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The Big Bang Theory Watch: The Thespian Catalyst

Last season, the writers fell into a formula of forcing Penny and Sheldon into awkward situations together. These scenarios, which usually sprang out of contrived instances, found momentous humor that eventually led to a pleasing climax. However repetitive this scheme seemed, it worked for the series during that particular season. With Penny and Leonard slowly stagnating as a couple, the chemistry between Penny and Sheldon exploded with some great dynamics that ultimately saved the show.

Since the beginning of season four, we haven’t seen this strategy utilized. Conveniently, though, tonight’s episode eased into the motion of a very typical Big Bang season three episode.

Starting off the episode, Leonard, Raj, and Wolowitz read off live tweets from students attending a guess lecture from a Mr. Sheldon Cooper. To his surprise, the students are not entertained nor interested in what he has to teach. Their live tweets illustrate just how terrible his lecture is when they include “Kill me now!” or “This makes me want to start cutting again.” His frustration after the fact somehow falls into the merciful hands of a Miss Penny, whom he employs to be his acting coach. By gaining some advice on charisma and charm, he can perhaps save his reputation as a terrible lecturer.

Meanwhile, most of the others focus on their own apparently disinteresting lives. However, this week, Raj seems a little distracted. He, too, begins the episode with disappointment, by ranting over his constant plight with the world’s most evil species-women. Just like Sheldon, he eventually gets some courage when Bernadette tells him she think’s he’s sexy. His mind filters out all other thoughts and solely fantasizes over her in atypically surreal fashion. The idea that Raj becomes obsessed with Bernadette doesn’t really work. Not only is it used as filler material, it also ruins the relationship he has with Wolowitz. They’ve always been fraternally competitive with each other, but never has Raj had a sexual inclination towards Bernadette. The suddenness of this infatuation seems almost disrespectful to the very relationship between Raj and Wolowitz.

While the writers most likely decided to take this moment to clarify Raj’s sexuality by infusing him with fantasies of his best friend’s girlfriend, I found it insensitive towards both of them. Wolowitz has always been insecure; knowing that Bernadette finds someone else sexy would disturb him. Yet, he remains quiet the entire episode. Raj has always been an innocent character. Yes, his sexual frustrations have typically been endearing, but this abnormality of his honestly felt rather wrong.

Again, Sheldon’s and Raj’s stories tonight parallel in that they never progress. Getting lessons from Penny, Sheldon takes as many opportunities as he can to verbally jab her, and she maintains pace with her own quick retorts. It is the formula we’re comfortable seeing, but never does it flow. Sheldon’s condescension is a part of his character, but knowing that he needs her to teach him how to be a better actor, and therefore better professor, should yield him from making inappropriate quips.

The writers tried so hard to make “The Thespian Catalyst” so funny, when they didn’t really have to. With a decent setup and a comfortable formula, they should have glided through this episode with finesse. By trying so hard to instill humor in the episode, they forgot to tell a good story. In fact, there wasn’t even a story to begin with.