My favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory. I’ve come to love the characters so much that I think of them as friends. On days when I don’t feel well — which is frankly more often than I’d like — I love to curl in bed with four or five episodes on my DVR and forget my troubles and pains.
Why then do I hate the new season so much?
I waited for this season, rejoiced there’d be at least another three years of shows, counted the days until I found out what happened to Sheldon when he freaked out and ran away from home.
Somehow with the cutting of Penny’s hair, the laughter and tenderness of the characters were severed.
You see, the big reason I love Big Bang Theory is because these characters grow. We know so much about them, have even met their parents, know of their traumatic childhood incidents, shared their hopes and dreams. We’ve rooted for them. We’ve cheered when the little guy got the sexy girlfriend. But all of that seems to have stopped this year.
Each of the major characters, aside from Penny and Leonard, have had major epiphanies — Howard stopped being creepy and became a loving husband, Raj learned how to talk to women and has a girlfriend, Sheldon is more flexible, has moved forward with his relationship with Amy, and has even reconciled changing his area of scientific research.
Where is the growth for Penny and Leonard?
Leonard (Johnny Galecki) is in exactly the same place he was at the beginning of the series except he miraculously has a girlfriend that outshines every nerd’s dreams. But I don’t think he’s the problem.
Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco), who at the beginning was sweet and fresh and normal, became a bitter, alcoholic — a one note joke that’s become flat over the years. But even worse, all the dreams she had of being an actress have suddenly disappeared.
How awfully sad.
Now, a pharmaceutical salesperson, she’s a bit more responsible than before. But her character arc is lumpy and underdeveloped at best. Where are the stories of her struggling with her decision to quit acting — especially since she’d decided last year to devote herself full time to that career? Where are the longing moments? Where are the snippets from her background to let us know why she wanted to act, why she hated school so much, why booze became her best friend? When did money get more important than dreams?
In every good story the hero and heroine give of themselves. Anyone who’s ever read The Gift of the Magi knows that to be true. What has Leonard given to Penny aside from money? Has he helped her in her career? Has he helped her past her psychological issues? And for Penny the questions are even greater — Why does she love Leonard? Why can’t she do without him? What sacrifice does she make to understand him and his career better? And frankly, whatever happened to her goal to graduate from the local community college?
I see Sheldon and Amy grow toward one another, making sacrifices. Howard has given up his mother and his slimy jokes, Bernadette has agreed to have children. They’ve all grown and they’re all at a plot standstill.
Penny and Leonard have not grown, and their relationship isn’t believable, no matter how much I wish it were. After all those autobiographical vanity cards after each episode by Chuck Lorre, I wonder if his own difficulties with women mean he doesn’t understand how to make Penny’s character work? Still, he has a team of writers to help him. What are they doing?
Big Bang Theory is getting killed in its new time slot on Monday nights — but it’s not the time slot, it’s lazy writing.
If it were up to me, Penny would have continued to pursue her acting career. She’d actually have found fame. Think of the potential as Leonard struggles with her flying to exotic film locations, paired with sexy costars. He has been burned by Priya’s infidelity — how wonderful it would have been to see him go through jealousy and then relearn trust as he discovers that Penny’s love for him is true. Penny might be cast in a role as an astronaut, and while studying for the part start to understand more of Leonard’s work. Maybe she gains pride that he is so smart. Perhaps he’d get to put down the sexy actor or become a consultant on set.
I hope this works out because I want these characters to succeed. After all, like all my other friends, I’m rooting for them. ;-)