The Big Bang Theory season 6 episode 9 review: The Parking Spot Escalation

Review Kaci Ferrell 30 Nov 2012 - 08:39

Kaci finds it hard to believe this week's episode isn't a repeat. Here's her unimpressed review...

This review contains spoilers.

6.9 The Parking Spot Escalation

When I was in film school, we learned that every sitcom has a formula. All the characters are archetypes and the jokes arise from the combination of those archetypal personalities. If all of this sounds cynical, then let me add that movies have a formula, too, although it's often called "structure" because that sounds nicer. Virtually all mainstream films follow that three-act structure, to the point that if you've studied the structure enough, it becomes very hard for you to ever be truly surprised by the twists and turns of a film. 

But the un-cynical side is this: a lot of great movies — truly, deeply, actually astounding films that change the way we look at the medium — happen within that structure. By the same token, a lot of genuinely hilarious and inventive comedies happen within the sitcom formula. The much-beloved Arrested Development is virtually a masterclass in exploiting that formula and arriving at brilliance. In its best moments, The Big Bang Theory achieves...well, not brilliance, but true greatness despite relying on that formula, too. 

But if you've ever watched a comedy and thought to yourself, "Gee, this seems rote and formulaic and all these episodes follow the same pattern," then you are not wrong. 

I found myself convinced that this episode of The Big Bang Theory was a re-run and it was only after a trip to Wikipedia confirmed to me that it was a new episode that I genuinely believed it. I had deja vu through the entire episode and I couldn't laugh at any of the jokes because it just seemed so...well, formulaic.

Even if you set aside all the times that Howard and Sheldon have been at odds, the plot of this episode is hugely reminiscent of the episode in which Raj wanted a desk in the office he shared with Sheldon, Sheldon said no, and then a war ensued. Only this time, it involved nudity instead of snakes and flammable gasses 

After Penny's confession of love in the last episode, we needed to be spending time on the ramifications of that, and instead we got the same old been-there, done-that formula that, while it results in jokes, doesn't actually result in being funny. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with the sitcom formula. There's a reason it's so well-established; it works. The problem arises when the writers stop being inventive within that framework and instead fall back on the same ideas they've done dozens of times before. 

When I'm getting deja vu over a brand new episode, we have a real problem, The Big Bang Theory writers. It's time to go back to the drawing board and find a way to make the formula work for you, rather than you working for it.

Read Kaci's review of the previous episode, The 43 Peculiarity, here.

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