My TV

16 December 2008

This Week’s Big Bang Theory and the Christmas Episode Hypothesis

By // TV

This week’s BBT featured a guest spot by none other than Michael Trucco. Don’t know who he is? You clearly haven’t been doing your nerdy homework. Trucco is none other than dream-worthy sometimes-Starbuck-love-interest Samuel Anders from Battlestar Galactica. And that’s a big deal for a lot of nerds, from me to Dwight Schrute. Here he pops up in a cameo on the geekiest show currently on television NOT featuring aliens. And yet somehow his cameo felt forced and awkward, mainly because it was pretty hard to believe that Trucco spends time in between tequila shots and gym visits working on advanced particle physics.

Despite this, I’ve got to say I loved this week’s BBT, mainly thanks to the Sheldon storyline. I never cease to find it funny how difficult Sheldon finds normal person tasks, and add to that the fact that it REALLY is difficult to gage what type of present to get for people on the cusp of friendship, and well, I thought the B-story this week was top notch. I really have enjoyed watching this season the relationship between Penny and Sheldon be explored more, especially since I never really adored last season’s emphasis on Leonard and Penny. But even that relationship worked for me this episode, and I was genuinely touched by their near-end-of-episode commiserating gin drinking.

The end of episode kicker, with Sheldon so grateful for his Leonard Nimoy DNA/autograph that he risks physical contact, was like the culmination of all that I love about BBT this season. Penny’s reaction is real, hilarious, and touched, Leonard is allowed a witty kicker line, and we get some fantastically awkward acting from Jim Parsons.

This episode also illustrates one of my television viewing theories: more than sweeps, more than season ending cliffhangers, holidays make for the best episodes. Think Thanksgiving on Friends, Fashion Week on Ugly Betty, or Chrismukkah for the Cohens. And I must say the Christmas special, since it’s the most common, is probably my favorite. These episodes occasionally see fruition on a frustrating love story, but more often than not serve as mediums to amp up the drama on shows, or to allow the characters to interact in a new light (as was the case, within reason, here).

So without further ado, here are three of my all time favorite Christmas Episodes, all with varying degrees of sweetness, but all definitely turning points in their respective series in the relationships between the characters. And I invite you all to share your thoughts, too!

An Echolls Family Christmas, Veronica Mars, 2004: Aw, poker games and cheating husbands. Just like Christmas back home. Oh wait, no, this is Christmas Neptune-style, where no one is ever telling the truth, especially if their last name is Echolls. Still, this episode marks a major turning point for Neptune’s own Resident Psychotic Jackass, Logan Echolls. Not only do we get a whole episode’s worth of him and Veronica shooting verbal barbs at each other before either had any idea what a good kisser the other was (including one of my all time favorite lines, “Annoy tiny blond one, annoy like the wind!”), but we also get a well plotted mystery-of-the-week, and a healthy dose of foreshadowing that only seems more poignant once you’ve finished Season One. And like all good holiday episodes, it takes our usual characters out of their normal situations, and keeps them together for the episode. Weevil, Duncan, Logan and Veronica are forced together for the duration in the mystery of the disappearing $5 grand, and the final super awkward holiday party (in which Logan’s parental dysfunction, Veronica’s anger at the Kanes, and the socioeconomic issues that defined this show all come to a head) is one for the record books. Add to that the super ironic fake snow Christmas display provided by Lynne Echolls for her holiday revelers, and this is the Christmas episode by which all other Christmas episodes should be judged.

The Man in The Fallout Shelter, Bones, 2005: This episode of Bones was the first one in which we really got to know the supporting characters who would come to define the show, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. But it’s the first time we really got to take a look inside the lives of Angela, Zach and Hodgins outside of their aptitudes for art, bones and bugs (respectively). Plus, it features a very high on medicine Booth tweaking out and half naked. The show takes what I just described as the Holiday-episode-formula (take the main characters, put them somewhere new, keep them there for uncomfortably long) to a literal extreme: all the main characters are forced away from their normal Christmas plans when an old set of bones causes them all to get quarantined in the lab. The result was enough pain, comedy and genuine affection to help bump Bones from a show I kind of enjoyed to one of my favorites. And it’s the perfect example of all the TV show has going for it, from the witty writing, the engaging characters, to the fun to decipher mystery-of-the-week. Plus, as aforementioned, Seeley Booth (Boreanaz) half-naked.

Amends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1998: Season 3 of Buffy is my favorite season of (possibly) my favorite series of all time, but that’s not why I love this Christmas episode. I love it because it’s impossibly corny, and hope-filled and beautiful for an episode that also features scary eyeless henchmen that continue to give me nightmares to this day. Not only that, but it’s a solid Buffy episode. It semi-answers the question of Angels miraculous return from hell, and (although it will take four more seasons for this to matter) introduces the hugest of huge baddies. Although I never went full throttle on the Angel/Buffy-shipping (being more of the mind that Buffy had yet to meet her soul mate, pun intended, by show’s end) this episode alone could probably convince me of the epic awesomeness of their love. It features a haunted (even more so than usual) Angel being brought to the brink of suicide by a malevolent force called the First and his creepy eyeless henchmen who claim responsibility for his recent miraculous return to Earth. It’s up to Buffy to defeat the First and stop Angel from killing himself. When all that fails, it ends with a miraculous snowfall in (sunny) Sunnydale that keeps the sun at bay long enough to save the flammable Angel and prove that there’s some force out there, other than the First, that wants him back on Earth. On top of all that, it’s a Joss Whedon episode, which is all fans of the show know, means it brings each and every character to a new high point in their character arc and features witty dialogue the likes of which not heard since, well, the last Whedon-written episode. Add in solid B-stories featuring Willow and Oz considering sleeping together, Xander dealing with breaking up with Cordy and his continued family problems, and Giles having to put away his animosity towards Angel, and stir to get a perfect holiday confection. And this also features a half naked David Boreanaz.

So what have we learned from all this, kids? Well, apparently David Boreanaz is various degrees of undress is the cure for all manner of Scroogey-ness.

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