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Lab Mom

Lab Mom spent 15 years as a Lab Manager in Academia before off-tracking in 2010 to stay at home with her two daughters. She blogs about the juggling act of motherhood and a science career, which encompasses a lot more then the cliche work-life balance.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Big Bang Theory has got to be my favorite show on TV right now. The perfect mix of socially awkward science geeks, potty humor and cheesecake. If you haven't watched it you should give it a chance, at least once. I am convinced if you have anything to do with the sciences you will be hooked, although you don't have to be a nerd to understand it (but sometimes I think it helps!)

The premise is that a pair of role-playing, computer loving, ultra-geeky physicists from Caltech live across the hall from a young, attractive, aspiring actress (okay, really a Cheesecake Factory waitress) who is a relatively "normal" woman.  The interactions between the scientists (and their aerospace engineer friends) and the socially competent Penny leads to hilarious conversations and situations. Imagine trying to explain this joke to your neighbor:

A farmer is having problems with the chickens on his farm. He calls his friend who happens to be a physicist and tells him his problem. A few days later the physicist calls back and says "I think I've solved your problem but it invloves a vacuum and perfectly spherical chickens"


Now I usually hate shows that portray scientists as ultra smart, nerdy, anti-social, lab coat wearing men who have no common sense, but in this case I make an exception. The show's ability to make us laugh at them while keeping them completely likable is a win-win.

I also really enjoy the science (and science fiction) humor, which ranges from obvious ("We accidentally took jello-shots from petri dishes we cultured yellow fever in") to more subtle (“That’s what I love about science. There’s no one right answer”) to almost indecipherable.  The writers (self proclaimed nerds) even consult UCLA Physics and Astronomy Professor David Saltzburg to double check dialogue, along with equations and diagrams used as props. They want the science to be accurate, and usually it is.

I recently stumbled upon this great blog (The Big Blog Theory) which analyzes/explains the science (and often the jokes) behind each episode. Consider it an excuse to justify watching a sitcom: expanding your intellectual horizons. Since I am biologist by trade and training, the physics is relatively new to me. 

Unlike any other sitcom, I like BBT so much I even follow producer Bill Prady (@billprady) on Twitter.  His co-producer Chuck Lorre (of Roseanne and Dharma & Greg fame) doesn't tweet, although I do also follow a few of the actors.*  I frequently uncover inside jokes from the twitter feeds. (i.e. Last week one of the characters mentioned dressing up as the Muppet Babies for a costume contest. This was a reference to Chuck Lorre's first job writing for the Muppet Babies cartoon.) Funny right?

Well, you don't have to take my word for it.  I am not the only science blogger who feels this way about BBT.  Yes the show focuses on these guys being nerdy, anti-social science types, and their struggle to fit in, but it also celebrates them and in many cases it is the nerds who get the last laugh.  I don't think their portrayal (albeit it stereotypical) is doing a disservice to science. If anything it tells me that my Star Trek loving, card game playing, comic-con attending geeky scientist coworkers aren't the only ones.  It is okay to celebrate your inner dork.  Nerds of the world unite! 

Hell, next time BBT is on, they are welcome at my house, we can have a viewing party.  I'll bring the Cheesecake, they'll bring the Romulan Ale.

Big Bang Theory Airs On CBS Thursdays at 8 PM.

*If you are interested the following have Twitter accounts:
Kaley Cuoco (@KaleyCuoco)
Howard Wolowitz: Simon Helberg (@SimonHelberg)
Rajesh Koothrappali:
Kunal Nayyar (@Kunalnayyar)

Bill Prady also has lists of staff, writers, and guest stars (like Wil Wheaton and Sara Gilbert).

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Dub C Med School
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I love Big Bang Theory, although I need a friend to explain to me the Star Trek references as I watched all of 4 episodes total.  Of all the series put together.  And the new movie, but that was mostly for Zachary Quinto.  I just figured the whole point of BBT was to take a step back and laugh.  I mean, c'mon.  When haven't we launched into some detailed explanation that has our lay friends and family staring at us with glazed eyes?  Or they've tuned out and are just nodding and smiling along waiting for an opening to make their escape...


Thomas Joseph
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Have you read Chuck Lorre's little quips at the end of each show? Some of them are hysterical.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I have tried watching this show a couple of times and I just can't get into it.  I don't know why.  I stopped watching after the robotic hand episode.  It just seemed way too slapstick and predictable.  But reading this makes me want to give it another shot!

David Manly
Freelance Science Journalist
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It is my favorite show on television, bar none!

I discovered it when it first premiered, as I was sick, and within a few minutes I was laughing my ass off. Within the first 2 minutes of the pilot episode, there was a CALCULUS joke ... a Calculus joke, people!!!

Love that show :)


Guest Comment

Great post - It's interesting to see that they're actually being social, in their own way - at the very least with their own peers. And as you say, struggling at times with awkwardness, socialising with non-science folk and trying to fit into new environments.

Great few series, and well worth introducing to any scientist who hasn't seen it yet.

Lab Mom
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Thomas Joseph said:

Have you read Chuck Lorre's little quips at the end of each show? Some of them are hysterical.

YES! My husband is obsessed with Chuck Lorre.  You can find all the vanity cards online.. even the ones that have been censored.  They are hilarious!


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