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Worldly Distractions: The Big Bang Theory 6.20 - The Tenure Turbulence





As mentioned before, I live in a house of nerds. Roommate 1 is just like Wolowitz, Roommate 2 is just like Sheldon, and – well, we’ve never been able to find a BBT character for me. But the fact is we’re all devoted to the show. Sure, it’s very very light comedy. Sure, there are much more “authentically nerdy†shows out there – Community was once an excellent example. One cannot deny, however, that the show has a huge amount of appeal. It has created characters far from the norm and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. That’s something to celebrate, right?

A lot of people have quarrelled with the addition of Amy and Bernadette, as well as the general shift of focus towards romantic relationships. I can see how it makes the show different, but honestly, I really don’t mind at all. Sure, there’s some of the seasonal rot that sets in with every long-running sitcom, but overall the laughs are still there, with some excellent character development to boot. I like that the dynamics have shifted. It’s true to life – well, as true to life as a world with Sheldon Cooper can ever be. Feel free to debate this on FJ, of course. On to the episode.

Academia’s answer to the Super Friends are gathered in the CalTech cafeteria, where they are discussing the sex life of the jellyfish and the immortality therein. Kripke stops by to tell them that one of the tenured professors has croaked. Sheldon is characteristically insensitive and pays little attention – until Kripke points out that a position is now open, which just gives him an opportunity to rant about how much he hates the tenure system. Nonetheless, all of the main characters save Howard decide to go for it. The contest is on!

I should mention here that I can’t listen to the opening credits without singing along at the top of my lungs, and the neighbours all hate me.

At dinner with Leonard, Penny seems to have no idea what tenure means. Um, was she this dumb three seasons ago? FLANDERIZATION! FLANDERIZATION! Leonard decides this is the time to finally prove himself to his intensely competitive family. Amy and Sheldon, having a rendezvous of their own, are also discussing the position. Sheldon is of course convinced that he will get it – although he’s convinced that Leonard will kill him (which Amy takes as an excuse to settle down). Meanwhile, Raj tells Howard and Bernadette that the tenure position would be a great excuse to get more money and make his parents proud. Suddenly, the life partners – and Bernadette – are in on it. Penny urges Leonard to be assertive, while Sheldon insults Amy a few times (but she’s still on his side).

This prompts an awkward session where Leonard attempts to chat up the woman from HR and fails miserably. Leonard, Leonard, when are you ever going to learn that you can’t sweet-talk to save your life? This does offer some great (if somewhat pervy) physical comedy from Johnny Galecki, who is quite underrated on this show. Unfortunately, HR Lady seems much more interested in Kripke. No surprise there – especially when Leonard goes into an asthma attack.

Meanwhile, Raj attempts to chat up HR (“Mrs. Davisâ€, apparently? She appeared a few episodes ago but I’m terrible with character names) with the most awkward YouTube video ever filmed (Actual Quote: “I’m not really in space!â€). After 90 minutes of painstaking detail of Raj’s life story – mostly promoting his genius in increasingly pointless ways – Sheldon interrupts. Mrs. Davis just can’t seem to get away from them. Sheldon has apparently brought her a gift, knowing he needs to endear himself to her after the sexual harassment episode.

...It’s Roots. As in the famous 1970’s TV miniseries, not the popular Canadian athletic brand. Maybe I should mention here that Mrs. Davis is African-American, for those of you who haven’t been watching.  She is understandably pissed and reduces Sheldon to a stammering mess that includes the question “You are black, right?â€

That’s a zero for all three. Great progress, guys.

In the cafeteria, Howard decides to have fun with his tenure-obsessed friends and lures them into attending the dead professor’s memorial service. Amy decides to come along as it coincides with their date night, and Penny throws her hat into the ring. Sheldon has Amy’s excellent knowledge of academic politics on his side, Leonard has Penny’s amazing rack. Wonder who’s going to win this one?

Raj whines over the phone to his parents in India. He needs money. He is desperate for tenure. Nothing’s changed.

Amy and Sheldon rehearse emotions before the funeral via a Seussian rhyme. Raj shows up (in an amazing suit), Leonard and Penny arrive, and the guys get into an argument about who’s paying respect vs who’s buttering up the tenure committee. Penny’s cleavage pops out pretty quickly. Sheldon insists that Amy do the same. Howard is loving it. Various insults are exchanged, with Wolowitz adding his own helpful suggestions. Sheldon insinuates that he had coitus with Raj’s mother for a dollar. Leonard decides to quit the argument, saying that friendship is forever – but so, Howard points out, is tenure. They decide that friendship is more important in the end and are prepared to leave. Suddenly Kripke comes out chatting happily with Mrs. Davis. It’s on.

We cut to the next morning. Sheldon knocks on Mrs. Davis’ door, where we learn that all three have been put on the shortlist for tenure, which she stresses is entirely due to their academic abilities. After they establish that Sheldon has not brought a gift, he thanks her for her consideration. They shake hands – which Sheldon ruins with some kind of weird pseudo-gangster move. Mrs. Davis wisely decides to let it go.

So, was it a good episode? I wouldn’t rank it in the all-time greats, but it’s certainly one of the better episodes of the season and played the characters off each other well. I would love for Raj to get a good storyline one of these days – the writers don’t seem to know what to do with him – but he did have his moments. The sex jokes with Penny were a little too obvious,  but I can live with that. A good Community episode and a good Big Bang Theory in one night – how lucky can a sitcom fan get?

Thanks for reading, and giving me a lovely distraction from Essay Hell. I will be back on Sunday for the extra-special two-hour premiere of Mad Men. Until then, happy viewing!


For further discussion of The Big Bang Theory, go here.


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