This review contains spoilers.
10.13 The Romance Recalibration
Oh wow. After the general indifference the previous episode of The Big Bang Theory inspired, it turns out things can always get worse. That’s relative of course, because The Romance Recalibration isn’t an offensively bad episode of the show, but it is a sloppy, forgettable one, and I wanted more from the promising concept.
We start off in a dream sequence in which Leonard surprises Penny with dinner, wine and affection after a hard day’s work. In reality, he’s sitting in his pants playing video games, and she complains to Amy and Bernadette on girl’s night that she thinks he’s stopped trying since they got married.
As much as the story here wants us to notice that Penny and Leonard – once the series’ most central couple and the male and female leads of the show – have stopped caring about the little things in their relationship, the same could be said for the writers’ interest in their storyline. This is really the first glimpse of them as a married couple we’ve seen aside from bits here and there last season and, even in an episode that promised to be all about them, they’re overshadowed.
The Big Bang Theory has a major focus problem, and there’s a part of me that can’t really blame them. Jim Parsons is their breakout, Emmy-winning star and Sheldon has the potential to earn them more cash in the form of an upcoming spin-off, but the show is at its best when it’s an ensemble sitcom.
That’s why introducing more characters back in the day was such a good idea, and also why season ten has been so disappointing. As great a joke-machine as Sheldon is, and as fun as it is to watch his dynamic with Amy grow and change, they aren’t what got people invested in the show in the first place.
For many people, it was Penny and Leonard, and they deserved more here. A married couple who have lost their spark isn’t exactly a reinvention of the wheel, sitcom storytelling-wise, but it is something that could address and resolve a lot of issues. What it amounts to is Sheldon drawing up a morally-questionable ‘relationship contract’ for the two of them and a hand-wave for legitimate problems that were brought up just 17-minutes before.
So, while Sheldon is attached to Leonard and Penny’s storyline like a leech, so too is Raj to Howard and Bernadette’s. This is where the episode gets really irksome, as the B-story amounts to little more than the boys trying to get across a room with squeaky floorboards. That’s it, and if this is the height of what we can expect from Baby Halley’s contribution to the show, then we should worry.
It’s an excuse for some physical comedy from Simon Helberg, which always results in a chuckle or two, but the reason for that comedy is so paper-thin that you start to list in your head all of the better episodes it could have inspired. At this point, Raj is around in episodes only because Kunal Nayyar is a series regular (not a slam on the actor, but rather his role), when an episode following him and possibly the girlfriend we introduced and never saw again could have elevated the episode significantly.
It seems pointless to criticise a Big Bang Theory episode for being lazy at this point, but The Romance Recalibration was a particularly bad offender if only for the squandering of good story potential.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Holiday Summation, here.