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Posts Tagged ‘The Big Bang Theory’

Natural 20

February 5th, 2011 No comments

Time’s resident TV critic James Poniewozik made a good point: for all its pretensions of nerddom, The Big Bang Theory has never done anything “so wholly, committedly geeky” as an entire episode centered around a game of Dungeons & Dragons. They’ve come close, as when the boys purchased the Time Machine from George Pal’s 1960 movie adaptation. But as the series has become a mainstream hit, it has also settled into a string of lazy comic book references.

No, the D&D episode came from time-slot rival Community, aka The Best Show That You’re Not Watching. Now in its second season, Community has at times become too weird (Abed as Jesus) and/or ambitious (a stop-motion animated Christmas show) for its own good, but when it truthfully focuses on its characters it’s pretty terrific. An all-D&D installment initially sounded as if might be a high-concept, elaborate pop-culture parody similar to last year’s zombie apocalypse, but wisely the action remained centered on a table strewn with character sheets and 20-sided dice. (Mostly. There was Chevy Chase’s Throne of Evil constructed from file boxes and traffic cones.)

Now, the little geek that lives inside my head must be allowed to declare that the game of Dungeons & Dragons depicted was greatly simplified. There were no miniatures, charts or graph paper maps, and Abed (in the role of Dungeon Master) was rolling the die for everyone. That’s not wrong, per se, it’s just a different play style. What the episode did very right, however, was to capture the feel of sitting in a group and collectively weaving a story.

I found some of the in-game interactions very familiar. When Britta “the Needlessly Defiant” questioned whether the goblins about to attack the party had had their lands violated or obsessed about giving the gnome waiter at the tavern his dignity, it took me back to my own adventuring days, when all-too-often I attempted to chat up the monsters.

Then there was the brilliantly uncomfortable scene in which Annie (playing Hector the Well-Endowed) seduced Abed (as the comely elf maiden who owned a pegasus stable) while everyone else looked on with a mixture of bemusement, horror and note-taking. We’ll never know exactly what Alison Brie was saying during that montage, but we can assume that it was very, very naughty.* I’m pretty sure that just about every role-playing group ever has had a similar experience.

Somehow, I got through the initial draft of this review without mentioning Senor Chang’s appropriate yet still wildly-inappropriate blackface appearance as one of the game’s Drow dark elves. “So we just gonna ignore that hate crime, huh?”

Normally I would embed the video here, but I know that it’s unlikely to remain available for more than a couple of weeks. So if you missed Thursday night’s broadcast, go to NBC’s Community website.

*I am looking forward to the hits I’m about to get for “naughty Alison Brie.”

Calamari Comedy

March 31st, 2009 No comments

Last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory was uniformly hilarious, but nothing tickled me more than Sheldon’s Admiral Ackbar impression:

Geek Round-Up

February 4th, 2009 No comments

Once again, I have to give props to the producers of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. Not only did Monday’s episode feature Sheldon sporting a nifty t-shirt festooned with silhouettes of Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah, but a later scene had the whole gang sitting down over a game of Talisman. I don’t think that they ever mentioned it by name, but the board was recognizable and the dialogue even made reference to specific elements of the game. It would’ve been easy to have them playing D&D (or a generic D&D knock-off), but it’s clear that someone there really knows their geeks.

I’m totally loving the version of Aquaman that appears on The Brave and the Bold. In recent years, Aquaman’s often been portrayed as a pissed-off, surface-dweller-hating Sub-Mariner clone, but the new cartoon series casts him as a hilarious braggart who loves to give exciting names to his many daring adventures. Last Friday’s episode involved him and the Atom shrinking down to enter Batman’s bloodstream and combat a virus. Never mind that they simply swam around without so much as a rebreather. (As my friend Dave Lartigue points out, blood cells carry OXYGEN, duh.) At one point, Aquaman decided to use his telepathic fish-summoning power, and sure enough, a cell answered the call. It was vaguely horse-shaped. It even whinnied. And Aquaman promptly dubbed his new steed “Platelet,” much to the Atom’s chagrin, as it was clearly a lymphocyte. It’s funny stuff, and it’s still online.

Another news item: this morning a guy in Colorado Spring held up two convenience stores. With a Klingon bat’leth.

Lizard Poisons Spock

November 18th, 2008 No comments

After last night’s episode, I think that I’m going to be adding CBS’ The Big Bang Theory to my not-a-TiVo queue. I’d largely avoided it during its first season, but it’s winning me over. It’s the accurate geek references that put it over the top.

Exhibit A: “I am not going to watch the Clone Wars TV series until I’ve seen the Clone Wars movie. I prefer to let George Lucas disappoint me in the order he intended.”

