It’s no secret among fans and critics that CBS’s The Big Bang Theory didn’t find its footing until the character of Penny (Kaley Cuoco) went from the vacuous token blonde woman to challenging fan favorite Sheldon (Jim Parsons) for dominance in their social circle. In other words, the show didn’t take off until Penny actually became a character instead of a piece of furniture.
The show will always be male-dominated, but it seemed as if the showrunners decided to step up their game when they added Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch to the main cast during the fourth season. I know lots of fans who would happily watch a spin-off with Penny, Amy, and Bernadette, and leave the guys behind. The ladies of The Big Bang Theory are far more interesting, well-rounded, and – dare I even say – developed.
Which should be a good thing, right? Except that it creates an unavoidable conundrum: why are all these awesome, strong women hanging out with (even dating) these total losers?
Because the guys are losers these days. Not because they’re nerds – they were nerds before and managed to have some positive qualities. They’re losers because their foibles have been turned up to 11 without any sort of charm or talent to balance the scales. And yet the audience is still expected to root for them and pull for them to win the world.
Do the writers really expect us to want Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) to get the girl? There is nothing remotely attractive about that character. He’s perverted, selfish, unable to take care of himself, still lives with his Jewish mother in the ultimate of cliches, and dresses like a Project Runway reject. How the hell are we supposed to get on board with his engagement to the sweet, adorable, sane microbiologist Bernadette?
The worst part is that it destroys any and all credibility for her character. Hell, even the other characters (i.e. Penny and Amy) were commenting on it this week. The ensuing exchange, brief though it was, was the television equivalent of saying, “No, no, don’t you get it, they’re totally in love and that’s why the fact that she’s way too good for him doesn’t matter. Why shouldn’t the nerd get the girl? Quit being so shallow!”
We went there for Penny and Leonard, writers; nerddom doesn’t enter into this. Howard – as a character – does not deserve Bernadette. There is no reason a woman with that much going for her would ever stay with someone like him. And there’s the big issue: if you really want us to buy it, it’s your job to sell it. You haven’t.
As a possible explanation, I wanted to accuse The Big Bang Theory of not having any female writers. Well, if IMDb is to be believed, they currently have one. Her name is Maria Ferrari.
Chuck Lorre (91 episodes, 2007-2011) Bill Prady (91 episodes, 2007-2011) Steven Molaro (64 episodes, 2007-2011) Lee Aronsohn (44 episodes, 2007-2011) David Goetsch (31 episodes, 2007-2011) Maria Ferrari (25 episodes, 2009-2011) Steve Holland (23 episodes, 2009-2011) Jim Reynolds (22 episodes, 2009-2011) Eric Kaplan (21 episodes, 2008-2011) Richard Rosenstock (19 episodes, 2008-2010) Stephen Engel (10 episodes, 2008-2009) Jennifer Glickman (6 episodes, 2007-2008) Eddie Gorodetsky (5 episodes, 2011) Robert Cohen (4 episodes, 2007-2008) Tim Doyle (4 episodes, 2008-2009) Nicole Lorre (3 episodes, 2008-2010) David Litt (2 episodes, 2007) Daley Haggar (2 episodes, 2008-2009) Jessica Ambrosetti (2 episodes, 2009-2010) Anthony Del Broccolo (2 episodes, 2011)-IMDb.com
Of the other three who used to write for the show (including Nicole Lorre, executive producer Chuck Lorre’s daughter), they were largely credited with “story” rather than “teleplay” which means they pitched or contributed to the plot, but didn’t actually write the script.
There aren’t enough female writers in the biz, that’s been discussed, and I’d say this show is a perfect example of why a balanced writers room is necessary. It’s not just about alienating female fans – because the ironic thing about The Big Bang Theory is that it’s the male characters who are suffering. Yes, Bernadette loses points for being inexplicably attracted to Howard, but Howard may be the most pathetic character to ever cross the small screen. He loses to Urkel.
It feels as though these dweebs (and I’m leaving Sheldon out of the equation because he is a force unto himself) are meant to be avatars for geeky writers who weren’t popular in high school, so now they can have it all. But they’re failing miserably because unlike geeky writers who were unpopular in high school, Leonard, Raj, and Howard haven’t really made anything of themselves as human beings. They might have doctorates and impressive jobs at a college (which are rarely mentioned these days), but they’re so horribly undeveloped as men that they’re laughable. We’re laughing at them. Not with them – at them. And it’s not the good kind of laughter.
When Leonard and Penny broke up (WHEATON!), the show gave up on having a heart. That’s the bottom line. Without heart, a sitcom grows stale before its time. (There is, after all, an expiration date on every sitcom.) Which isn’t to say Leonard and Penny as a couple was the driving force of the show, or that they need to get back together to rescue it, but in the absence of a love story where two people were actually striving for balance (Penny getting an academic education, Leonard getting a social one), what we’re left with is premature ejaculation jokes and a near-manic Jim Parsons attempting to carry the entire show on his shoulders.
Sorry, Atlas, I can’t shrug it off anymore.