I think this blog has done a good job showing what I like in literature, not least because in addition to the 2 books I have reviewed I have mentioned, I have also provided lists of books I’ve read. I’m not as thorough as Daniel who seems to review every book he reads on Goodreads and then on his blog thereabouts, but you have a fairly good idea of my tastes.
Perhaps some of you have been wondering, however, what kind of television I like to watch. Well, I’ve referenced Mad Men more than a few times on here, because I have been watching every episode of it and the revived series of Doctor Who on Netflix since the first week of 2013. It was a fun thing I thought of for new year’s, and naturally, since I do one a week, I’m still wrapped up in it nearly 2 years later. (It was in fact something I thought of to fill the gap in my time after finishing my Casual Vacancy reviews.)
I have watched all but the last 2 episodes of Mad Men to air however, resorting to internet uploads I spent a lot of time tracking down and one that I actually recorded the night it aired. You might have guessed at my Doctor Who fandom, however, based on my quoting the Ninth (and in my opinion best) Doctor in the last post. And that referencing of pop culture and what it says about a person is going to be the main topic here, and that’s why I’ve gone on for so long about it.
For, you see, I am now going to be discussing another show that I haven’t mentioned very much – The Big Bang Theory. I actually have a very interesting relationship with this show, because my aunt* fell in love with it all the way back in 2008, but her description didn’t make it sound all that appealing. “It’s about these four guys who know a lot about science but they don’t know much about women”. In fact, I don’t think I expected the show to last nearly as long it has (renewed to have a total of at least 10 seasons!).
So it took me until the third season to check the show out. I believe I watched some of “The Pirate Solution” on October 12 2009 and wasn’t too interested in it. I didn’t make an effort to watch a full episode until November 16, 2009 – The Adhesive Duck Deficiency. This was a pretty good episode to start off with. I immediately grasped the appeal of the show to my aunt. It is, in spite, a very old-fashioned sitcom. In the rise of unconventionals like Scrubs, Arrested Development, Malcolm in the Middle, The Office, and my dad’s beloved Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory follows in the traditional heels set forth by I Love Lucy. At the time I found it difficult to get into new shows, so this intrigued me and was something I enjoyed.
I went out of my way to watch the next episode (The Vengeance Formulation – Aired November 23, 2009), and I was hooked. In fact, I have a shockingly consistent track record for watching the rest of that season – the only I missed and made no effort to watch later are The Large Hadron Collision, The Precious Fragmentation, The Plimpton Stimulation, and the finale. In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing how fast I got into it – but that quickly stopped. I caught the Season 4 and 5 premieres, but only a few scant episodes of those shows (I like to watch things live without the DVR). I got only about 2 episodes in Season 6 and none in Season 7. And before the show premiered for this Season 8, I read a Cracked article entitled “5 Current TV Shows That Get More Praise Than They Deserve”. The Big Bang Theory made #5, right behind Doctor Who. So naturally I was very grateful to Cracked for the reminder to watch every episode of Season 8.
I have done a solid job so far (mostly thanks to me having few other ways to spend my free time), and I’d like to talk about tonight’s episode The Focus Attenuation.
One thing the Internet will reveal is that the show has received a lot of backlash, and it’s easy to see why. The show can seem out-of-touch and childish when you see where modern sitcoms have evolved, but it’s also the highest-rated comedy, so that’s obviously very comforting to a lot of people.
The first thing I’d like to zero in on is simply how long a show should last. For a silly sitcom like The Big Bang Theory, many might say it’s lost its appeal in the eighth season. But for me, this episode was a very strong entry in a season that’s been fairly decent so far. But more than that, it provides a good example of the show itself, rather than just one slice out of the whole. If you have never watched a single episode of this show, I recommend you watch this episode because it does a good job illustrating the appeal.
