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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: "The Bozeman Reaction"

Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: The Bozeman Reaction
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There are occasionally episodes of The Big Bang Theory where the characters - most often Sheldon - react to something in a way that would be considered, for lack of a better word, normal by most people, and the studio audience hoots and hollers, and the actors play it up as something that's supposed to be goofy, and we're all supposed to see how hilarious it is, but, in reality, it's actually a fairly normal way to react to something. "The Bozeman Reaction," an episode that actually had quite a few laughs in it, is an episode that's almost brought down entirely by the fact that the central premise - the guys are robbed and Sheldon overreacts - is felled by the fact that Sheldon's overreaction is borderline run-of-the-mill for someone who's just been, y'know, robbed.

Again, this isn't such a bad episode, particularly once it pushes past the normal reactions to a robbery and starts into Sheldon wanting to move to another city entirely (rejected are Enid, Oklahoma, and Boone, North Carolina, before he settles on Bozeman, Montana). At that point, the episode kind of turns into one of those faux-heartwarming episodes every sitcom does where one member of the ensemble is going to leave town, and everyone gets to react, and then they come back at the end, and it's all a big group hug. Now, The Big Bang Theory didn't go that far, and, indeed, the joke when Sheldon came back to town was really a pretty good one. But the storyline, at least, pivoted from the odder storyline of how Sheldon seemed to be the only one in the apartment who realized they'd been robbed.


This is also probably relevant because this is the rare Big Bang Theory episode where just the one plotline dominates the episode. Normally, the show has two plotlines of almost equal stature running concurrently, but in this episode, the robbery took up nearly all of the show's time. There was a pretty good opening gag about how the guys so rarely hang out anymore (because Howard and Leonard have girlfriends), but everything went from there to the robbery almost immediately, as Sheldon and Leonard came home and found that someone had forced their way in and taken the TV and laptops and assorted other valuables. (All of that said, Sheldon's detailed list of just what was missing for the police officer was generally very funny.)

At first, it seemed like the episode might head in the direction of Sheldon trying to discover who the culprits were as Leonard tried to let the police handle such matters, and that seemed like a promising enough storyline for the show to pursue. Instead, though, everything turned to the fact that in the wake of the robbery, Sheldon was shaken up and needed his friends around him to feel safe. Now, there was certainly a bit of comedy in Sheldon's reactions to all of this, just because Jim Parsons plays the character so well, but the show seemed content to think that just the very fact that Sheldon was worked up about the robbery was comedic in and of itself, and I don't know that it was.

Now, this may just be that I've never had my house broken into. I had my bike stolen once, but that's not really on the same level as having your domicile invaded, as feeling like someone has stepped into your private space and made it forcibly public. Maybe when this happens, you move on remarkably quickly (especially if you have a hot, blonde girlfriend to make out with). Maybe when this happens, you realize there's not a lot you can do and just shrug it off. But I have to say that if someone broke into my apartment and stole my valuables, I probably wouldn't be so blase about it. I might not be as worked up about it as Sheldon got, but I would definitely feel several degrees less safe. Again, that may be too big of an assumption on my part, but when the show seemed to want us to see Sheldon's behavior as his usual wackiness, it felt like it didn't quite grasp just how horrifying what had happened might prove to someone who likes having everything in its right place like Sheldon does.

This is the tricky row to hoe with Sheldon's character. You've got to come up with situations where he's going to do funny things but manage to come up with situations where he does funny things that won't seem too commonplace or seem to be making fun of him. (It's also possible that the show undercut this storyline by not indicating that it took place over a number of weeks, as it very well might have.) Most of the time, in these last few seasons, The Big Bang Theory has been very good at finding ways to suggest Sheldon's wackiness without pushing the wackiness so far that it seems to be mocking him or others who may be like him. In this episode, there was an uncomfortable tinge of the old episodes where the show seemed to be mocking the nerds in general for being weak. Sheldon, it seemed to be suggesting, shouldn't have been so worked up about the robbery, and if he had a stronger constitution, he wouldn't be.


Every week, there are one or two of you in comments who suggest that I shouldn't take the show so seriously, that it's just designed to make us laugh, and that's how I should treat it. For the most part, I agree with you. The Big Bang Theory is a well-oiled laugh machine, a show that has little purpose to it beyond the desire to create goofy scenarios that will let the characters do goofy things. Now, I suppose I could write every week, "This episode was funny, and I laughed!" then print a bunch of quotes, but I think that one of the things that's so interesting about The Big Bang Theory is the way it seems to always be on the verge of becoming a much better show without ever taking that big step up to the next level. (Also, if I just started doing that, they'd likely find someone new who would be long-winded and verbose in covering the show.) And episodes like this are the ones that suggest that the show's approach too often amounts to coming up with scenarios for Sheldon to react to and then suggesting that his reactions, in and of themselves, must be funny, even if they aren't terribly.

Again, I don't hate "The Bozeman Reaction." Plenty of it was very funny. Parts of it were plenty predictable (if you didn't see that final gag in Bozeman coming, then you have obviously not watched enough crappy sitcoms in your life). And a lot of it seemed needlessly mocking of the Sheldon character. But overall, it was an episode that seemed to be pushing a little too far, as though the idea of a robbery came up and no one was able to figure out anything amusing to do with it beyond just the notion of a robbery itself. "The Bozeman Reaction" isn't a failure of an episode, but it's also not all that great, either. It probably needed just a little more time in the story development department.


Stray observations:

  • "The more I think about it, the mobster sauce couldn't possibly contain chunks of mobster."
  • "I do not have to urinate. I am a master of my own bladder. Drat."
  • "Wonderful security system if we're attacked by a school of tuna."
  • "I am no longer the master of my own bladder."
  • "Oh, no, he's gonna telecommute. Everybody's really excited about it."
  • "Bozeman does have a comedy club called the Loony Bin. Please don't forward my mail there."

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