The Trouble with TBBTles

The Problem With The Big Bang Theory…

When Big Bang came along it claimed to be heralding a new age of “geek chic”, nerd culture was cool and mainstream television wanted a piece of the pie (or should that be pi?). Here was a programme whose main ensemble was made up of four highly intelligent scientists who love science fiction, fantasy and gaming. Here was a show with nerd protagonists aimed at the mainstream. We were finally getting some representation.

Except that we’re not. At least not any more.

And here’s my issue, here’s why The Big Bang Theory makes me feel uncomfortable. We aren’t laughing with Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard. We’re laughing at them. Chuck Lorre has given us four exceptionally intelligent, nerdy main characters and he’s positioned us as an audience against them. When I watch Big Bang it becomes more and more obvious that I’m not supposed to relate to the guys (or more recently Amy Farrah-Fowler). I’m expected to relate to Penny. You only need to pay attention to the audience laughter to realise that TBBT relies on positioning us as an outsider to the nerds, as someone like Penny who doesn’t understand their references, their science, their vocabulary even, and who doesn’t care to learn.

I’ve only seen parts of of few episode, so my own analysis could not go this far; to me the show is unwatchable.

Attempted Murder, He Wrote

I ran across this again just recently: Letters of Note: Maybe it’s just catharsis. But I think it’s more.

Gene Roddenberry defends the original Star Trek pilot.

In other words, am wide open to criticism and suggestions but not from those who think answers lie in things like giving somewhat aboard a dog, or adding a cute eleven-year-old boy to the crew.

No cute eleven-year-old boy? I wonder what changed his mind for TNG?

Which reminded me, I guess I should confess that I once tried to kill Wesley Crusher. Technically I have already confessed but did not deliver an allocution, so perhaps it’s time to do so.

First of all, let me say that this was nothing personal against Wil Wheaton. This was business. There were a lot of us who couldn’t stand the character of Wesley, especially at first. So when the opportunity arose, I tried to have him whacked. Here’s how that went down.

My friend Naren had done an internship with the show and was subsequently offered an opportunity to write a free-lance script as the next step of a vetting process to see if he was potential staff material (they apparently had a policy of not hiring interns directly). Naren had the beginnings of the framework of the story that would become The First Duty when he and I and the remainder of out trio, Gil, were all back home for Christmas vacation. Gil and I were still in grad school, studying physics. So one night after going out to see a movie we ended up at my parents’ house and Naren explained where he was in the script and let us pitch some ideas. As soon as he mentioned that it was to have Wesley in it (Wil Weaton had left the full-time cast to go to college, so Wesley went to Starfleet Academy) we both said, “Kill him! Oh, please, kill him.” Well, that wasn’t going to fly — a writer, especially a free-lance writer wanting to get a job, isn’t going to get anywhere killing off a recurring cast member, so we had to settle for Wesley being injured; as it ended up he had burns and a broken arm from his accident. So, yay us. Someone from Starfleet does die, which is why there is an inquest as part of the story.

Since our coup failed, the rest of the discussion that night revolved around some holes that had yet to be filled, which included the exact reason that Wesley was in trouble. I suggested that he be in a flight accident, as some sort of Blue-Angels-like (or Thunderbirds, I guess, but I was in the Navy so it’s the Blue Angels) flight team, doing close-order tricks, and the maneuver was something they shouldn’t have been doing. Teenagers (or early twentysomethings) feeling immortal and taking risks — that’s not going to require suspension of disbelief. I dubbed the maneuver the Andorian Clusterfuck, which was the first thing that popped into my head, even though I knew that name would never make it into as real script (it ended up as the Kolvoord Starburst). Gil was studying plasma physics at the time and suggested that the maneuver involve igniting a plasma to take the place of the smoke trails that the planes use. That suggestion proved to be important to the plot, since it gave a vital clue that tells Picard what naughty business the flight team was up to.

Since Gil and I were both complaining about our statistical mechanics classes, Naren’s shout-out to us was to mention how the deceased cadet (Josh) had helped Wesley with his stat-mech. Working our names into a story never happened (“Tom” and “Gil” being too mundane for the future).

So that was my involvement in that script. Overall pretty minor — nothing like wrestling with the problem of a homosexual nymphomaniac drug-addict involved in the ritual murder of a well known Scottish footballer or anything, but an important detail in a story that ended up being a pretty decent episode (it made at least one top-ten list). One little slice of ghostwriting fame.

Were We Vealed in the First Place?

America Revealed: Pizza Delivery

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AMERICA REVEALED takes viewers on a journey high above the American landscape to reveal the country as never seen before. Join host Yul Kwon (Winner of “Survivor: Cook Islands”) to learn how this machine feeds nearly 300 million Americans every day. Discover engineering marvels created by putting nature to work, and consider the toll our insatiable appetites take on our health and environment. Embark with Kwon on a trip that begins with a pizza delivery route in New York City, then goes across the country to California’s Central Valley, where nearly 50 percent of America’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown, and into the heartland for an aerial look at our farmlands. Meet the men and women who keep us fed – everyone from industrial to urban farmers, crop-dusting pilots to long-distance bee truckers, modern-day cowboys to the pizza deliveryman.

No Bones About It

Prime Suspect: Did the Science Consultant Do It?

Synopsis: an episode of Bones does a sendup of the existence of science consultants in TV/movies, followed by some tips on the path to becoming a Hollywood science consultant.

I’ve told one of my stories of being a ghost-consultant of sorts. I got a few free meals out of it, which were welcome because I was in grad school (as well as an annual insight into a few upcoming episodes of Star Trek, useful for impressing my friends), and of course, it’s also the story of someone who made it in that job, for a while — it was a transition to being a writer and beyond.

I recall giving my friend some static when I found flaws in the science, but invariably the response was that the story was more important, and if certain bad science was critical to the plot line, the bad science wasn’t going to be excised from the script. Yes, it’s window dressing; it might be taken more seriously if it was considered bad dialog or a serious threat to suspension of disbelief, but it’s only a shortcoming for the scientifically literate among us. If there were more of us the issue might be taken more seriously.