Upon Further Review: Big Bang Theory One Year Later

The week of September 23rd-29th marks the one-year anniversary of this blog post of mine.  People have viewed this particular entry almost 8,000 times over the past year.  By the end of this anniversary week it will exceed the 8,000 mark and by the end of the year have over 10,000 visits by curious fans and detractors of the popular show.  Yay, good for me, right?

Pictured: My biggest fan.

So, the wife and I were sat on our couch watching the Primetime Emmys this past Sunday.  TBBT was nominated for several Emmys, including “Outstanding Comedy Series.”  It did not win any Emmys this year.  (The series has won a couple of trophies over the years, both of which went to Jim Parsons for his portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Cooper.)  I decided to go back and revisit my original anti-Big Bang Theory rant and discovered that while I stick by my original assessments and conclusions, I was sort of dickish about it. No, really. Also, while I realize that I have very far to go before I could ever consider doing this as a full-time job, it seems that my writing has gradually increased in quality over the past year.  Good for me. Also, good for anyone who reads this stuff. (Thank you, by the way.)

I tend to be a positive person, so just blasting a show and the parties involved with the production of said show is not only shitty, but counter-productive. See, I really WANT to like this show.  There are so very few good geek-related television programs on prime-time and most of those are on cable.  I therefore  decided to dig in and see if this whole mess can be fixed.  I think it can.  I really do. Here are some suggestions for improvement, in no particular order:

Fixed! Now, on to the economy…

Turn the Whole Thing Over to Joss Whedon

I know it’s a stretch, esp. with a new SHIELD series in development and Avengers 2 and so on, but Mr. Whedon has such a great knack for managing and balancing an ensemble cast that I think this would be a perfect marriage.  Plus, considering how much of the interaction of the BBT characters, esp. Sheldon, revolves around sci-fi and fantasy, um…that’s all Whedon friggin DOES, people!  Sure he’s capable of more, but this is his strong suit. The banter would be intense, smart, and hilarious.  Of course, the current dialogue would be helped tremendously if they’d do this one simple thing…

ZOMG!!! Joss’s Shadow!! That means he’s totally putting THE VISION IN AVENGERS 2!!!

Lose the Goddam LAUGH TRACK

“But you’re WRONG!” the fanboys scream. “There IS NO LAUGH TRACK!! It’s a live studio audience!”  Okay, I’ll give you the “studio audience” and raise you “Sweetening.”  This is the process of adding canned laughter on top of a studio audience, especially when the jokes are falling flat.  See, they go through the trouble of setting, lighting, and performing the episode.  Everything goes smoothly, all the marks are hit, there are no line flubs…perfect execution. Except on any particular night the audience just isn’t feeling it.  Rather than scrap the whole thing, they just throw in some pre-recorded laffs and bingo!  Or should I say “BAZINGA!!”  This has been going on since the dawn of television (and, honestly, radio), when shows weren’t recorded in front of a live audience to be aired at a later date; rather, they did that shit LIVE without a net.  If Perry Como or Sid Caesar had a listless audience, they’d “sweeten” things with pre-recorded sound effects.  The home viewing audience was none the wiser. Read more about it here.  And I understand the need for this bit of subterfuge, except when I don’t.  Scooby Doo added a laugh track.  Because reasons.  The Big Bang Theory does it, too, and most of the time it’s WAAAAAYYYYYY too much.  Check out the following clip.  It’s a scene from the show with the laugh track removed.  Because of this, it’s also faster-paced.  Watch it, and I’ll tell you what it reminds me of after.  Okay, GO!!

Okay, you know what?  That scene isn’t terrible.  And you know what else it reminds me of?  Kevin Fucking Smith.  Seriously, that could easily be an outtake from Mallrats or Chasing Amy.  Perfect? No.  Far from it. But so much better. Which brings up another suggestion…

Back when Stan the Man made cameos in non-Marvel projects.

Turn the Whole Thing Over to Kevin Smith

Hey, if Joss isn’t available, let Kevin try his hand at a mainstream network comedy.  Sure, he’s kind of hit-or-miss…but his knowledge (and experience) with the world of comics and sci-fi is pretty damn good.  And his dialogue concerning such subjects is rapid-fire brilliant at the best of times and smarmy other times.  In other words, a perfect fit.

Pictured: NOT a perfect fit.

