The Big Bang Theory season 7 episodes 1 & 2 review: The Hofstadter Insufficiency & The Deception Verification
Juliette reviews The Big Bang Theory's double bill season 7 opener, which is off to a promising, if not perfect start...
This review contain spoilers.
7.1 The Hofstadter Insufficiency
7.2 The Deception Verification
The Big Bang Theory is back, with two episodes for the price of one. And, as often happens with BOGOF offers, one of them is great and exactly what you wanted, while the other is just a tiny bit stale.
The premiere, The Hofstadter Insufficiency, is a really satisfying half hour which sees the show playing to its strengths. The story focuses on two relationships that have worked really well over the years – Sheldon/Penny (and Leonard), and Raj/Howard – and one fresher pairing, Amy/Bernadette, that ensures the script doesn’t run into an old rut. The chemistry between Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco is as sweet and as nice to watch as ever, and from a geek point of view, it’s fun to see Star Trek’s three-dimensional chess back again. There’s also an important moment between these two as Sheldon points out to Penny that, while the things that upset him seem unimportant to her, they’re important to him. Since everyone else on the show spends so much of their time saying exactly this to Sheldon (albeit with limited success), it’s nice to see the situation reversed.
Amy and Bernadette’s story is a fairly simple bait-and-switch (they are excited to get the chance to talk shop without Penny around, but just end up talking about boys) combined with some of their occasional tendency to insult each other’s partners, but the pairing is unusual enough that it’s entertaining to watch. Howard, meanwhile, plays the supporting role in the one absolutely essential component of this episode – following the season six finale, we finally see Raj talking to women without alcohol. This was a huge leap forward for the character, while at the same time being a necessary (perhaps overdue) one, and the show sensibly deals with it by addressing it, but not dwelling on it too much. Raj turns out to be predictably bad at talking to women, but at least he managed to have a ‘moment’ somewhere in there. Maybe.
And then there’s Leonard, whose position at the heart of the show is cemented, despite his small handful of appearances. It’s lovely to see just how much Sheldon misses Leonard. Their relationship as seen on screen is so much based on arguing and sniping at one another that it’s important to show every now and again that somewhere underneath it all, fundamentally, they actually do like each other. By referring to him constantly, the show reminds the audience that Leonard is the slightly saner glue that holds everyone else together, even when he’s thousands of miles away and possibly being eaten by a kraken.
Unfortunately, the second episode of this opening double-bill, The Deception Verification, is not quite so successful. The script here displays a tendency to fall back on well-worn tropes that were never all that funny in the first place, and are bordering on offensive as the show’s run goes on. And so we get humorous references to the possibility that Penny might have a drinking problem, to Stuart’s severe depression and Sheldon telling Amy to watch her weight (though that last was improved by Amy’s eventual retort, “I had a doughnut for breakfast, you jerk!”).
Most problematic of all is Howard’s storyline, which embraces the worst side of the show’s occasional tendency to portray dubious gender stereotypes in a mildly offensive manner. Having accidentally exposed himself to a large dose of oestrogen, Howard starts behaving like a woman. This extends to lines like, “I really needed to hear that today” and to exhibiting behaviour associated with eating disorders, implying that such disorders are specifically feminine. They’re not, and this is the sort of lazy stereotyping that was mildly amusing when Friends did it in 1997 (The One With the Hypnosis Tape), but which, by 2013, sitcom writers really should have grown out of.
However, the episode isn’t a total disaster. It’s nice to see Stuart back, even though he’s no longer a regular cast member. It seems that the writers just couldn’t quite work out what to do with Stuart in season six, eventually opting to replace him in Raj’s life with a dog (ouch), but it’s good to see that he’s still around and he even gets a win of sorts, extracting a good $400 out of Sheldon through some shrewd selling. Sheldon, Penny and Leonard’s story isn’t especially thrilling, but it gets everyone where they need to be – back in one room at the episode’s conclusion, sharing takeout.
Most importantly, as the show enters into its seventh year, it’s still funny – which, ultimately, is all we really require of a sitcom. Again, the first episode probably has more laughs than the second (Sheldon quoting Paul Simon and explaining that he is “an i-i-i-i-i-i-i-island” was probably our favourite laugh-out-loud moment of the night) but the second keeps up a decent chuckle count as well. They even managed to find some fresh humour in the ancient, tired plot device of Raj and Howard looking a bit gay (what was that we were saying about offensive stereotypes?) through Bernadette’s silent, glaring reaction in the background. All in all, a promising, if not perfect, start to the seventh season.
Read Kaci's review of the season six finale, here.
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