Howard: Try telling him it's a non-optional social convention.
Howard: Just do it!
Penny: *To Sheldon* It's a non-optional social convention.
Sheldon: Ah, fair enough.
Howard: He came with a manual.
Okay, it’s time for some mirth. There is a situation in my life that would appear to some, as a situation in need of correcting. Short of engaging in a full blown intervention, those who know and love me have shown sympathy, compassion, and exasperation. This display of interest would make my heart grow if it wasn’t for the reality of the situation. They all wish they were me.
The issue I am writing of is a full blown, got to have it every day, addiction. Given my long tenure in the gift and miracle that is recovery from mind altering, mood changing substances; this would be distressing if not for the substance that has become my drug of choice. What is this evil you may ask? Surely the big guy can deal with it. It is the most absurd thing I have ever found myself admitting. I am here today on this page to announce, for all time, that I am addicted to what this scribe formerly considered mind numbing trash…a situation comedy.
I have resisted this part of the universe of television for close to two decades. I found them to be mindless examples of how mindless people act. I’ve launched slur upon slur at the television when they came on, and I distinctly recall vowing to never watch such tripe. At least, that is, until they brought back the right kind of mindless entertainment. I have shown fidelity to this principle in my life and thought myself happy, joyous, and free. Then I met Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
For those who maintain fealty to my former stance, which adamantly disparages the social relevance of the medium (situation comedies), the culprit is “The Big Bang Theory.” It is a surprisingly delightful thirty minutes of mirth, hilarity, amusement, and, discerning thought. While the subject matter is not unlike other examples of the world within the world of television, it has subtle differences and a message more perceptive then what is offered in other thirty-minute-miracles offered to amuse. The premise is, a group of young science-based savants working at a prestigious research university sometimes ill-fated attempts at circumnavigating the world outside their little piece of the Cosmos. These are the guys that other kids in school would call geeks, and mercilessly make fun of by using the time tested methods of torturing the less then cool with a number of atrocities: stealing their lunch money, making cruel jokes at their expense, thrashings for those who refused to submit, and the most degrading of all…the wedgie or incarnations thereof (reference the episode where the two main characters are relieved of their pants by a former boyfriend of their pretty neighbor…a shining example of the torturers of years gone by)
Societal clichés abound in the pastimes they pursue: comic books, Star Wars/Star Trek films, online video games, science fiction television series, memorabilia, and an endless dialogue on what this or that fictional character or superhero would do in a (or any) real life situation. Being television there is a tendency to take the obsession to an extreme. Going to a viewing of a favored classic film with “8 seconds of previously unseen footage” being just a smattering of the lengths these characters go to maintain the legend that is all geekhood. Most fascinating is the attitude held by the main characters when confronted with their geekiness. They are often wont to stare in confusion at such things as someone doubting that Commander Spock would never act in an illogical manner. Such thought and statements are treated blasphemous. Who are you to tell me that he is not a real person/being?
The many adventures these Sages of the Scientific Fact and Fantasy world are mostly content to sit around a communal coffee table playing games or dreaming up places to go and people to meet who may or may not be real. They are the masters of the “what if” paradigm. That would probably account for a superior knowledge of mathematics and topics that would lose the average Joe buying a six-pack at the convenience store. Knowing the theoretical or practical application of why the cooler holding the hops and barley nectar gets and stays cold is not a real concern for most. Likewise the science nerd guys have zero-zip-not-a-clue where it comes to affairs of the heart. The endearing part of the show for me is that they really want to have a clue. The main character’s seeking and getting and losing and getting back a relationship with the gorgeous blond next door who is a community college dropout shows me that everything is possible. The young lady’s ability to see through the quagmire of an experimental physicist’s life and mind to see the tender, loving man that lives inside is what’s brilliant about this show.
Then there is the small nebbish who masks his insecurities with inappropriate comments and actions towards almost every woman he meets. His difficulty is compounded by the other characters bantering on about his lack of a PhD even though he has a Masters from the most famous scientific and technological university in the world (which he got when he was a teenager). Even his mother, with whom he lives, is included in the derision which serves to solidly cement the nebbishness. This poor soul with an IQ in the top 1% has been able to find a woman to love and, most importantly, love him back. Although, she also pipes in on the PhD junk once she gets her’s.
