Some sit-com premises can last forever. A group of friends can learn and grow while meeting up at their favorite bar or coffee shop; an office can stay in business for a long time; dynamic characters will always persevere. But when a TV show specifically introduces a handful of immature adults as in The Big Bang Theory, by definition this group’s maturation and learning of lessons actually tends to lessen the show’s grip on its own premise. What happened along the way, with the addition of new main characters and broader audience appeal for TBBT, was a dilution of its actual promise. It’s still an inherantly funny show of course, each joke written to conform closely with the characters set forth in earlier seasons. But with “The Shiny Trinket Maneuver,” it’s becoming more clear that each episode detracts from this array of characters that once inspired so much hope in the television arena.
The first and most glaring issue here is how most every conflict these days revolves around our two couples, Howard and Bernadette taking up a weekly ten minutes like clockwork as they stumble through generic pre-marital conflicts, and the Sheldon/Amy couple somehow simultaneously showcasing character progression and backslide. This movement from five main characters to seven may make sense in the overall run, a plus normally easy to support among a legion of stationary shows, but it mistakenly draws attention away from the core group too often. Raj and Leonard have become background characters, and Penny has simply resolved to Amy’s best friend, an ultimate destination that seems completely unnatural for who she seemed to be for full seasons prior. Instead, we get the same plot constantly as Howard and Sheldon re-live the nightmare of not understanding women.
A final complaint can be called down based on the general nerdiness of the group. A friend of mine recently described it with pin-point accuracy, saying that first seasons they were obviously nerds, but recently they’ve just become losers. An entire plotline involving Howard’s magic brings this exact criticism to the forefront, and while a few silly geek references passed through the episode still felt like a handful of losers bumbling their way through life. It sounds like a story of triumph over adversity or awkwardness, but in reality it’s played off exactly as you’d expect it to in real life: fairly boring.
Now, it can be well noted that these qualms aren’t being directed towards a drama or well-established serial show, it’s just a comedy with a history of being hard to completely understand. And a comedy will always prevail as long as the jokes cause laughter and the general sense of humor is undistrupted. But with The Big Bang Theory the jokes are starting to be a bit forced and redundant, particularly due to these general issues as well as a lack of foresight with a few of these plot lines. I still laughed out loud during “The Shiny Trinket Maneuver,” definitely at the culmination of the Sheldon/Amy plotline (a crutch for the entire season so far sadly). And the actors are more confident than ever in their roles, making every hit a delight to be a part of.
If you’re a fan, there’s still reason to continue watching for your favorite characters and the silly humor. But TBBT is starting to wane conceptually, and may need to re-think its focus as time goes on. Keep an eye out for that Leonard/Penny relationship to bud back up, if the writers know what’s good for ‘em.