The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season
Warner Bros Home Entertainment
Starring: Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik
Best for: Parents and mature teens.
PopFam Rating: A-
Show Summary: Socially awkward scientists and a pretty neighbor girl become friends, creating a funny peer group of misfits and less-than-brilliant beauties.
The mark of a television sitcom is not in how popular it is when it airs, how many awards it wins, or how many catch-phrases it adds to everyday conversation. Those are good things, true, but from a fan's perspective only one thing counts:
That is, does this show still make me laugh when I watch it in reruns? All the great ones pass this test. I Love Lucy. Friends. Even Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch. They all have a smile built in with multiple viewings. After all, what good is a 22-minute episode if you can't watch it 22 times?
Well, there's good news, TV fans. We are currently living in the time of what appears to be the heyday of another great sitcom. How do I know this? Because I just watched The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season for the third time, and, well, I still laughed with hopeless abandon at the exploits of this band-of-brothers in the throes of eternal geekhood. Laughed out loud at jokes I knew were coming. Smiled at just the sight of Howard Wolowitz walking in, and at the sounds of Sheldon Cooper knocking on a door. (Penny? Penny? Penny?)
No, The Big Bang Theory is not perfect - especially if yours is a family of religious devotion. God is an afterthought in this show, and his followers are sometimes fodder for randomly bigoted portrayals (as evidenced by Sheldon mother who pops up from time to time to promote ungainly stereotypes of "Bible belt" backwardness). Mild racism runs through many jokes (Jews are most often targets, due to the pasty ethnicity of the Howard Wolowitz character, though the character of Raj also is a target for "brown" jokes based on his Indian heritage). And, let's face it, these kids talk about sex an awful lot, and pretty much jump into bed with anybody who's willing. So, no, this isn't a show to watch if you're looking for role models in sitcom clothing. But if you depend on TV to provide role models for your kids, chances are good you've mixed up the roles of parenting and faith a bit anyway, so I'm going to just say this: No, The Big Bang Theory is not a Christian or Hindu or Jewish or religious TV show at all, and the values portrayed here reflect that. You've been warned.
On the other hand, if you don't require religious role models in your TV watching, then, well, get ready to enjoy one of the best shows to hit the airwaves since all the Friends took their millions and left TV.
Season six of The Big Bang Theory reveals a sitcom truly hitting its prime. Gone are the early season jitters of learning who these characters are and how they should relate to each other. The mid-season tweaks have finished tweaking. (We need more women in the cast!; Let's face it, Sheldon Cooper, not Leonard Hofstadter is the star; OK, now that we got Amy Farrah Fowler, how do we make her more than just a female mimic of Sheldon Cooper?) And these seven characters have become more than just caricatures of people on a TV show: they're becoming more like real people we're learning to love, with all their foibles and weaknesses and hilarious idiosyncrasies. Honestly, there isn't a more fun cast on television than what we seen in The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season.
For the uninitiated, The Big Bang Theory is a show that follows a gang of uber-smart, socially stunted science nerds (and one less-smart but socially savvy pretty girl) as they try to live life and find happiness in Southern California. The "Big Three" on this show consist of the following:
Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Emmy-winner, Jim Parsons) is the breakout character, a neurotically brilliant scientist with a childlike joy in life and a million annoying habits. His roommate, Dr. Leonard Hofstadter is the longsuffering straight man and lovelorn side of the on-again-off-again romance with pretty-but-dumb-girl-across-the-hall. That girl is Penny (what is her last name anyway??), played with sincerity and wit by Kaley Cuoco.
The supporting players who round out this universe are friends and romantic interests of Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny: Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), a technical engineer and sometime astronaut. Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), the lonely heart and token "international," from India. Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch), the smart, strong-willed, "pretty-in-the-right-light" love of Howard's life. And, of course, Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), Sheldon Cooper's only intellectual equal, who also sports a slightly randy, heartwarming vulnerability that her genius boyfriend never seems to need.
These supporting cast members are the ones who make The Big Bang Theory worth watching; in fact, as much as I like the "Big Three," the thing that keeps me coming back for more is engineer/astronaut, Howard Wolowitz—played with joyful abandon by the very talented Simon Helberg. (More on this in a moment.)
Into season six these seven nerdy/pretty misfits charge, and the result is 24 episodes of fun, discovery, highs and lows, joys and even a few sorrows. It's a mix that's thankfully hard to resist, and that always brings a smile.
Some highlights from season six include Howard’s return from outer space—and the reminder that even outer space isn’t cool anymore if all you do is talk about how you went there. (Bonus! Howard and Bernadette are PERFECT dressed up as blue-skinned Smurfs!) Also, Sheldon and Penny have a “battle royale” on game night. Plus, there’s the time when Sheldon’s one-time nemesis, Star Trek actor Wil Wheaton, insults Amy, forcing the good Dr. Cooper to choose between his girlfriend and his former idol. And the time when a fight over a parking space escalates into, well, a nerd-fight over a parking space. (Yes, a lawn chair gets involved.) The girls go to Disneyland (what could go wrong at the Happiest Place on Earth, right?). They guys head out for Comic-Con. There’s “Fun with Flags.” And, well, lots more unique, laughable moments.
Two of those moments deserve special mention—and they both involve Simon Helberg.
First, in “The Closet Reconfiguration,” Howard finds a letter from his estranged father, the man who left when Howard was 11 years old. When Howard refuses to read it, his friends take it upon themselves to help him heal. Their solution? They read the letter, and then tell him six different stories about what the letter said. One story, they say, is real. The rest are ones they made up, and now it's up to Howard to decide which story he wants to believe. This episode does what every sitcom should: It delivers an unexpected situation, marked with wit and joy, but also reveals poignancy and growth within the universe it creates. These 22 minutes stand out among all in season six, and maybe in the series as a whole to date. I will say without shame that watching Howard work through this issue brought both laughter and tears for me. If you only watch one episode of The Big Bang Theory, this should be it.
The other episode I can't stop watching is "The Love Spell Potential." That's not because it's so deeply touching like "The Closet Reconfiguration," but because Simon Helberg is just SOOO darn funny. In this one, the girls join the guys for a game of Dungeons and Dragons, with Howard acting as the Dungeon Master (or host) of the game. Howard's unique twist? Impressions. As he leads the gamers through the imaginary adventure, he treats to a number of spot-on, hilarious impressions as part of the experience: Nicolas Cage as a magical, talking oak tree. Ghost Raj the Forest Guide. Al Pacino Talking Fungus. You get the idea. If you watch only two episodes of The Big Bang Theory, this should be your second choice.
I think you’ll enjoy season six of The Big Bang Theory very much. I think your mature teenager will enjoy it with you. Still, heed my warning earlier: This show is not perfect, and is even potentially offensive. Try a few episodes for yourself before you rate this as appropriate viewing for your family.
Meanwhile, at my house we've got a date with a rerun that features a Nicolas Cage Talking Tree, so until next time heroes...
After the Show:
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this TV show:
• What do you like best about The Big Bang Theory? Why?
• What does this show seem to get right? Where does the show seem to fall short?
• The Big Bang Theory sometimes makes fun of religious and ethnic people, and often the characters act in ways that are not healthy in real life. How does that influence the way you live your life? How does that influence your choices of whether or not the show is worth watching? Explain your thoughts.
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