Education Opinion

Gifted Laughs - The Big Bang Theory

By Tamara Fisher — May 13, 2009 3 min read
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Yes, I got hooked.

If you’re looking for a little summer humor and some fun, brainy entertainment (and aren’t already hooked as I am) check out this summer’s re-runs of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.” (I hope they re-run them!)

The show is built around Leonard and Sheldon, roommates and research physicists at CalTech. Their always-underfoot pals Raj and Howard also work in labs at CalTech. (Raj has his own apartment and Howard lives with his loud and never-seen mother.) The four of them are happily immersed into their routine lives (Wednesday night is Halo night, for example) and Sheldon in particular loves routine. But their lives get set off-kilter when beautiful, mid-west born, actress-wannabe, not-to-be-underestimated Penny moves in across the hall.

Yes, the characters are a bit stereotyped, but what sitcom’s characters aren’t? I was initially bothered by the stereotyping, but I soon became impressed by how much the writers for the show understand gifted lives. I think the characters can seem stereotyped if one watches an isolated episode without having yet developed a love for their well-developed personalities. But if you stick with it, about three episodes in you will see that the writers actually have a great grasp of the quirks, interactions, and realities of the lives of people like Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, and Howard. Their struggles and triumphs are explored and celebrated with perceptive insights and surprisingly-often sensitive treatment. And I know a lot of other geeky people like myself who have come to love and appreciate the show, too -- an indication of its ability to truly relate (rather than simply poke fun, like a lot of other media entertainment does at gifted characters).

I know these people… I teach them, I am friends with them, they are the pals I played with liquid Nitrogen with in college… Whoever writes for this show knows gifted people inside and out (well, the “typical” 20-something nerdy scientist male version of gifted people). They remind me of my friends who walked down the aisle to the theme from Star Wars, my students who get together on Friday night to have a LAN party, my relatives who tinker and build and invent unique solutions to problems, and myself.

Although, in the interest of full-analysis, one disappointment I have with the show is that the gifted female character(s) is still one-sided and has yet to become a multi-faceted dimension in the show. (The actress portraying Leslie does a nice job, I just don’t think the writing has done her character justice yet. Not that I’m enough of a television or acting connoisseur to really be offering a critique...!) Another disappointment is that I can’t comfortably recommend the show to my gifted students due to some of its adult humor.

That said, though, they get it. And it’s so much fun to spend a half hour with this nerdy fab four and probably-underrated Penny.

One of my favorite scenes is the one where the guys set up a laptop to send a signal around the world (via wi-fi, fiberoptics, and satellite, etc.) that returns to their apartment to turn on a lamp that’s within arms-reach... just because they think it’s cool to be able to do something like that. (It is!) Another personal favorite scene is Sheldon’s dilemma in trying to decide what to get Penny when she informed him that she had gotten him a Christmas gift. Sheldon’s interpretation of “the rules” of gift-giving dictate that he give her an appropriately reciprocal gift in return. But how to decide what to get her when he doesn’t know what she’s gotten him‽‽ He hatches what he thinks is a fool-proof plan to have readily-on-hand any gift for her of approximately equal value (both monetary and sentimental). But when part-time waitress Penny gives him an autographed napkin used by Leonard Nimoy, well, the results are hysterical.

See for yourself what the brainy fun is all about:

A montage of their fascination with superheroes

Testing their killer robot, “Monte”

A geek’s guide to cleaning

Leonard refers to one of Sheldon’s insights as a “little” idea

Settling disputes with Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

An analysis of the physics of Superman

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.