Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Resident TV Critic
After six successful years on the air and countless geek jokes and pop culture references, what are four intelligent but socially inept scientists and their three lovely lady friends to do to up the ante?
Easy: When in doubt, bring back special guest stars from past seasons, and when that fails, make vague references to sci-fi icons, then introduce them into your episode!
In a season that saw an engagement, an unexpected first time kiss, a new romantic interest for Rajesh (Kunal Nayyar), a comic book store fire and a chance encounter with the voice of a legendary Star Wars villain, the seventh season of The Big Bang Theory shows that the cast and writers can still hammer out the occasional bon mot or zinger, though the character development seems to have reached a plateau that’s difficult to overcome.
All the familiar tropes are there. Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) makes progress in getting better film roles, but the films themselves don’t turn out to be very good, forcing her to evaluate her life choices; Amy (Mayim Bialik) is desperate to move forward in her delicate relationship with Sheldon (Jim Parsons), who still has a hard time with physicality.
Howard (Simon Helberg) and his wife Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) deal with an increasingly difficult Mrs. Wolowitz, while Raj tries to find the right woman, having slowly developed ways to speak to them without as much booze in his system.
Finally, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) decides to offer his full support behind Penny, the one constant in his life and the one equation he’s still unable to solve.
While some the character interactions are starting to feel dated and rote (especially between Leonard and Sheldon), the writing team for the show still manages to infuse some innovative ways to keep the show going. This doesn’t exclude the use of recurring guest stars such as Wil Wheaton, Bob Newhart, Laurie Metcalfe and Christine Baranski, but also the occasional appearance by sci-fi icons like James Earl Jones, Carrie Fisher and Star Trek veterans.
Jim Parsons still finds new ways to explore the genius and complete social disconnection that is Sheldon Cooper. Despite his co-stars’ comparable efforts in bringing the funny, Parsons anchors the comedic factor by bringing us a farcical super-genius with a questionable grasp on everyday concepts.
You’d think it’d be tedious by now, but he still nails the little moments and turns them into memorable quips. Who else could turn a choice between a PS4 and an XBox One into a life or death decision?
So where will the show go from here? Have we seen the last of this gang’s take-out dinners, pop culture excursions and workplace conflicts? Hardly. With the lead stars now pulling in a million per episode and the show still rating in the top ten, it only made sense to renew the series for another three years.
With its cachet as the de rigueur comedy for smart, hip geeks, Big Bang will have no problem attracting further guest stars, real-life scientists (as they did with Stephen Hawking this year) and other notables.
I’m happy to ignore some of the unavoidable redundancies the show’s formula is starting to suffer from after seven years. The giggle factor far outweighs the need to nitpick, Sheldon-style, at the series’ little quirks.
Here’s to a great Season Eight!
3.5 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.