Add a Full-time Female Foil

Penny is on the show as the everyman analog. She’s the majority of the viewers: a basic grasp of science and nerdity, but not immersed in it. She also fills the position that Spock and Data filled on Star Trek.  She’s an outsider, commenting on the human condition.  Okay, maybe that’s a stretch.  But the sexual tension-eye candy aspect of her character is wearing a bit thin.  How about you cast Felicia Day as a new neighbor?  Maybe she’s a librarian or something, adding some more literature-based nerdity to the show?  Felicia would have another purpose:  a tongue-in-cheek nod to all the REAL geeks out there.  Or how about Adrianne Curry as a professional cosplay girl?  One that dresses up as video game and comic book characters without a full-on grasp of the source material?  Whatever.  The point is, make Penny WORK to be the object of affection.  Maybe she’d realize how much she really does have in common with the guys?  It couldn’t hurt to add a new character or two.

Back when Stan the Man was…he, uh…what were we talking about?

Now, all these are long-term fixes, but I had a few one-off suggestions…

The Mirror Universe

Star Trek has done this several times, never better than the episode Mirror, Mirror form the original series.  In that episode, Kirk, Scotty, McCoy, and Uhura travel to a dimension exactly like ours, only in THAT universe the Federation has been replaced by the warlike Terran Federation and everyone is cruel and mean.  Spock even has a goatee, so you just KNOW he’s a badass.  Why not have some fun and have the Big Bang fellas find their way to Bizzaro World or somesuch.  Sheldon could be the captain of the lacrosse team at the local Community College.  Penny could be the lesbian astrophysicist astronaut and so on.  It would also open the door for full-on sexual relations and stuff.  Despite my disdain for the show itself, I have always thought very highly of the cast, and would love to see them really chew the scenery in some new situations that wouldn’t otherwise work.

See? The fanboys are already on this shit!

Time Travel

Another tried-and-true science fiction gimmick that would make sense due to the quantum-physics nature of the discussions and jokes on the show.  (Same would hold true for the Mirror Universe storyline.)  The fellows either go forward to see how their lives turn out or backwards to see themselves in the 80’s.   Again, you could explore the characters themselves and even add some humanity!  Romance!  Action!  Quantum entanglement and string theory!  WIN!

Or you could do it THIS way, I suppose…

Guest Directors/Writers

I mentioned turning the whole thing over to Joss Whedon and/or Kevin Smith earlier.  But realistically, this ain’t gonna happen.  But what if guys like that did guest spots?  What if J.J. Abrams wrote and directed an episode?  Quentin Tarantino directed an episode of E.R. once and it was awesome.  Why not?  There are guest stars on television programs all the time.  Throw in some writing and directing superstars and pump some life into this baby.

Sometimes the interwebs align themselves perfectly for the purposes of this blog.

So there you go, Hollywood.  Make some of this happen, or even just make a concerted effort to drag what could be a great show up out of the easy-joke, laugh-tracked abyss, and I’ll give it another chance.  I’m counting on you. You’re our only hope for this sitcom to live long and prosper. (See what I did there?)

Your Brain on Science!!!

Boy, do I love me some science.  If you read this blog with any regularity you already know this, especially my fascination with quantum physics.  I maintain that not only will quantum physics change EVERYTHING that we know about our universes (that’s right: plural, bitches) it will lead to a new way of worshipping, as we gain an understanding of  how close we are to the creator at all times and how very tangible and “close” that presence is.  It gets me giddy and excited.  But there are plenty of regular-old scientific principles and miracles that get me fired up.  Stuff like space travel and medicine.  There’s so much that we don’t know, and seeing humanity figure that stuff out gives me a big ol’ knowledge boner.  I am literally in awe of the world out there, and equally impressed with the complex machinery that is the human body.  For example:

I’m driving down a busy street in Ft. Wayne the other day.  Lima Road, to be exact. (For those outside of our great city, that’s pronounced like the bean, not the Peruvian city.)  As I drove, I casually reached over to my dashboard and selected for myself a delicious piece of Trident gum.  I do so enjoy good gum!  So, as I drove with one hand, I unwrapped the little piece of chewy, minty goodness (they are incredibly small when you think about it) with the other.  It was right at this moment that  a woman in her (seemingly) early-eighties with Idaho plates drifted right on over into my lane without signalling, forcing me to apply the brakes to avoid disaster.  During the course of my Star Trek-like “full stop” maneuver, I was able to get the wrapper off of my gum and toss it into the trash bag on the floor of my passenger seat area.  Eventually the nice elderly fellow traveller got her speed up and I eventually made it to my destination unmolested and with a completely intact vehicle.

I’m going to END YOU, Watson!!!

