The Battle of Thursday Nights

Posted: February 26, 2011 in Television
Tags: , , , ,

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@bazinga_shaw just in case you don’t already follow me) and are my friends on Facebook will know what is coming here: it is my weekly comparison of the television series The Big Bang Theory and Community.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this comparison, I’ll fill you in on a little history.

When it was first announced that The Big Bang Theory would be moving from Monday nights to the 8pm on Thursday timeslot, I was torn.  It would directly conflict with another of my favourite shows: Community.  I had been routinely praising both shows for their humour, writing, and acting, so I was in quite a dilemma.  Given that I could only watch one at a time, I needed a system to figure out which one to watch.

And so the comparison system you see today was born.  The premise is simple: whichever show’s episode is better in a given week gets a point.  The show with the most points at the end of the season would be declared the best, and therefore the one to watch first.  If I can’t choose between them on a given week, half a point will be given to each show.

The current score, after 14 weeks, is 9 points for Community and 5 points for The Big Bang Theory.

So, now that you’re up to speed, it’s time to move on to this week’s episodes…and just as a head’s up, there will be spoilers…

The Contestants: The Toast Derivation (The Big Bang Theory) vs. Intro to Political Science (Community)

Let’s start by breaking down what each episode did right.

Community’s Intro to Political Science gave us a couple things that I found very interesting, both of which have been touched upon in previous episodes.

The first is the Jeff-Annie romance sparking up again.  While some viewers might not see these two characters as a good fit, the key point is that a new multi-episode arc seems to be picking up, replacing the rather mediocre Pierce-trying-to-be-accepted storyline that took up most of the season to this point.  And deep down, we really pull for characters like Jeff and Annie.  Despite Jeff’s standoffish attitude towards his friends and family, he is a likable character and Annie, because she’s so innocent most of the time, really tugs at our proverbial heart-strings.  By pairing two like-able characters in a multi-episode arc Community’s writers have given themselves a very good platform to work off of in future episodes.

The second item is the testing of Troy and Abed’s relationship.  In Early 21st Century Romanticism, the inseparable duo were tested by a shared crush on the school’s librarian.  This time the testing sets out to be more subtle.  After having their elections-coverage talkshow interrupted by FBI investigators, a relationship seems to be slowly developing between Abed and Special Agent Robin Vollers, despite her job getting in the way.  We don’t know how this storyline will develop, but at some point Troy will have to deal with Abed spending more time with Robin and how that plays out will definitely be worth watching.

Both of these items are all about moving the show forward and giving the audience something new to watch.  Without this progress, the show becomes stale (much like Season 5 of How I Met Your Mother).  Although Annie and Jeff kissed in the Season 1 finale and have shown some hints of attraction between then and now (see Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design and Asian Population Studies), we have yet to see them in any kind of real relationship with real, consistent feelings.  New relationships always signify forward movement in the story as the relationship will either fail – and the characters will learn something new about themselves – or succeed – and the characters will be one step closer to the point at which their story concludes.

Community also did a very good job depicting student elections in this week’s episode.  You UWO students out there, just picture Omid Salari as Jeff Winger talking his way past Andrew Forgione as Annie Edison, only to be undone by Annie/Andrew’s resourcefulness (except that I think you’d be hard pressed to make Omid ashamed of anything you caught him doing on camera…).  From the silly Dean Pelton-style applause-o-meter to South Park being the write-in winner, nothing seemed out of place.

On the other hand (or should I say “out of the other eye?”), The Big Bang Theory finally produced an episode that was high on substance and/or emotion and wasn’t boxed in by the same, heavily broken-in character types, instead using the traits of the characters to set up the story before letting it loose.

What I’m talking about here isn’t immediately obvious upon first viewing.  Sheldon’s initial reaction to the group moving their hangout spot to Raj’s apartment was to be expected.  In this instance, the writers have used our familiarity with Sheldon’s personality and quirky tendencies to draw us into the episode and that’s what we want.  From the point that Sheldon parts ways with the group for his conglomerate of Stewart, Barry, and Zach, the episode could have gone two different ways.  The way it went, with Sheldon and the group making up in a very co-dependent and bittersweet manner, was one way and it was a positive move on the behalf of the show’s writers as it gave us something that we wouldn’t expect.  Given what we know of the characters, we might have expected the rest of the group to be on top of the world without Sheldon to drag them down and Sheldon to engage in a maniacal scheme to bring them down.  All of which would be concluded with a yelling match between Sheldon and Leonard and an abrupt and unsatisfying make-up.

This leads perfectly into the other side of the equation: how the group fared without Sheldon.  Despite adding a member who is inherently more stable than the erratic Sheldon in Priya, the group misses its, as Sheldon would put it, “social glue.”  Given what we have seen in previous episodes like The Vegas Renormalization or, more recently, The Bus Pants Utilization, the group should get along just fine without Sheldon around.  That they don’t is a great sign that the show can still defy our expectations, which has been sadly lacking so far this season and is a big reason why the show is 4 points behind Community in the rankings.

All in all, there’s not much bad I have to say about each contestant this week.  I could have done without the Girls’ Night storyline of The Toast Derivation as I felt it just slowed down and dragged out the episode.  With Community, Pierce, Shirley, and Britta were mostly missing from the episode.  Pierce and Britta were both “candidates” for the Presidency, but apart from a few lines, they didn’t figure in the main storylines of the episode and Shirley was pretty much non-existent.

Therefore, this week I will award both shows half a point.  Both had me laughing and both impressed me with their writing, meaning that choosing between the two is a near impossible task.

The score after this week is now Community 9.5 – The Big Bang Theory 5.5.

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