The Good: The last episode of the season is all right
The Bad: Obtrusive laugh track, Predictable jokes, Unremarkable character development, Dull plot development
The Basics: The eighth season of The Big Bang Theory forces the laughs and completely undermines the humor and heart of the characters from the prior seasons.
After the seventh season of The Big Bang Theory (reviewed here!) had most of the characters on the show delivering jokes that were particularly cruel to the geek fanbase that the show originally trumpeted and gave voice to, I felt no real need to run out and watch the eighth season of the show. But recently, I managed to catch up on the show and I picked up the Complete Eighth Season of The Big Bang Theory on DVD and I was sad to discover that the show had new depths to plumb.
The most immediate problem when one sits down to watch The Big Bang Theory Season Eight is the obvious and obtrusive nature of the laugh track. More than in any prior season, the laugh track is used in a way that feels coercive. The actors deliver their lines and the laugh track goes off, daring the viewer not to laugh along. It is a dare the producers of The Big Bang Theory entirely lose. The laugh track does not allow the jokes to breathe and it goes off with such frequency that viewers roll their eyes as opposed to actually being amused about the lines and scenarios the characters are in.
Picking up where the prior season left off, with Penny and Leonard engaged and Sheldon having fled California, Sheldon is homeless and alone at a train station when he taken to a police station. Leonard and Penny rescue him and very quickly the usual relationships are re-established. Howard gets upset over Stuart living at his mother's house following the destruction of his comic book shop and Sheldon is allowed back at the University, but he has to teach. To that end, he begins teaching Howard for Howard's Doctorate. The comic book store is rebuilt and the women go off to Las Vegas for a trip while the guys stay home and fail to invent something.
After Penny gets a job working pharmaceutical sales for Bernadette's company, her life with Howard takes a turn when Howard's mother dies and they have to clean out her home. After breaking into the Skywalker Ranch, Leonard and Sheldon's mothers come to visit and force the issue of the Penny/Leonard relationship.
The characters in the eighth season of The Big Bang Theory are far less compelling or interesting in the eighth season. Raj is essentially relegated to a series of set-up jokes about his deceptively dark (though perky to all outward appearances) girlfriend. Bernadette is cruel outside the immediate moments when dealing with the death of Howard's mother. So, for example, she gets into a battle with Howard about the collectibles stored at his mother's house. The way Bernadette uses the gang to force Howard to get rid of his TARDIS is mean and it sets up a number of truly mean jokes at Amy's expense.
More than that, the humor is obvious and it tends not to go anywhere. Amy grew up amazingly lonely, so she did not have anyone to play table tennis with. So, of course, she learned to serve amazingly well, but has no ability to return a shot. It's a joke that hinges entirely on the set-up and once the episode tries to execute it, it goes nowhere.
The cast of The Big Bang Theory is entirely familiar in Season Eight and their performances are so honed that the most excitement (outside the final episode) that the show manages to garner is for genre fans when Stephen Root appears as Bernadette's boss for a recurring role. The eighth season of The Big Bang Theory is so flaccid that the big character arc in the season comes from Howard and it is an arc based entirely on him reacting to Stuart and the death of his mother. The rest of the season is a humorless holding pattern.
Penny and Leonard do not develop; they merely assume the same financial argument that Howard and Bernadette had in a prior season. Instead, they spend the entire season until the final episode when they are pretty much forced into marrying, which is where their relationship ended in the prior season. Sheldon does not develop, which makes his relationship with Amy agonizing to watch as she continues to pine for him to grow and show her that he values her. It also makes the climax of the season more a ridiculous television conceit than an organically-developed character moment.
In its eighth season, The Big Bang Theory also becomes more insular and self-referential; "Fun With Flags" comes to an end and viewers have to figure out why they are supposed to care when Sheldon's web-based program was a one or two episode gag in past episodes. The performers stroll through their lines and the writers and directors force the jokes and hope viewers will not notice how recycled and un-funny the show has become.
On DVD, there is a tribute to the late Carol Ann Susi, who voiced Howard's mother and a featurette on the people who won the internet contest for biggest The Big Bang Theory fan (which seems strange that they reiterate so many times how much the winners knew about the show given that it was largely trivia-based).
Ultimately, the horse could be beaten dead with more specific incidents, but the bottom line is that outside the final episode of the season, there is little worth bothering with in the eighth season of The Big Bang Theory.
For other works from the 2014 – 2015 television season, please check out my reviews of:
Modern Family - Season 6
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 2
The Flash - Season 1
Orange Is The New Black - Season 3
Sense8 - Season 1
Grace And Frankie - Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 1
Agent Carter - Season 1
Daredevil - Season 1
The Newsroom - Season 3
House Of Cards - Season 3
Doctor Who - Season 8
True Blood - Season 7
The Walking Dead - Season 5
For other television season reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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