After this incident, I sat there in traffic and thought about what had happened.  The whole thing.  It was fucking mind-blowing.  A goddam miracle.  Fuck!  (Sorry about the language.  I was just sort of overwhelmed, asshole.)

“Whoa, whoa, WHOA!!” you yell at your computer monitor.  “You got all psyched because you almost hit an old lady?”

No, although that did give me a momentary sense of elation.  Moreover, I was intrigued by everything that had happened in that fifteen-second span.  Let’s break it down:

1) I’m driving a fucking motor vehicle.  Forget about the technical marvel of American ingenuity itself, my Ford Escape.  Never mind that this thing works on a principle of burning a fuel made from the carcasses of animals and some plant material that existed several million years ago and was subsequently mined from the ground and refined so that I may cause a chemical reaction by applying heat as the result of a combustion predicated by a tiny spark when I turn a metallic key, resulting in continuous pressure moving pistons in a manner that turns a crankshaft which propels my vehicle forward in a speed ratio that is determined by how much pressure I apply to a footpedal.
God DAMN that’s a lot of stuff to wrap your mind around already.  But forget all that.  No, it was the fact that I was using literally all of my senses simultaneously. Eyes detecting a bunch of variables:  the cars in motion around mine, the distance to the intersection a block away, the fact that the light is green now but calculating that by the time I reach said intersection it may have turned yellow or red, meaning that I must anticipate the braking required to come to a complete stop.  My sense of touch on the wheel and sense of inertia.  My ears listening to the radio but also picking up engines, sirens, horns, etc. all around me. My mouth is watering at the thought of a delicious piece of chewy candy, and my nose can already smell the mint. And now we get to the motor skills…

See, kids, gum gets SOFT when you put in in your mouth, unlike…um…

2) Oh, did you say MOTOR SKILLS?!?!  YES, MOTHERFUCKER, I DID!!  And I ain’t talkin’ ’bout my skills behind the wheel, even though I know for a fact I am the greatest driver in Indiana. (Citation needed.) No, I’m just saying that it takes an INCREDIBLE amount of fine motor skills to open a piece of gum with ONE HAND while not even looking at it!!  Seriously:  how the hell does the human body do this shit?  How does the brain remember the exact, minute little adjustments to the electric signals it sends to your muscle fibers which tell them to contract or expand in a precise manner at the right fucking time?!?  While, Might I add, also running a million different computations related to keeping my dumb ass on the road or even remembering to apply the right amount of pressure to the gas pedal to maintain the current speed?  HOLY SHIT!!!  Seriously, we as a species are generations of scientists and their smart kids away from developing a robot that can successfully navigate a flight of fucking STAIRS, let alone a robot that can navigate a flight of stairs while carrying a load of laundry and avoiding that goddam cat trying to make you trip.  And here was I, just humming alone down the road at 40 MPH unwrapping a piece of gum, disposing of the wrapper, and totally not killing anyone, including myself, in the process.  And something else I can do that no stinkin’ droid can do?  Predict the future.

Although they sure know how to fuck it up.

3) “WHOA, YOU DONE FUCKED UP NOW, SON!” you’re yelling between sips of bottled water.  “Oh, have I?” is my smug retort.  Forget my simple “is the light going to change?” example.  I have a better one.  My lovely wife Heidi and I were enjoying some Stanley Cup Playoff Hockey in our home in New Bern, North Carolina back in 2002.  The Carolina Hurricanes were playing the evil Detroit Red Wings.  In one particularly awesome contest, the play was pretty balanced, but you could observe by watching that the Wings were slowly getting the momentum all to themselves.  Wave after wave of attackers crashed the net.  The Canes made counter-attack after counter-attack.  It was a nail-bitingly awesome contest.  Suddenly, there was a neat play by Detroit at the Carolina blue line and my wife, who had been in keyed-up silence for a while blurted “Shit, they’re gonna score.”  Two strides, a pass, and a shot later and the red light flashed.  Wings were up.  Fuck.  Why, at that particular time, had it occurred to her that a goal was about to transpire?  The last forty minutes of play had been literally back-and-forth, end-to-end warfare, a pitched battle for loose pucks and heroic saves by both goalies.  So why THEN?  How did she know (and she did, obviously) what was about to happen?  Because she saw the future.

Pictured: NOT my wife.

