How The Big Bang Theory Handled All Of Its Family Drama

For some of the characters in The Big Bang Theory, particularly those getting married (again), tonight's Season 10 premiere was one of happiness. But that happiness was fleeting, as the convergence of all the characters' families created some very stressful moments for all involved. How did it all play out? Awkwardly.

big bang theory judd hirsch christine baranski

Leonard's Parents

Divorced parents arguing is a comedy trope that TV has always embraced, and The Big Bang Theory's "The Conjugal Conjecture" was at the head of the class in that department. For now, though, we'll focus on Christine Baranski's Beverly and Judd Hirsch's Alfred, two people who would not both survive getting stuck on an elevator together. As soon as they're in each other's presence, it's claws at throats, and Beverly doesn't even have much vested interest in watching her son marry Penny. In that respect, the show was almost too mean, especially when it carried on into the wedding. (Poor Stuart.)

But their parental cattiness was not enough to ruin the ceremony - which got taken over by Sheldon anyway - and by the end of the episode, there was no rekindling or apologetic tone involved. So we could definitely get a holiday episode with Hirsch and Baranski butting heads again. It's too bad the show waited until the end of Season 9 to make that pairing happen.

Sheldon's Mom (and Leonard's Dad)

As we all remember, Season 9 ended with that most uncomfortable of cliffhangers when Sheldon's mother Mary, played by the always spot-on Laurie Metcalf, potentially hooked up with Alfred. The horror of the situation was bad enough to keep Sheldon awake at night, and he lacked a certain degree of tact when point-blank asking Alfred if he defiled Mary or not. ("Your genitals are a joy to behold," should be in fortune cookies.) And though Alfred plays it cool, suggesting they only shared a ride and a beverage, the suspicions remain.

While there was definitely a connection between Alfred and Mary that worked for them, it made things worse with everyone else. I guess Beverly would have been as bad either way, but Leonard and Sheldon had a little tiff over it when Sheldon was implying Alfred wasn't good enough for his Bible-humping mom. In the end, friends remain friends and Alfred makes it clear that Mary plans on visiting him in New York. So showrunner Steve Molaro was definitely planting seeds for future appearances here as well. Smart.

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Penny's Family

While we already knew mostly what to expect from everyone else's fam-fam, it was the first time anyone got to meet Penny's mother Susan and brother Randall, played respectively by the great Katey Sagal and Jack McBrayer. Randall is an overtly goofy meth dealer just out of prison, which led to Susan stressing the hell out over trying to put on a good impression in front of other people. That situation led to the "white trash" joke, which was the funniest of the episode to me.

To make things more unnerving, Susan and Penny's father Wyatt weren't palling around for the episode either. But that's not surprising, as Wyatt is the kind of guy who will have a couple of cold ones with whatever happens to be on TV, and Susan is a little more tightly wound than that. Penny's family also wasn't enough to break the loving bonds that hold her and Leonard together, but I imagine their presence in tonight's episode will make Leonard very wary the next time they're having some kind of event with a lengthy guest list. That said, they all need to return, since the star caliber involved is just too high.

The Season 10 premiere also featured one of several appearances from Breaking Bad's Dean Norris, but he wasn't related to anyone. As well, the episode was lacking in all things related to Bernadette's pregnancy, but that'll get its own spotlight in the months to come. The Big Bang Theory airs Monday nights on CBS at 8:00 p.m. ET, and it will make the shift to Thursday nights on October 27. To see when all of TV's other families will return, check out our fall premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.