Big Bang Theory Addresses Prayer and Evolution, And Other Monday Night Comedy


CBS on Monday night has been surpassing the once must-see TV of NBC on Thursday nights the last couple of years, with the addition of The Big Bang Theory placing CBS well ahead.  Who would have thought that a show full about jokes about science fiction, comic books, and physics would attract such a mass audience? Of course I would have loved the premise even if it wasn’t such a success.

The nerds on The Big Bang Theory returned from their summer at the North Pole in the season opener last night leading to a milestone for nerds going after girls who are out of their league. Leonard went to tell Penny that they were home leading to a series of scenes such as the above. This was probably the greatest moment for nerds since Jeremy (Joshua Malina) succeeded in dating Natalie (Sabrina Lloyd) on Sports Night. In one of many excellent lines in the episode, Walowitz expressed regret over not going over first. This set up the response from Raj:

Wolowitz: “Damn it, I should have gone over and told her we were back.”
Raj: “Yeah, it was ‘first come, first served.'”

The episode had many great scenes. Some were based upon regular jokes of the show such as Sheldon returning to his beloved side of the couch, a reference back to Soft Kitty,  and somehow the manner in which he knocks on Penny’s door manages to remain funny every time he does it.

The trip to the North Pole was a scientific failure but, primarily motivated by self preservation, Leonard, Wolowitz, and Raj provided Sheldon with some fake data. (I won’t even get into what happened the night the heat went out and they slept together in the nude.) After feeling humiliated by finding out he was tricked after telling everyone about the inevitability of winning the Nobel Prize, Sheldon returned home to his mother in Texas.  Leonard was reluctant to go after him because he wanted to get into bed with Penny and Wolowitz had his own argument against going:

Leonard: I don’t want to go to Texas
Wolowitz: Alright and I do? My people already crossed the desert once. We’re done

Not that I’ve ever needed an excuse to include a post about shows such as The Big Bang Theory, but the events in Texas do fit in well with the usual topics of this blog. In Texas we saw Sheldon’s response to prayer and when the other guys arrived to try to take him home, Sheldon said he planned to stay in Texas to “teach evolution to creationists.”

As seen in the above clip, Sheldon’s mother responded to this by saying, “You watch your mouth Sheldon. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.”  Sheldon explained, “Evolution isn’t an opinion. It’s fact.” His mother responded, “And that is your opinion.” Sheldon then saw the folly of remaining in Texas and agreed to return home–which his mother saw as proof that prayer does work.

Returning home, there is no longer anything keeping Leonard and Penny from going to bed but afterward they both felt weird. I suspect that the writers felt the need to resolve this matter from last season by having them hook up but realized that having them remain together would not feel right for this show. If this is the case, rather than having them feel weird about friends sleeping together I would have preferred to have one, if not both, realize in a subsequent episode that they really do not have anything in common. Of course this might still be coming.

I didn’t make it beyond CBS last night. I’ll definitely watch Heroes tonight, but I doubt if I’ll watch House. The same formula has been repeated too many times on that show to keep my interest. I’m sure others are thinking the same applies to Heroes, but I do tend to be harder on medical shows. (Gray’s Anatomy didn’t last a single episode in my house).

How I Met Your Mother was good but not at its greatest last night. Do people really sit down and define their relationship as opposed to winging it and seeing where it goes? It was rather contrived to find that Ted was in the wrong class room without finding out for several minutes but this does alter the knowledge that the eventual mother was in the class room. Rather than being one of his students she can now be virtually anyone on campus. There were some new Barnyisms as we learned how the same rules apply to girls as apply to Gremlins, and the Indiana Jones stuff was, well, legendary.

I’ll give Accidentally On Purpose another chance due to staring Jenna Elfman but the pilot was a disappointment, having already seen the much funnier Knocked Up. The set up of having Zach getting Elfman’s character pregnant and then wind up living with her in a platonic relationship felt unrealistic but it will be more important to see what they do with the situation that has been established.

Protect Insurance Company Profits

Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde,Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant,  Masi Oka, Jordana Spiro, Linda Cardellini, and Donald Faison explain that insurance company executives are the real victims of health care reform.