Okay, not LITERALLY.  But her brain took in all the available information.  It saw the positions of all the players from both teams.  It figured out who was out of position.  It was aware of how much time was left in the period and whether anyone was off-side. It perceived the Detroit players movements and predicted them.  Her incredible mind extrapolated all the data and came up with one inescapable conclusion: the red Wings were going to score.  The odds against it in that one microsecond were too great.  It was the only way things could transpire. Oh, and her mind came to this conclusion in about a tenth of a second.  Instinct?  Peh.  There is such a thing, sure.  But only because the brain makes it happen.  You know how they say that really good baseball hitters can literally see the laces of the ball as it comes at them?  Their brains are so finely-tuned that they literally notice the things we don’t and are able to act on them in a way that seems super-human, but that capacity is in everyone.  Maybe not equally so, but it’s there in some measure.  We just don’t use those skills all the time, those skills that require sifting through a massive amount of data and stimuli to do that one thing that is required in that moment: hitting the ball, scoring the goal, avoiding the cat, unhooking the bra…or unwrapping the gum whilst driving.

To say nothing of reading an overly-wordy blog about science and your incredible brain.  Yes, yours.

Incredibly Distracting…

Hey, gang!  It seems I’m blogging in fits and starts of late.  Sort of catch-as-catch-can, if you will. (That’s for you long-time readers!)  Sorry about the inconsistency.  Trying to get back into the rhythm of blogging, even though I am currently distracted by Rush playing tonight in Indianapolis.  In fact, I just heard “Mystic Rhythms” in my head as I typed that.  Damn it.


Anyway, today’s blog will be a quick one, and basically only exists to introduce you to something.  Like the spectre of Dave Bowman said in 2010, “Something wonderful.”  See, there’s this guy.  We’ll just call him “Vex.”  He’s an old-school geek like me, even though that word (geek) has been somewhat over-used of late.  The fact remains:  Vex and are are about a year apart age-wise and have similar tastes.  For example, he and I enjoy repeated viewings of “Buckaroo Banzai” and “Real Genius” for starters.  Recently, Vex read a book that I’d checked out last year called “Ready Player One.”  Here’s the site for said book:



Anyway, everyone told me the novel seemed to be  written with me in mind.  It’s chock-full of old-school computer game, comic, RPG (that’s Role Playing Games, not Rocket Propelled Grenade) and sci-fi references.  I found it  entertaining but, well…not the absolute greatest thing ever.  It was okay, and miles ahead of crap like the “Big Bang Theory.”  Vex, however, found it to be the epiphany he’d been waiting for, and went on to create his own game based loosely on the parameters set forth in “Ready…”  And he’s done a bang-up job.  Hell, the only thing missing is an OASIS rig, and I’ll bet Sexy Vexy is working on that as I write this.  I’m having a lot of fun with this little trivia endeavor.  So much so that I’m thinking of re-reading the book. And so much so that I’m about to do the worst thing (for me) possible:  give you the website and leaderboard so that you, too, can get in on the fun.  Why is this bad for me?  BECAUSE I WANT TO WIN, GODDAMMIT!!  The more people who play, the less my odds of winning.

Now, when you check out the scores, you’ll be intimidated.  Don’t be.  I was totally stuck on the first question until my lovely wife gave me a different perspective.  Now we’re only a little bit behind, and you can catch up FAST in this game.  yes, you may team up.  Yes, you can share with other players…but that is terribly risky.  Will others burn you to get ahead?  Absolutely.  That’s part of the fun.

Ain’t gonna stay this way for long.


So without further ado…strap on your haptic rig and follow this link.  And good luck. Any spare resources your mind had available are now considered forfeit.



The Argument

Captain’s Log Supplemental:

With the long lay-in time required to exchange our ship’s carbon filters and take on new raw materials for the synthesizers, many of the crew and officers took a much-needed break.  While short of an authorized “shore leave” entertainment options were available to most decks in the form of stage shows, concerts…and in some cases archaic “classic films” were available in-cabin and in selected group media centers.  I was pleased with the effect on morale, and was tickled to witness the following exchange between First Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer McCoy at the conclusion of the classic “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”  I knew that it was one of Bones’ sentimental favorites and was curious to see how this…debate…played out.

SPOCK: Doctor, I was merely suggesting–

McCOY: Jim!  Thank God!  Would you kindly explain to this pig-headed, high-browed critic that “Jedi” was the high-water mark for this film series?
ME: I assume Spock is countering that “Empire” was superior, yes?

McCOY: But of course!  ‘Cause that’s what all highfalutin’ high-brow critics do!  Belittle the happy ending in favor of the dark interlude episode, because it can’t be good AND happy, now can it?

SPOCK: Doctor, you misinterpret my conclusions. In fact, I believe that if you look at the data, one of the more positive examples of foreshadowing this “happy ending” of which you speak, takes place right in the middle of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  I would argue that the resolution of the series is a foregone conclusion after that apex.

