Well now we know what that the “big bang” in the title is referring to.
After more than five years of dating, Sheldon and Amy had sex on Thursday night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Consider it the Chuck Lorre, multi-cam laugh-track version of Donna Martin finally getting laid. (Tori Spelling managed to hold out for seven seasons and 206 episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210. Take that, Mayim Bialik.)
In the run of TV’s most-watched comedy, it was an event big enough to warrant a press announcement weeks ago, alerting fans of the must-see “event.”
Truth be told, in a series that has been on for nine seasons and seen its characters date, bone, marry, break up, and reunite in every exhausting configuration, it’s quite remarkable that Sheldon and Amy’s first time in “The Opening Night Excitation” felt the way first-times really should feel: special.
The episode cleverly juxtaposed Sheldon and Amy’s first roll in the hay with the opening night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, another pop-culture event that has been built up with years of anticipation and finally, uh, came on Thursday night.
Sheldon, Leonard, Wolowitz, and Koothrappali all purchased opening-night tickets in advance, but that was when Sheldon and Amy were broken up. Now that they are back together, Sheldon is facing a socially obtuse nerd’s Sophie’s Choice. Star Wars opening night and Amy’s birthday fall on the same day. What is he supposed to do?
“My friends are telling me I shouldn’t abandon my girlfriend on her birthday to see the new Star Wars movie,” Sheldon tells Bob Newhart’s Arthur, appearing to him in a night vision dressed as a Jedi master. “Sounds right.” Arthur tells him.
With that settled, Sheldon now must pick out a gift for Amy. He goes to Penny and Bernadette for advice, presenting them with two ridiculous ideas. The third option: “I have coitus with her.” Penny is so shocked she shatters her wine glass with her hand. You might have, too, if you didn’t catch wind of CBS’s press release hinting that this was coming.
“Then it’s settled,” Sheldon says. “Amy’s birthday present will be my genitals.”
Her very own dick in a box.
Lots of awws and overenthusiastic laugh-track hahas followed in the leadup to the—ahem—gift-giving. Admirably, the event was given weight and emotional heft, not just played up for silly laugh and abused for lazy sex jokes.
Before the deed happens, Amy and Sheldon are given a quiet scene together, in which they are adorably nervous. “I’m really nervous,” Amy says. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. I just built it up in my head. I don’t know what to expect.” Sheldon’s surprisingly tender reply: “Neither do I. But we can find out together.”
The running B-plot of the Star Wars premiere has its payoff here, with Leonard, Wolowitz, and Koothrappali essentially replicating that dialogue word-for-word as they wait in their seats, a mix of nerves and excitement, for The Force Awakens to begin.
And how was Amy and Sheldon’s first time? “Well, I enjoyed that more than I thought I would,” Sheldon says post-coital, the camera panning to Amy and her sex hair.
The Big Bang Theory, with its ratings juggernaut status and increasingly dated multicam staging, is perhaps expectedly the critical punching bag when it’s time to decry mass-appealing entertainment that steals eyeballs away from arguably more interesting, edgier, or experimental fare. But episodes like “The Opening Night Excitation” exemplify why this kind of comedy is so popular—and why The Big Bang Theory is the best in the game at it.
The will-they/won’t-they couple is, of course, the most explored sitcom trope there is, both a creative blessing and headache to showrunners who grapple with how long they keep romantic tension without uniting the characters—and how to keep their relationships interesting once they’re together. When the will-they/won’t-they get together question is solved, then comes the will-they/won’t-they-have-sex conversation.
The Big Bang Theory has worked in those lanes to mixed effect over its bazillion seasons on air in the couplings of Penny and Leonard, Bernadette and Wolowitz, and, maybe most successfully of all, Amy and Sheldon.
But what makes this series so interesting isn’t so much the way it deals with those questions, but the greater will-they/won’t-they that drives the series. Well, it’s more of a will-he/won’t-he: Will Sheldon become more of a human, capable of feeling a full range of emotion and engaging intimately with his loved ones, or won’t he be able to reach that space—of love?
For all the bazingas, nerd obsessions, and science-y jargon that makes The Big Bang Theory superficially funny and appealing, it’s greatest strength over these years has been the carefully charted journey of Sheldon in that realm, played so delicately by Jim Parsons.
Typically when a series goes on for as long as The Big Bang Theory has, the curios and ticks of the breakout characters become more dialed up and pronounced. Cheaper laughs, really.
When Friends finally ended, it was unclear if Joey could even count to 10. By the end of Sex and the City, Samantha spoke in a language that consisted entirely of double entendres and innuendos. By the conclusion of Will and Grace, only dogs could hear Karen.
While The Big Bang Theory, now in its ninth season, is certainly guilty of this in some respects with Sheldon, whose obtuse social awkwardness is amplified for laughs, the thing it has dialed up the most is his emotional range.
His trepidatious tip-toeing into a world of human experience he probably thought he wasn’t even capable of has been the best kind of comedic fodder for the series as it wears on: the kind that is rooted in heart.
Take his first sexual experience with Amy, for example. When showing glints of “normalcy,” an ill-suited word in this case but one that might represent the kind of emotional and social interaction Sheldon is working toward, it’s forever humorous to watch how quickly he’s able to pull out (so to speak) from connection or intimacy at the drop of a hat.
“I look forward to your next birthday when we do it again,” he hilariously tells Amy after admitting he enjoyed having sex more than he expected to. Bazinga!