Now that the women are firmly in place on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, it’s time to take a look at the new chemistry combinations. For years, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) has been the only female among the four lead guys. But last spring, two others were tested, and they were liked so well that by this winter they were added to the main cast. Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) is a smart scientist who happens to be Penny’s co-worker, and a love interest for Howard (Simon Helberg). Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) is proving that a female version of Sheldon (Jim Parsons) can be just as good as the original. I’m not saying that the guys have gotten stale, but adding the girls ensures plenty of fresh material to mine for years to come.
The situation reminds me of when Alvin and the Chipmunks added the Chipettes. There were female counterparts for each of the three main characters. Similarly, Bernadette is like Howard, Amy is like Sheldon, and Penny goes with, even though she’s not that much like, Leonard (Johnny Galecki). Which leaves only poor Raj (Kunal Nayyar) out in the cold. Though, it could be argued that Raj’s sister, Priya (Aarti Mann), who does not star on the series, but is currently doing an arc, is his counterpart. But Priya is here as a love interest for Leonard, shaking things up with Penny, so no matter which way you look at it, Raj is still left out.
Which is all right. It would be hard to add yet another new full-time character so soon. The new women are just getting settled in. Eventually, someone may come along for Raj, but I’m not in a hurry, as I actually like watching Raj play the odd one out. After so long of Leonard being the oddball for actually dating, while the other guys stuck to their boys’ club, it’s fun to see the dynamics totally shift as three of them move on, and Raj is left behind. Plus, before Raj can even entertain a love interest, he has to get over his phobia of speaking to women. I am hoping that his constant exposure to three females will gradually help him. His shyness has been a fun element for awhile, but it’s time to move on from it. Then, once he is mostly cured, the series can bring someone in for him.
Something I think the show is doing really well is giving the women screen time apart from the men, having ladies’ nights and sleepovers. Penny has always been one of the stars, but we really only saw her interacting with her geeky neighbors. These new characters give us a chance to explore her, seeing other sides of her life. I find it interesting that Amy Farrah Fowler seems to be the advocate for the trio’s activities, as she is introduced as a loner, but is really embracing having a social circle. Of course, she is such a delight, and it has been handled in a way that seems realistic, so I’m not pointing that out as a flaw. On the contrary.
I love Amy and Sheldon’s relationship, a term I use in the loosest sense of the word. While they have thus far avoided a romantic entanglement, I have to think that one will be coming, likely at Amy’s aggression. Their frequent interaction, often though video, is perfect for the two modern, anti-social geniuses. But more important, Amy understands Sheldon, and knows how to talk to him in a way that others don’t. In this week’s episode, Sheldon is missing his friends, who have deserted him. Amy gets to the heart of the problem, and helps Sheldon understand the group’s dynamics, namely, that they are Leonard-centric, not Sheldon-centric as Sheldon has long belived. She, more than anyone else, is tethering Sheldon to the real world. I understand the argument against that notion, as Sheldon’s male friends are his most obvious connection, but without Amy, I’m not sure he can make his way back to them as he does.
Which brings us to this week’s episode, a memorable gem. Leonard is getting serious with Priya, so he, Raj, and Howard are hanging out over at Raj’s place with her. Amy and Bernadette cheer Penny up, who has, of course, been left out. But that still leaves Sheldon, who stubbornly refuses to change his habits. In true Sheldon fashion, he finds it easier to construct a new social group, rather than adapt in the slightest way. In the end, Sheldon realizes that it is not as easy as he thought to replace his friends, and he ends up making some concessions, which is something the character probably wouldn’t have done a couple of seasons ago.
The group Sheldon puts together, thankfully, is not made up of new guest stars, but returning, recurring favorites. He chooses comic book store owner, Stuart (Kevin Sussman, Ugly Betty), rival co-worker with a funny speech impediment, Barry Kripke (John Ross Bowie, Childrens’ Hospital), and a dumb, former love interest for Penny (who strangely likes her nerdy neighbors), Zack (Brian Smith). Sheldon wants them to follow the schedule he prepares, but they’d rather drink and sing karoke, so they do, ignoring their host.
While not working out as a good group for Sheldon, the three of them seem to bond fairly well. Plus, it’s a welcome sight to see those three again, as each are wonderful character actors, who have been in on many good jokes in the series’s past. I’d like to see them return as a rival group, a la Wil Wheaton, who plays a somewhat dickish version of himself on the show. Maybe they could even be Wil’s new group, as the guys Wil brings around haven’t made an impression. I’m not even sure he has appeared with the same friends twice.
Watch The Big Bang Theory Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. on CBS.