The show leaves me wanting more every time I watch. The astrophysicist from the “mysterious sub-continent of India” as he states when he is trying to pick up girls is the next big hurdle to climb. His problem is that when in the presence of attractive women, he cannot speak. “Social Anxiety Disorder” is what they call it. He can, however, talk like a meth head auctioneer when he has a drink or two in him. The problem comes in when, as expected, he drinks too much (I intimately recall how that works!) and he finds himself waking up in the beds of strange women. From a purely “let’s go out and get lucky” point of view, he is probably the stud in the group. Well, he gets laid more than the other guys when they are out hunting female companionship. His one real relationship was with a deaf girl who dumped him when she found out that his parents were cutting him off financially. The beauty here is that he was totally fine with losing the financial support of his parents to be with the woman he loves. Maybe it’s the Irish in me, but that’s a truly romantic thing to do. Anyone with that much honesty and affection for another human being MUST end up with a girl to really love and, most importantly, love him back.
And then there is Dr. Sheldon Cooper. This character is absolute, total, incontrovertible proof that vanity, pomposity, and outrecuidance can all be grouped to create an art form. There is nothing inherently wrong with being the smartest guy in the room. There is, however, something definitely amiss with anyone who has to announce it to the world…everywhere he goes. “The Great Sheldor” is exactly what you would expect from the background he comes from. Probably the most gifted of the geniuses he faces a number of obstacles more so than the others. Everything in his life from a professional point of view occurred at an extremely young age; college at 11, a doctorate at sixteen. Adding to the complication is the environment of a drunken father who abandoned him, and a freakishly religious mother. Particularly poignant was an episode where he fled to the protection of the comic book store when his roommate and the girl next door began arguing. This brought up memories that forced him to withdraw to a place where he acts like a small child who must be bribed with toys to get him to behave. The implication of mental abuse nearly shouted out the screen as I watched. The isolation he inflicts on himself must have surely created differing worlds where, out of self-defense, he could escape the harsh realities of life.
His laundry list of issues he lives with might best be described by Luke 8:30:
“And Jesus asked him, saying, what is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.”
He is a germophobe, bacillophobiac, and bacteriophobiac as well as suffering from near maniacal neuroses which manifests itself chiefly by the obsessive compulsive disorder he displays. He covers his ailments well in the arrogant vainglorious and narcissistic behaviors his character portrays. His companions seem to put up with him, and even capitulate to his insensitive ramblings. But not always…
And here is where the beauty of the show comes in. In and about all his super intelligence and individual imperfections, this horribly wounded man has found a girlfriend. It is the one concession the Mighty Sheldor surrenders to, and the agony he inflicts on himself along the way to attaining a relationship is absolutely hilarious. His paramour is, as mercy tends to do, is a female version of him. This is probably the one part of the world that makes all equal. Falling in love is a universal gift, and, at the same time, the worst torture one can go through. It is nice to see that, even in a silly television show, love is the answer.
I will end my narrative with a piece of this compulsion I happily participate in;
“Leonard: If Penny didn't know that Leslie had already turned me down then that would unambiguously mean that she, Penny, thought I should ask her, Leslie, out, indicating that she, Penny, had no interest in me asking her, Penny, out but because she did know that I had asked Leslie out and that she, Leslie, had turned me down then she, Penny, could be offering me consolation. "That's too bad, you would have made a cute couple" but while thinking "good, Leonard remains available."
Sheldon: You're a lucky man Leonard.
Leonard: How so?
Sheldon: You're talking to one of three men in the western hemisphere capable of following that train of thought.
Leonard: Well, what do you think?
Sheldon: I said I could follow it, I didn't say I cared”
Well that is it, my current drug of choice, my not-so-secret obsession, and the thumb on my nose to the principles of Recovery. It is syndicated where I live and I can get as many as six episodes a day, which I record on DVR. Re-watching the episodes matters little to me and I have not grown bored with the exercise. I just keep watching. I have a website bookmarked that is nothing but quotes from the show. I alternately delight and irritate my Facebook friends by posting them on my public feed. I have no intention to go “cold turkey” to deal with this addiction. I can stop any time I want. Really! I can stop! I do not have a problem! Help! Help! Help…