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Gifted Laughs - The Big Bang Theory

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Yes, I got hooked.

If you’re looking for a little summer humor and some fun, brainy entertainment (and aren’t already hooked as I am) check out this summer’s re-runs of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.” (I hope they re-run them!)

The show is built around Leonard and Sheldon, roommates and research physicists at CalTech. Their always-underfoot pals Raj and Howard also work in labs at CalTech. (Raj has his own apartment and Howard lives with his loud and never-seen mother.) The four of them are happily immersed into their routine lives (Wednesday night is Halo night, for example) and Sheldon in particular loves routine. But their lives get set off-kilter when beautiful, mid-west born, actress-wannabe, not-to-be-underestimated Penny moves in across the hall.

Yes, the characters are a bit stereotyped, but what sitcom’s characters aren’t? I was initially bothered by the stereotyping, but I soon became impressed by how much the writers for the show understand gifted lives. I think the characters can seem stereotyped if one watches an isolated episode without having yet developed a love for their well-developed personalities. But if you stick with it, about three episodes in you will see that the writers actually have a great grasp of the quirks, interactions, and realities of the lives of people like Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, and Howard. Their struggles and triumphs are explored and celebrated with perceptive insights and surprisingly-often sensitive treatment. And I know a lot of other geeky people like myself who have come to love and appreciate the show, too -- an indication of its ability to truly relate (rather than simply poke fun, like a lot of other media entertainment does at gifted characters).

I know these people… I teach them, I am friends with them, they are the pals I played with liquid Nitrogen with in college… Whoever writes for this show knows gifted people inside and out (well, the "typical" 20-something nerdy scientist male version of gifted people). They remind me of my friends who walked down the aisle to the theme from Star Wars, my students who get together on Friday night to have a LAN party, my relatives who tinker and build and invent unique solutions to problems, and myself.

Although, in the interest of full-analysis, one disappointment I have with the show is that the gifted female character(s) is still one-sided and has yet to become a multi-faceted dimension in the show. (The actress portraying Leslie does a nice job, I just don't think the writing has done her character justice yet. Not that I'm enough of a television or acting connoisseur to really be offering a critique...!) Another disappointment is that I can't comfortably recommend the show to my gifted students due to some of its adult humor.

That said, though, they get it. And it's so much fun to spend a half hour with this nerdy fab four and probably-underrated Penny.

One of my favorite scenes is the one where the guys set up a laptop to send a signal around the world (via wi-fi, fiberoptics, and satellite, etc.) that returns to their apartment to turn on a lamp that's within arms-reach... just because they think it's cool to be able to do something like that. (It is!) Another personal favorite scene is Sheldon's dilemma in trying to decide what to get Penny when she informed him that she had gotten him a Christmas gift. Sheldon's interpretation of "the rules" of gift-giving dictate that he give her an appropriately reciprocal gift in return. But how to decide what to get her when he doesn't know what she's gotten him‽‽ He hatches what he thinks is a fool-proof plan to have readily-on-hand any gift for her of approximately equal value (both monetary and sentimental). But when part-time waitress Penny gives him an autographed napkin used by Leonard Nimoy, well, the results are hysterical.

See for yourself what the brainy fun is all about:

A montage of their fascination with superheroes

Testing their killer robot, "Monte"

A geek’s guide to cleaning

Leonard refers to one of Sheldon's insights as a "little" idea

Settling disputes with Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

An analysis of the physics of Superman

5 Comments

Just yesterday after we had finished 8 weeks of robotics study and had the final Sumo competition my co-teacher showed the kids the segment testing the robot Monte AND the robot segment with the guy with the lisp. The kids loved it--we all laughed.

Tamara,

I love your blogs, first of all. And upon re-reading and re-thinking my initial reaction to this one, I am happy that you have put out yet another thought-provoking yet light-hearted piece.

This is what got me to re-read and re-think, though. I get really tired of the stereotypical gifted guy picture. You are right that the typical sit-com is all about sterotypes...and in fact caricatures. And because I respect your opinion so much I am going to watch this show that I have never had a desire to watch due to clips I have seen. But I would LOVE them to introduce a gifted or highly gifted guy who is NOT nerdy, because not all gifted guys are super-science nerds who are socially awkward. There are many political geeks who are social geniuses and just as many other gifted guys who come in all shapes and sizes.

Perhaps it is funny to identify the really good stereotypes BUT THEN start showing the guy who one might NOT expect to be gifted because he does not fit the mold.That would be really funny too...the element of surprise.

I am the mom of two highly gifted boys who are just not that "science nerd" type at all and it drives me to distraction that schools,neighbors, and even gifted groups all seem to be surprised that they are gifted at all because they are well-balanced (wow, they are great at math and science and language AND play sports?) and social (your kid could not be gifted...he is too well-liked!).

Keep up the great work.

my wonderfully nerdy sons and i love to watch this show together. we are able to laugh at ourselves a little bit. the characters are fantastic, lovable, and not really that "over the top," from our experience. :)

Big Bang Theory is our family's favorite show. I loved the episode where Leonard's un-loving mom comes and she and Sheldon realize they are practically soul-mates. There's someone out there for everyone.

Thanks for the timely post! My husband and I have just discovered the reruns of this great show. Maybe because the characters do present so real, it's the only show that makes us both laugh (besides 2 1/2Men)We have a unique sense of humour, perhaps. Funny though, I never thought of them as 'gifted' - that's what the majority of our friends were like..guess we need to look in the mirror ourselves:) Our daughter is definitely gifted but 8. Hopefully she'll catch the show when she's older. I still have a hard time with 'Sheldon' because the actor who plays him was 'David' the boyfriend on Roseann eons ago! Thanks again for the post. We have found some great insights and support through your blog.

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