Sunday, January 06, 2013

Egging Them On

The Big Bang Theory had a new episode on Thursday that I got to watch on Thursday, as NBC was still in reruns (and the lack of competition made BBT bigger than ever). It was entitled "The Egg Salad Equivalency." Sheldon is unhappy with his assistant asking Leonard out--and thus not concentrating on his own needs-- so has a talk with her regarding how to deal with her sexual urges, after which she files a complaint.  Sheldon only gets in deeper trouble in his meeting at Human Resources, and soon has his three male friends in trouble as well.

Oliver Sava at the A.V. Club gives it an A. It was a pretty good episode, but I don't see it the same way as Sava. Here's his opening paragraph:

Sheldon Cooper is not a good person. He treats people like shit and expects them to worship him for it, and when they don’t, he responds with aggression, rather than trying to understand conflicting points of view. What began as a lovably aloof and pleasantly awkward character has become the major villain of this series, giving the rest of the cast something to fight against in order to move their characters forward. Sheldon is evolving too, but he’s just turning into an even bigger asshole. This week, he gets what’s been a long time coming when his assistant Alex goes to the university’s Human Resources department after a particularly cringe-worthy discussion with her boss, pitting Sheldon against guest star Regina King in a hilarious verbal face-off.

Sheldon Cooper is not the villain of the show.  The show has no villains.  Yes, by conventional standards he treats people horribly, but he's done this from the start--in real life, it's doubtful he'd be able to keep any friends.  But his saving grace, in addition to being the funniest character, is that he's essentially clueless.  He's hopelessly arrogant and high-handed, but honestly doesn't know what he's doing. So we forgive him, and presumably that's why the characters do on the show as well.

But my bigger disagreement is Sheldon finally gets what's coming.  As Sava adds later:

The great thing about this episode is that it forces Sheldon to deal with a figure who not only has power over him, but isn’t willing to put up with any of his bullshit. Regina King is perfectly cast as Jeanine, consistently shooting down Sheldon with just a glance, and it’s oh-so-refreshing to see him put in his place.

No, this is what's frightening about the episode (and perhaps about the workplace in general).  Sitcoms regularly have comic exaggeration.  Half the stuff that's said in sitcom workplaces would have people brought up on charges. So building a plot around it actually hurts the reality of the show.

Sheldon was not making advances on his assistant, nor did he mean to make her feel uncomfortable. He was, in his selfish and socially clueless way, trying to help her.  He certainly wasn't treating her any differently from how he treats anyone anywhere. It's just we're so used to the modern regime that we don't bat an eye when people get in trouble for saying the wrong thing in the workplace.

Anyway, I didn't think Sheldon had anything coming to him--at least not any more than in numerous other episodes.  In fact, Sheldon's big mouth has gotten him into trouble before, but I don't wait around for episodes where people tell him off, much less one where his job is on the line because Sheldon is being Sheldon. (Actually, they've already had a plot where he lost his job because of what he said, so it's not like this was a long-awaited payoff.)

PS  One place where normal sexual harassment laws don't apply is in the writers' room at a sitcom.  I certainly agree with the court that comedy writers can't be worrying about what they say when they're brainstorming.  But if they did have to worry, I wonder if they'd have found Sheldon's plight so humorous.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wil Wheaton constantly puts Sheldon in his place and it was never oh so refreshing. Although I did like recharacterizing Wesley as a jerk

10:04 AM, January 06, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I like the Wheaton episodes.

In general, every now and then there's an episode where they put Sheldon in his place. This makes sense, dramatically and comedically. But having him before an official who can fire him for being himslef could be getting too close to reality for comfort.

11:59 AM, January 06, 2013  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Sheldon's mother puts him in hi place from time to time by treating him like a child. Penny gets to "win" over Sheldon once in a while, though lately, her character is disintigrating, in my opinion. This was the mistake, I believe in letting Leonard and Penny get together, break up and get back together to quickly (should have dragged it out longer, like Cheer's Sam and Diane). Penny is now in a position where she's insecure, even though she started out as the "normal person" dealing with the neurotics across the hall.

The best line in the last show was Leonard noting "don't say you're insecure, because that's my thing, and if you do it, i don't know what I bring to this relationship anymore." (or words to that effect - I thought it was a Woody Allenesque moment).

1:35 PM, January 07, 2013  

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