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One complaint that often disfigures The Big Bang Theory’s reputation is that the show is ironically not geeky enough. By taking a comedic approach that generalizes geekdom, the series appeases the common television viewer. However, those searching for a more distinct brand of nerd humor and insight usually find themselves unimpressed. Tonight, both the general audience and the more specific viewer had opportunities to watch the show as an actual observation of real geeks. Unfortunately, the episode wasn’t all that enjoyable.
Leonard began "The Bus Pants Utilization" by pitching a highly technical idea for a smartphone application. By getting unanimous excitement from the gang, they started collaborating how they would implement the app. Of course, Sheldon’s commendation towards Leonard’s idea was more condescending than encouraging, and he inevitably commandeered Leonard’s position as team leader. This placed the two roommates and two best friends in an awkward and tense situation, one that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Furthermore, we caught a brief glimpse of how these characters operate not only as intellectuals but also as friends working towards a common goal.
What began as an interesting exercise of work ethic among the cast soon mutated into an illustration of how removed Sheldon can truly be. His disregard for the others’ contributions and his disrespect towards Leonard proved how irritating he can be. Most of season four has painted Sheldon as a tolerable, misunderstood creature; yet, "The Bus Pants Utilization" reminded us of how caustic he can be as a human being. The idea of Sheldon working docilely under Leonard had promise for both comedy and heart, but the writers turned it into a formulaic episode of connects and disconnects.
However regimented the episode seemed would have been forgiven if the strife between Leonard and Sheldon eventually amounted to something meaningful. Yet, we never got that; Sheldon never learned that he doesn’t have to be the team leader. The absence of a catharsis would also have been slightly forgivable if the episode dealt out some memorable laughs, but it failed to find a right niche of humor. Although "The Bus Pants Utilization" had the advantage of utilizing the entire ensemble as one strong comedic unit, it couldn’t find a rich cadence to enthuse laughter.
Because The Big Bang Theory gained momentum towards the end of 2010, it was disappointing seeing it start the year off so poorly. Still, I remain optimistic that season four can pick itself up gracefully. All shows have filler episodes; tonight just happened to be one of them.