McCOY: See?!?  He’s even using that damned critic language!  Spell it out for me, Spock, for I am a lowly country doctor and uneducated on the grand cinematic traditions like you apparently are.

SPOCK: Flattery, good doctor, will get you nowhere.

ME: Okay, now I’m curious.  To what moment are you referring, Spock?

SPOCK: The vision which presents itself to young Master Skywalker while training on Dagobah.

McCOY: You mean where he sees Vader?  That’s the high point?  Jim, I’m taking him to sick bay.  Obviously he has Rigellian fever.

SPOCK: I assure you that my faculties are intact.

ME: I know the scene.  Luke goes into the cave and sees a vision of Darth Vader.  They battle, and Vader is decapitated.

McCOY: Yes, and then the facemask is blown off and we see Luke’s face underneath!  How, pray tell, is that supposed to be a positive, Spock?

SPOCK: Because, Dr. McCoy, it presents a hopeful vision of the fate that is to befall Anakin Skywalker.

ME: I don’t follow.  You’re saying that it’s…a good thing that Luke is going to kill Vader?  Seems a little harsh.

McCOY: Or is the big happy moment the one where Luke realizes he’s on a path to darkness?  Is that what the critic in you is clamoring for?

SPOCK: On the contrary.  I must admit to having only the faintest understanding of the human emotional spectrum, but I am considerably confused as to why one would assume that this vision is a negative.

McCOY: Because, you heartless maniac!  Darth Vader is Luke’s father and he sees what he’s about to become!

SPOCK: Nonsense.  At this point in the narrative, Luke has no idea that Vader is his father.

ME: Go on.

SPOCK: Luke sees Darth Vader in his vision and immediately adopts an aggressive stance.

McCOY: Because that’s what you DO when confronting a Sith Lord!

SPOCK: Place yourself in young Luke’s position.  Training in Yoda’s “back yard.”  When suddenly, the second-in-command of the Empire itself is before you, almost as if invited.  Vader’s saber not yet deployed.  While Luke is emotional and rash, it’s not unlikely that he would act first.  However, Vader offers only token resistance.

McCOY: It’s a vision, you stubborn ass!  It’s not real!

SPOCK: And yet you believe it prophetic.

McCOY: Because it is!

SPOCK: And I concur, doctor.  But your interpretation of the forecast events is illogical.

ME: Explain.  I want to hear this.

SPOCK: It is human nature to assume the worst.  I propose that given the available data, that is: Vader’s reluctance to engage, the ease with which he is dispatched, and the fact that Luke has acted in a foolhardy but not remotely evil or even angry manner means something entirely different.

McCOY: Spit it out, already.

SPOCK: Gentlemen, the vision is provided to show Luke that there is, in fact, a good person inside of Darth Vader.  In fact, it is a subtle clue as to Luke’s parentage as well.  Vader looks like Luke because they are of the same genetic code.  The “unmasking” also parallels the scene in Dr. McCoy’s beloved “Return of the Jedi” where Vader does, in fact, unmask himself to look upon his son.

ME: Interesting.  So the whole vision was to show Luke that he could save his father, Lord Vader, instead of killing him?

SPOCK: Precisely, although Luke was, at the time, unaware of his father’s identity.

McCOY: Well, you WOULD think that way!  It doesn’t…I still don’t like it.  Jim, tell him he’s off his rocker.

ME: Sorry, bones.  I’m not sure that’s what the filmmakers had in mind, but…it’s a pretty good theory.

McCOY: But Yoda warns Luke that it’s a place of evil!

SPOCK: In an otherwise unspoiled planet rich with innocent life forms and, as far as can be observed, only two sentient beings and one droid.

McCOY: But evil is still evil, damn it!

SPOCK: Consider that Yoda warns that Luke will find “only what he takes with him” and advises that weapons will not be necessary.

McCOY: Fantastic.  A word of warning: I will NOT be watching “The Usual Suspects” with either of you!

With that, Doctor McCoy took his leave of us.  I turned to Spock.

ME: So you really believe that theory?

SPOCK: Absolutely, Captain.

ME: And you wouldn’t have mentioned it just to mess with Bones? You know he’s going to mull this over for some time.

SPOCK: Food for thought, Jim.  It is wise to consider all perspectives.

ME: Yes, but it is unwise to upset the man who’s going to administer our vaccines before we beam down to Tyson-4.

SPOCK: Understood, Captain.

I love this shit. I really do.