Racism and Right Wing Opposition to Obama

The question of racism among those attacking Barack Obama was raised again when Obama appeared on Late Night with David Letterman. Not surprisingly, Obama tries to play this down but this issue has been raised repeatedly due to the many signs of racism from the far right.

Sometimes the question is posed as by questioning whether racism is the main reason for the form of opposition to Obama we are seeing from the far right. I’ve felt that the question is not this simple as the authoritarian right has many reasons for its views on Obama and it is impossible to separate out race. While not all conservatives are racists, racism has been a major component of American conservatism. A conservative movement which would already oppose the actions of any liberal Democratic president is going to be even more extreme when faced with a black liberal Democrat.

Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler, authors of Authoritarianism & Polarization in American Politics, have looked at the correlation between opposition to Obama’s health care proposals and racial attitudes. They found that racism is a factor, but only one factor in the opposition to health care reform coming from the authoritarian right:

As evidence of the link between health care and racial attitudes, we analyzed survey data gathered in late 2008. The survey asked people whether they favored a government run health insurance plan, a system like we have now, or something in between. It also asked four questions about how people feel about blacks.

Taken together the four items form a measure of what scholars call racial resentment. We find an extraordinarily strong correlation between racial resentment of blacks and opposition to health care reform.

Among whites with above average racial resentment, only 19 percent favored fundamental health care reforms and 57 percent favored the present system. Among those who have below average racial resentment, more than twice as many (45 percent) favored government run health care and less than half as many (25 percent) favored the status quo.

No such relationship between racial attitudes and opinions on health care existed in the mid-1990s during the Clinton effort.

It would be silly to assert that all, or even most, opposition to President Obama, including his plans for health care reform, is motivated by the color of his skin. But our research suggests that a key to understanding people’s feelings about partisan politics runs far deeper than the mere pros and cons of actual policy proposals. It is also about a collision of worldviews.

Viewed through that lens, it is not at all surprising that Rep. Joe Wilson blurted out “You lie!” following a reference to illegal immigrants, another object of grave concern to the more authoritarian.

Beneath the arguments about government intrusion into the health care market, death panels, and such, a much more emotionally-laden dynamic is at work. Views about race along with a suite of other visceral matters are linked to people’s opinions about health care reform, which likely explains why the present debate has caused a much stronger uproar than it did in 1994.

Interesting data. Considering all the misinformation being spread on health care reform, it is important to point out that, while the studies might have considered the question of government run health care, this not what is being proposed in the current health care reform legislation. Despite this, the data is relevant to the current debate.

Commentary on Glenn Beck

While still a tiny minority, there continue to be conservatives speaking out against the clowns who now appear to be leading the conservative movement. Peter Wehner has taken a look at Glenn Beck:

…what I’ve seen should worry the conservative movement.

I say that because he seems to be more of a populist and libertarian than a conservative, more of a Perotista than a Reaganite. His interest in conspiracy theories is disquieting, as is his admiration for Ron Paul and his charges of American “imperialism.” (He is now talking about pulling troops out of Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, and elsewhere.) Some of Beck’s statements—for example, that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people”–are quite unfair and not good for the country. His argument that there is very little difference between the two parties is silly, and his contempt for parties in general is anti-Burkean (Burke himself was a great champion of political parties). And then there is his sometimes bizarre behavior, from tearing up to screaming at his callers. Beck seems to be a roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger—the antithesis of Ronald Reagan.

I understand that a political movement is a mansion with many rooms; the people who occupy them are involved in intellectual and policy work, in politics, and in polemics. Different people take on different roles. And certainly some of the things Beck has done on his program are fine and appropriate. But the role Glenn Beck is playing is harmful in its totality. My hunch is that he is a comet blazing across the media sky right now—and will soon flame out. Whether he does or not, he isn’t the face or disposition that should represent modern-day conservatism. At a time when we should aim for intellectual depth, for tough-minded and reasoned arguments, for good cheer and calm purpose, rather than erratic behavior, he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.