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The Big Bang Theory: Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock

Of the few times I’ve tried watching The Big Bang Theory, it always struck me kind of…odd. It’s supposed to appeal to geeks, yet it makes fun of them. Chuck did a better job with geek humor, I thought, while respecting them at the same time. The Big Bang Theory seems to try for laughs at the expense of geeks. It just comes across to me as unfunny. (..said the geek)

However, this scene (via Gary Farber) made me giggle…


This is the part where everyone comes out of the woodwork to tell me what a great show I’m missing…

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

16 Comments on The Big Bang Theory: Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock

  1. You’ll get no argument from me about this show. I watched the pilot, came away with the same impression (they’re laughing AT me, not WITH me) within minutes, and never went back. I’d never seen a show so mean-spirited to the audience (I thought) it was trying to attract.

  2. what comedies do you like? theyre always making fun of someone….

  3. @Cephyn: Good question.  And note that I’m the last person to be impartial on the subject (“said the geek”).  

    However, I do enjoy 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs, to name a few.  Genre-wise, I enjoy the lighter fare of Warehouse 13 and Eureka.  These shows don’t specifically target people in their humor, with the exception of 30 Rock. But there, even when they pick on someone, it’s done creatively.  It’s not someone play-acting a stereotypical character.  In the case of TBBT, does talking in a nerdy voice, wearing nerdy clothes, and hanging out in a Comic Book store make it funny? I’m not offended by that depiction, mind you, but it also doesn’t particularly strike me as funny.

  4. I don’t care who they’re making fun of me or someone else or some particular group–the show is just stupid and not funny. Of course, I think most sitcoms are stupid and not funny, so maybe I’m the wrong person to offer an opinion. 🙂

  5. John,

    I would say you need to give BBT a chance. It’s at least doing something different than many of the sitcoms out there. Some of the time they are making fun of “geeks” but a lot of the jokes are for the “geeks” themselves. And it’s not targeted solely toward “geeks” but also to the people that interact with them.

    And Sheldon’s character (and lack of social skills) is one of the funniest on TV right now. There’s a reason he got nominated for an Emmy.

    And the second season improves on the first. I’d recommend the episodes

    The Big Bran Hypothesis (Season 1)

    The Barbarian Sublimation (Season 2)

    The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis (Season 2)

    off the top of my head.

  6. I think you may have missed it.  They’re not laughing at us.  Quite the reverse, actually.  Took me a while to figure out that most (nearly all) of the math, science and just general “geek” jokes they through out there are actually technically accurate *AND* funny. No meaningless techno-babble here.

    Give it another shot – its funny precisely BECAUSE its dead on.  Sure the main characters are larger than life extremes of what it means to be a geek, but there’s enough recognizable personality quirks there to make it very easy to relate to.

    This is not my blog, but has a great example of what I’m talking about:


  7. The way I view TBBT is that on that show, the geeks are the normal ones. It’s everybody else that has a problem. They’ve essentially flipped the usual paradigm on it’s head. If you aren’t a geek you won’t understand half the in jokes on the show, and they don’t waste any time explaining them to you. Either you get why rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock is funny, or you don’t.

  8. My teenage kids love it. It took a while for me to warm up to it, but now I really like it. Fun simply to catch the sci-fi references, sight gags. The humor at the expense of geeks is always warm hearted, never mean. You can tell there’s genre love here, and some writing from personal experience.

    Has the worst theme song in the genre after Star Trek: Enterprise, though.

  9. I love TBBT. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves, so I’m OK with some of the humor making fun of the characters. However, like someone else has already pointed out, many of the jokes are in-jokes and non-geeks are going to be clueless.

    I think it’s also important that Penny’s arc has been to see the guys as people and *not* as caricatures and stereotypes. The clue that Penny is now empathizing with their worldview is that she now makes Star Trek analogies and references (and oh yeah, she is now into Leonard.)

  10. I enjoy the show, but it isn’t must see for me.  I do think that Chuck does Geek culture better and with more understanding.  I watched the first season in preparation for a meeting with the show’s creator and know that several geeks of high stature frequently attend the tapings (and are friends with the creator).

    However, I think the most amusing thing on the show is the fact that the two main male characters are named Sheldon and Leonard in a wonderful nod to television history.

  11. Agreed that Chuck does geek culture a lot better than TBBT, but Chuck is less a sitcom and more an action-comedy. A little surprised no one has mentioned The IT Crowd, king of geek comedies IMHO.

  12. Oooh.  I love The IT Crowd

  13. Like Chuck, Big Bang Theory pokes fun at geek culture and celebrates it at the same time, making the main characters likable heroes. It has some of the smartest jokes on t.v. and is actually doing more to promote science than most t.v. shows ever manage. One of the really great aspects to it is that it shows how much “geeks” own our society, with the “normal” people often being the outsiders. And the guest appearances are hilarious. My husband was also initially resistant, despite my daughter and I telling him he’d love it. Now he’s completely hooked.

    I love both Chuck and Big Bang Theory, but Chuck won’t be on till March, because the network is an idiot. So until then, give Big Bang Theory a try for a few episodes, is my recommendation. Where else are you going to see an entire episode about a time machine replica?


  14. “The Big Bang Theory seems to try for laughs at the expense of geeks.”

    No, no, no; they’re laughing with us, not at us.   Try more samples here: [LINK NOW COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED]

    They very carefully distinguish the four characters and types of geeks; if you watch more, this will become clear.  It’s no more being mean at us than, say, Penny Arcade or, which is to say: not at all

    Man, I just drove myself crazy trying to post this, and getting errors five times.  i finally realized — again — that you don’t seem to accept HTML, and provide no warning of this.  One just gets an error message.  This is very frustrating. 

    Speaking of geeks: what kind of self-respecting geek would need a button to write an HTML tag, and what kind of properly geek blog would reject HTML tags?  🙂

    Arggh!  Sixth time!  Embedded link rejected, too!  (Or maybe I missed stripping an italic time; jeez, this takes a lot of time.)

    Seventh time: I give up.

  15. Great show, and I even think the theme song is good!

  16. Bob Hawkins // September 26, 2009 at 5:40 pm //

    The one thing I can’t handle on TBBT is the oppressive laugh track. I always have to turn it off because of that. It might be the best thing since HHGG, I can’t stick with it long enough to find out.



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