Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TV Watch: "The Big Bang Theory" comes roaring out of the gate at the start of Season 9


For a limited time you can watch last night's Big Bang Theory season premiere, "The Matrimonial Momentum," free online. Even more exciting, you can watch this entire "half-hour" show in a mere 20:26. (This must be that "miniaturization" fad we hear so much about.)

by Ken

As the new TV season officially launches, it's never been clear where the medium is headed, though there seems widespread agreement that it's going to very different from what we have no. I'm less optimistic than a lot of people -- mostly, I guess, because these days most of the programming that's celebrated as the cream of our crop seems to me so awful. (Emmys for Game of Throw-Up and the ghastly Veep? Maybe it's time to revisit The San Pedro Beach Bums.

I know no one is expecting a new creative path to be blazed by the TV networks, and I certainly don't. Once again I paid no attention to the new-season announcements, and from what I've managed to glean from a couple of "Fall Preview" features, it looks grim. Which leaves me not much to look forward to except the return of a few shows that may have some creative life left in them.

Which is why I couldn't have been happier with last night's Big Bang Theory season premiere. In terms of plot capital the show's overseers have been so frugal that even in Season 9 they've got plenty of material still available. Movement in the Penny-Leonard and Amy-Sheldon relationships has been so slow that they're really still mostly to come; there should still be a lot of stories left in the still-evolving marriage of Howard and Bernadette; Raj's future is still unmapped; and so is that of Stuart the comic-book guy. (The team is getting some earned yuks out of his super-doofusdom, but it might be nice if they remembered that he doesn't have to be that completely hopeless -- one of the early things we learned about him was that he has artistic talent as well as training.)

On some of these fronts, of course, last season's finale made it clear the team was preparing to make decisive moves forward. We last saw Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) headed to Las Vegas on the spur of the moment to get married. And when we last saw Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Amy was announcing that she needed time to evaluate where that "relationship" was going, which to Sheldon meant "break-up" -- and if Amy has any sesne, to her too.

As I've mentioned, I do have a problem with those gales of not-very-laugh-like noise that repeated disfigure Big Bang Theory episodes, but sometimes I can ignore them better than others, and last night I was hardly noticing them. What I want to pay tribute to here is the ongoing vitality of the writing -- and I mean specifically the writing for these characters (and of course these actors), who have been nurtured so carefully over the previous eight seasons.

So I laboriously transcribed this scene from the episodes' pre-credits opening, where we find Penny and Leonard in a Vegas wedding chapel. Let's just slip in quietly and join them . . . .

No, we're not yet at the point depicted in the above screen grab -- I think you'll recognize it when we get there. As our scene starts, LEONARD and PENNY are in Las Vegas, perusing wedding-chapel packages, when LEONARD's mobile phone rings.

LEONARD: Excuse me. [Looking at phone] Sheldon. [Into phone] Hey!
SHELDON [in his and LEONARD's apartment]: Leonard, have you gotten married yet?
LEONARD: Uh, no, why?
SHELDON: Good! Don't do it!
LEONARD: Why not?
SHELDON: Some important information has come to light. Women are the worst. I thought it was paper cuts, but I was wrong. No piece of paper ever cut me this deep.
LEONARD [wearily]: What happened now?
SHELDON [sighing, sort of]: Amy has ended our relationship.
LEONARD: Oh no! Seriously?
PENNY: What's going on?
SHELDON: Amy broke up with Sheldon!
PENNY: She did?
SHELDON: Is Penny crying?
LEONARD: No . . .
SHELDON: No! Of course not. They thrive on our suffering.
LEONARD: Buddy, I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?
SHELDON: Yes! If I ever talk about going out with a girl again, roll your eyes at me like I do to you when you say dumb things.
LEONARD: O-O-Okay. Just because you're going through this with Amy doesn't mean that all women are bad.
SHELDON [rolling his eyes]: Whatever.
PENNY [having gotten her mobile phone out and placed a call]: Hey, I just heard about you and Sheldon. Are you okay?
AMY [sitting on the couch in her apartment, in a bathrobe]: Not really. Can you come over?
PENNY: Uh, actually, I'm in Vegas. Leonard and I are about to get married!
AMY [indignant]: Hold on! You're getting married and you didn't invite me?
PENNY: It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing.
AMY [sarcastic]: Wow! Hope I can catch the bouquet from here!
PENNY: Amy, don't be like that!
SHELDON: Why'd I just hear Amy's name?
LEONARD: Penny's on the phone with her.
SHELDON: Did she say anything about me? [Shaking his head and spitting it out] N-n-never mind, I don't care. Well, if you care, you could find out and tell me. Just don't be shocked when you find out that I don't care.
PENNY: Will you relax? You're not missing anything special.
LEONARD [moving phone away from his ear, looks at her]: Hey!
PENNY: She's upset. It's gonna be a great wedding! Look at you in your little suit!
SHELDON: Amy's upset. Is it about me?
LEONARD: I think it's because we're eloping.
SHELDON: Your marriage is causing her pain? [Perking up] Yeah, great! I take it back! Go ahead and do it! Yay for love!
[Cut to opening credits.]

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