Monday, February 09, 2009

Big Bang Theory: Smartest Show on Television?

Comedy rarely gets its due, particularly when it comes in the form of the television sitcom. I've posted before about how television programs have gotten progressively smarter over the last couple of decades in terms of the expectations they have of viewers. One example of this is the expectation of a certain knowledge base on the part of the audience. Shows are designed today to reward smart, attentive viewers by providing references without explanation. In past sitcoms, no joke would be made unless it could be easily understood by the audience across a wide spectrum. Today shows are ignoring that rule and instead filling their shows with a variety of references and jokes that require a certain pre-existing knowledge base in order for a person to get the joke or to appreciate the joke fully. 

An excellent example of this phenomenon is The Big Bang Theory. As an exercise, one of my classes the other day watched an episode of this show and then we put together a list of all of the terminology that was used without definition and the references that were made without explanation. The show demands that in order for the viewer to fully "get the joke", they must come to the table with enough of a working knowledge in order to understand the terminology and enough cultural awareness to be able to understand the references (such as with the show's subtle references to movies without any mention of the title of the film itself). The episode we watched was titled "The Jerusalem Duality." Below is the list of references or terminology from that episode alone, categorized according to the type of reference.

Science
Quantum State of Matter
Open Science Grid Computer
Free Electron Laser
String Theory
False vacuums
Quantum Loop Corrections
Lorentz Invariant
Field Theory Approach
soft component of cosmic radiation
laser array
argon lasers
payload bay
sensor apparatus
titanium
carbon nanotubes
tensile strength
cold fusion
helium neon

Science Fiction
Teleportation
cyborgs

Films
Star Wars
Willy Wonka 
Field of Dreams
The Matrix 

Notable Awards
Nobel Prize
Stevenson Award

Historical Characters
Wolgang Amadaeus Mozart
Antonia Salieri

Foreign Languages
German – wunderkind
Hebrew/Spanish (Cielito Lindo sung in Hebrew)
Spanish (Nuevo Jerusalem)

Geo-Politics
Middle East Crisis
Wailing Wall

Geography
Sonora Desert

Biblical Studies
"new" Jerusalem
Pharoah/Moses
Promised Land

Sports Record-Keeping
the asterisk

3 Comments:

At 10:25 PM, Blogger J Rock said...

I forget, is there a laugh-track in that show? I sure laugh a lot but after looking at that list I am wondering if I am just laughing because I have been prompted to.

 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I'm not sure if there is a laugh track or if it is filmed before a live audience. There have been times when I was certain it was a laugh track, and other times where the laughter sounded live and not canned at all.

 
At 3:10 AM, Blogger John Bosco said...

I first didn't kmow what a string theory was. Then I read about it.
The characters expressions make you laugh rather than the terms they use.

 

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