3 of the show’s main characters are Caltech physicists, and naturally the show developed a fandom among the scientific community as a show that would use lines that qualified as a “genius bonus”. But with time those have mostly worn out. For broader appeal, the show has made the perhaps wise decision to concentrate on what is called “nerd culture”, or to be more pc, the fandom of science fiction, which means we don’t get a lot of plots involving the complicated jobs these 4 men hold, but plenty of references to stuff like Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Firefly, Hitchhiker’s Guide, and Babylon 5.
And man, oh man, this episode was a doozy. I counted references to Jaws, The Cabin in the Woods, The Shining, and The Lake House all before the opening theme song. I had a feeling this was going to be a good one based on the description alone: “WITH THE GIRLS IN VEGAS, THE GUYS TRY TO INVENT ‘THE NEXT BIG THING'”.
And naturally we don’t get a lot of actual scientific thinking at all in this episode. But we do get an extended debate about potential paradoxes and the proper tense used in discussing time travel in a spirited debate of Back to the Future: Part II, praise for The Social Network, and finally our 4 leads all sit down to watch Ghostbusters in lieu of any actual work. In a way it strikes me as a lot of wink-wink nudging and blatant
enjoyment of what the show has become.
You see, the characters keep getting sidetracked in looking up all sorts of random junk instead of focusing on their hypothesizing. And naturally this all directly appeals to me personally, when you see how often I reference other books and movies in my reviews on here. I even quoted an extended excerpt from Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis in my last post, so you can see how much of myself is in this episode!
And that, I believe, is the main appeal to the show. It’s about a group of guys who a lot of people can relate to. Sure, they were picked on in high school, but look how successful they are now. Also, I thought the underdog Oozma Kappi team in Monsters University was stupid and eye-rolling when I saw it last year, but now I think it may be slightly touching. How can you really describe yourself as adrift from society, an underdog, and a loser accepted by no one and incapable of surviving the real world of wedgie-delivering bullies when you have created your own microcosm of a society all to yourselves?
The show is a tremendous validation of generations grown up being taunted and laughed at, a celebration of what they really have. When people like Leonard, Howard, Sheldon, and Raj watch this episode, they’re not laughing at them so much as they’re laughing at themselves, and thus with them.
But moreover, as a lover of popular culture, I just find it fun to see a piece of popular culture get so caught up in a mass of pop culture-referencing web, to the point I can barely make my way out anymore. There’s something for everyone in here, and even as I laugh so hard I find myself getting dizzied and wanting to collapse just thinking about the rampant, uncontrollable procrastination these men involuntarily indulge in, even as they tear their arm hair off in a desperate, but obviously feeble leap to stop themselves.
Also, I’ve never understood why sitcoms usually have to have at least 1 subplot (I mean, you’d think it would be easier to spread them out to keep from running out of ideas), but this episode had a pretty good one, with the girls off in Vegas. I’ve mentioned how much I love character contrast, and this is a doozy with Amy and Bernadette wanting to party and get drunk and sample every LV strip club, while Penny just needs to get her work done and isn’t too ashamed about it either. Yet in the end we see what giving in to one’s primal urges gets you – no work done and in the case of Miss Farrah-Fowler and Mrs. Wolowitz, a massive hangover in the morning. You really have to admire Penny for being the only one to actually get all her work done despite being the one with legitimate distractions all around her in basically every waking moment. And she gets to go out and have some fun in the pool once she’s done with it, her two alcohol-addled friends unable to say the same.
Also, as you might have guessed, I’ve been too caught up in other books to read any more of The Book Thief for now, and I haven’t watched a YouTube copy I found of the 1987 Secret Garden, either. In fact, I haven’t even started the next Book Thief post, so here’s the focus attenuation, you guys. Hope you enjoyed it somewhat and weren’t too irritated by its long-winded distractions.
*My poor aunt: She was just explaining to me how of course my sister can’t appreciate The Lake House because she’s never experienced real passionate romantic love like that, and here Sheldon rags on it too. And then Penny and Bernadette refuse to see a Barry Manilow show, just to make her extra insulted by her favorite modern sitcom.