Exhibit B: A lengthy argument over which movie sucked more: Star Trek: The Motion Picture or Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

(I did take issue with Sheldon’s contention that only parts of STV sucked while everything about ST:TMP was uniformly awful, including the music. Dude, that’s Jerry Goldsmith you’re dissing there. Besides, I believe that Sheldon would’ve appreciated the ST:TMP score for introducing what eventually became the main title theme of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I tried explaining this all to Vic, who told me that it was just a sitcom.*)

Exhibit C: The gang’s expansion of Rock-Paper-Scissors with the inclusion of Lizard and Spock.

  • Scissors cuts Paper
  • Paper covers Rock
  • Rock crushes Lizard
  • Lizard poisons Spock
  • Spock smashes Scissors
  • Scissors decapitates Lizard
  • Lizard eats Paper
  • Paper disproves Spock
  • Spock vaporizes Rock
  • Rock crushes Scissors

My favorite: “Paper disproves Spock.”

* I would further argue that Sheldon himself would nitpick the point if he’d heard it on another sitcom.

Update: Okay, turns out that Lizard and Spock have been around for a while.

Some Get It

April 29th, 2008 No comments

As nerd culture seeps ever more into the mainstream, it’s not surprising to see it cropping up in prime-time network TV. But it’s easy to see which shows really have geek cred and which are just posers. Last night, I saw an example of each.

First up was The Big Bang Theory. I’ve only recently begun to watch this series, mostly while I’m waiting for How I Met Your Mother to start. It’s fairly standard issue sitcom stuff: four genius nerd friends and the hot blonde who lives across the hall. But what sets it apart is the obvious care taken in getting things right. While I’m not knowledgeable enough to confirm the science/math references (the credits list a science consultant), I do know that the geek stuff is bang on the money.

Last night’s episode was about the gang purchasing the original prop of “the Time Machine” from the classic ’60s movie of the same name. I missed the first part, but I gather that the aforementioned blonde derided one of them for his “toys,” causing a crisis of faith which nearly had him selling off his collectibles to the local comics dealer. (I took comfort in the fact that he ultimately changed his mind. And also when one of the nerds called her out on her Beanie Babies and Hello Kitty shorts.)

But what really pleased me was that not only did we get a dream sequence featuring movie-accurate Morlocks (as in the photo, right), but even a dream-within-a-dream which recast them as movers wearing embroidered uniforms reading “Starving Morlocks.” (Which, if you know what Morlocks eat, is pretty funny.) Furthermore, we got references to the Golden Age Flash, the Justice Society of America, and a rare Geordi LaForge action figure mistakenly packaged without his VISOR. And, unlike the film The 40 Year Old Virgin, which decorated the apartment of an alleged uber-collector with whatever random toys they picked up from the clearance aisle at Toys ‘R Us, the props people here made sure to have an actual Golden Age Flash figure on hand.

I’m not a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, but I do enjoy that the geeks aren’t just objects of scorn. Cringe-worthy moments are rare.

On the other end of the Cringe-o-meter was last night’s Star Wars-themed episode of Deal or No Deal. I’m not a regular Deal watcher, but I do believe that the “march of the models” which begins every game is one of the things for which television was invented. And I’ll be the first to admit that my entire reason for tuning in last night was the promise of 26 Slave Leias in formation.

But, despite (because of?) the obvious cooperation of Lucasfilm, it was painful to watch. First off were all of the lame “use the Force” references, which went as far as having Darth Vader telekinetically open the cover of the “Deal” button. (Cue the “oohs” and “aahs.”) And having the Dark Lord fill in as “the Banker” was funnier in theory than in practice. He sat up in the booth, quoting random Vader lines from the films as if he was his very own fanboy. (At least the James Earl Jones soundalike was good.)

Stormtroopers entering the corporate world. Oh, Annie, how low have you sunk?

They had two Star Wars fans competing to see which one would end the game with the larger cash amount (with the winner taking all), but the confluence of real-life geekery and typical game show contestant enthusiasm led to many embarrassing moments, including the worst. Yoda. impression. ever.

Then there were the special guest stars cheering them on. Carrie Freakin’ Fisher showed up to debase herself on behalf of a woman who, as we were repeatedly told, escaped from Vietnam as a child and found a role model in Princess Leia. (The real Carrie Fisher: not quite so much a role model.) Backed up by the leader of the Rebellion and the will of the Force, the contestant achieved a stunningly low total of $13,000.

“You there! The one in the white helmet!”

Ms. Fisher was shuffled offstage before the army of Slave Leias arrived, ostensibly to avoid giving the second contestant any clue as to how much he’d need to win, but probably so that there’d be no attempt at comparing drug-and-age-ravaged Carrie to 26 hot, young Carrie wanna-bes. Instead, geek #2 had R2-D2 and Chewbacca in his cheering section. Or rather, some tall dude in a Chewbacca suit. Giving high fives. Honestly, I would’ve thought that any schmoe in a fur coat could make a decent Chewie, but this guy’s performance had me appreciating Peter Mayhew all the more.

In the end, the Lucasfilm-sanctioned event featuring real nerds seemed less authentic than the sitcom in which four actors pretended to be nerds.

Plus, those Slave Leia outfits? Not movie-accurate.