Monday, February 14, 2011
The Big Bang Theory's staircase problem.
May I ask you to to take a look at the picture above? It has Penny, Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard in it. Nothing special there, right? Standard stuff?
Well, to be exact, no. Because this picture from an earlier season is something that we haven't seen on the show in a long time. (for example not once after 16 episodes this season)
You might say that, "so what, what's the deal here?".
The issue here is that in my opinion the picture and the moment above defines the show, its universe and its laws perhaps better than any other from the series.
"But how and why?"
Well, the thing is that the staircase and the hallway in the picture might be the most important setpiece on the show. It is the place between the geek world (Sheldon's and Leonard's apartment) and the normal world (Penny's apartment).
The place in the middle, is where both worlds meet.
It's the place where Leonard and Penny first kiss (not drunk). It's the place where Sheldon manages to apologize to Penny. It's where Penny starts crying after being such a failure and it's also the place where Raj turns his pelvis after Penny hugs him.
(in my opinion one of the funniest and sweetest moments on the show)
It's the place where both groups have to make compromises in order to understand each other better. Our geeks trying to figure out normal life and relationships while enjoying their nerdy lifestyle. Succeeding, failing, making us laugh. Things like that.
Or that's how it used to be. Unfortunately, it hasn't been that way this season at all. This original good stuff has been missing. Lots of other things have changed too and not for the better.
For example, as you can see, in this picture the guys are still friends, probably ready to do something interesting together or at least having a common goal or a problem.
On the show however, they basically aren't friends anymore. They also don't seem to have tasks or challenges as a group either.
Well, they do hang around together, but usually with the weakest amount of motivation that you could think of - like in the university lunchroom, usually arguing about stuff that makes you wonder why they spend any time together at all. Or doing something else that makes you question their friendship.
What was so good about the staircase, (the entrance and the floors) was that everytime our geeks went up and down, they were functioning as a group and that their bonding and friendship was understandable and logical. It simply made sense. It was about strong motivation.
They might have had their disagreements, like about Middle Earth festivals or paintball sessions, or about wearing costumes to Penny's party, but it was still all good. The staircase signified their friendship better than almost anything else (including the livingroom table).
It gave the show energy, direction and balance. It made you feel comfortable and safe. And most of all, it gave the series meaning and purpose.
But that was when the show was at its best. During the first and the second season. When The Big Bang Theory was still both fresh and funny. When it was so full of actual promise. When it had almost gotten up there.
That's why it's a real shame that we haven't seen those walks anymore. It might be the single biggest reason that the show isn't good or funny today.
Is it too late to change the course? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Nevertheless, that picture, moment and scene above should remind us all what the show is really about.