The Big Bang Theory, "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification": virtually perfect

Quick Take: The Big Bang Theory, "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification"
"What I'm doing here, is trying to determine when I'm going to die." "Well, a lot of people are working on that research."

Virtual Sheldon

Review: The Big Bang Theory, "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplication"
(S0402) Sheldon crunches numbers and makes charts and discovers that, based on his family history, his life expectancy is five years short of the earliest predictions for the Singularity -- the moment when technology will take a sudden leap forward, allowing people to merge with their hyper-advanced machines and become immortal. Since he doesn't want to miss out on immortality and everything that comes after it, he decides to take measures to live longer, starting with eating 'cruciferous vegetables' like brussels sprouts, and ending with him deciding, after he's fallen down the stairs, that he's too fragile to survive so long out in the world. He'll do it instead by staying in his room (or, as he puts it, "ensconced in a secure location") for the rest of the time until he can reach immortality, and he'll interact with the world through a virtual presence. He builds a sort of stripped down robot with a computer-screen face and a webcam, and starts rolling around that way, trying to live his life. Which mostly consists of him not being able to open doors and go up and down stairs because he didn't build arms or legs on his virtual presence. Meanwhile, Penny has no money and is borrowing all of it from Leonard... but mostly spends the episode taking care of Sheldon and trying not to look like she knows any of them in public.

As always, this show is incredibly funny. It's hard for a comedy to keep up the funny into four solid seasons, but Big Bang has managed it, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Sheldon is strange and clinical and entirely bizarre through this whole episode, and if there could have been more Leonard, Raj, and Wolowitz, the lack is made up for by the Penny-Sheldon interaction that we all know and love. Big Bang manages to stay at least roughly on top of what geeks are talking about, to comment on it, make fun of it, and embrace it lovingly all at the same time, and to both translate the geekery for the masses and talk to the geeks themselves. It's amazing, and this episode is only more of that golden formula.

Watching through it the first time, I loved every moment -- but the problems came out by watching it a second time for this review. See, comedies have this problem where they spend a really great season or two building up really awesome characters, and then spend the rest of their run coasting on the biggest traits of those characters. Leonard is sardonic. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is rational to the point of irrationality. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is dumb but sweet. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) can't talk to girls. Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) is a horndog. And sometimes, even the best comedy can fall into a rut where that's all they are -- a list of one-liners. Now, Big Bang's one-liners are awesome and witty and clever, and they manage to stay true to the characters and interesting to the point where you don't realize that they're getting broad... but when you watch it twice in a row, it kind of stands out that they're starting down that road.

big bang theory

Hopefully, the clever will keep up. It's the only way to avoid becoming boring, and when it starts becoming boring, that's when writers start doing the things that kill comedies: bringing in new full-time characters that no one likes (usually a kid, which would be some sort of horrifying thing, unless done very, very carefully here), moving locations, dropping actors, suddenly trying to make up for years of stunted character development by dumping it all on you at once in that last, gasping season. It's a frightening end, and one that's hopefully far away for Big Bang. The writers seem to know that their audience is not just pop-savvy, but aware of how shows work and where they go, and they're apparently actively fighting against the tendencies of comedies, and for that, I will always love them.

More thoughts on "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification":

  • Virtual Sheldon going to Penny's door at the end, and, lacking arms, knocking by rolling into it -- and then having her sing Soft Kitty into a remote speaker -- was adorable and weird enough to be true to the character.
  • Sheldon trying to calm Leonard down in the car by playing Scarborough Fair on a recorder while playing pictures of medieval dancers on his monitor? Dangerous for drivers and hilarious for viewers.
  • Wolowitz lying about what Raj is saying because he's tired of being the mouthpiece has been a long time coming, and came off pitch-perfect.
  • My only quibble: fart humor is low-brow, and the rest is usually smarter than that. Usually.
  • I could easily quote almost every line of this episode. Seriously. These are some of the funniest writers around.
  • Video: "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification":
    The reveal...

    CBS doesn't show full episodes on Hulu, but the clips are here, and more clips here, on The Big Bang Theory's CBS site.

    By Samantha Holloway

    About the author

    Samantha is a freelance writer, editor and book and TV reviewer. She's currently in gradschool and working on her first novel, and one day she'll rule to world. Or marry her TV. Whichever comes first. Follow! twitter.com/pirategirljack.

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    1 Comment
    On: Friday, October 1, 2010
    Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

    Fantastic job Samantha as TV Geek Army welcomes you and the geeks of The Big Bang Theory both! 

    Great analysis too about the balance of pure funny and characters (and plot) that all great comedies possess. This has always been a show that I lost track of very early on, though enjoyed the first few episodes back in Season One, so need to hop back on the Bang bandwagon... wait, that doesn't sound quite right, does it? 

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