue to give us a good laugh week after week. Hopefully, if everything plays out well, we will still be able to watch the adventures of Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, Raj, Howard, Bernadette and Amy for years to come.
*According to IMDB User ratings. The difference between the highest and lowest rated episodes is 1.5 stars out of 10, and there are still 6 episodes left to air in this season.
About the contributor: Ashley Moniz is a contributor to The International Passion. He is studying Political Science and Drama Studies at York University-Glendon College. He hopes to go on to law school. He has enjoyed the experience that he has gained writing his own movie reviews on his Facebook page, Ashley Moniz’s Movie Reviews. His words were also published on the cover of Martin McAlear & Lyndsay Sinko’s novel, The New King. You can read his movie reviews on the above listed page and follow him on Twitter at @AshleyMoniz