The Big Bang Theory
Episode 11: The Santa Simulation
By: Carlos Uribe
The Big Bang Theory is about a group of friends who happen to be nerds and the girl next door.
The Community episode where the characters played Dungeons and Dragons is one my favorites the show has ever done. The Santa Simulation is an episode that had a large majority of the male cast playing the game during the holidays. It's interesting how the two shows portrayed playing the game. In Community, it was completely left up to the imagination of the players and audience. They didn't use figures and they largely described what was happening. In the Big Bang Theory, they do use figures and the show finds ways to make playing the game more action-oriented. This is because it had puzzles for the characters to solve. They would have to play bells that made up a famous Christmas jingle while Sheldon sung an obscure Christmas carol. While both shows used the game as a punchline, they both treated it differently. On Community, the game's plot became a part of the actual plot of the episode. In the Big Bang Theory, it's just ways for the show to mime the jokes. Community used the game to continue the theme of Pierce being a villain and approaching how Jeff's behavior could impact people not in the study group. The Big Bang Theory was a lot less character oriented although it did have some character work. It's two different approaches to the similar subject that are both similar and different in many ways. While I still prefer the Community episode to Dungeons and Dragons, the Big Bang Theory way wasn't bad at all.
As I said, Dungeons and Dragons in Community was a way to explore the characters and their changing role in the show. In the Big Bang Theory, the game was used to only explore Sheldon's character. When the game turns out to be holiday themed, Sheldon isn't happy because he doesn't like Christmas. He claims to dislike the very idea of the holiday as it simply has too many elements that bother him. The game is a clever way to reveal just why he is reluctant to embrace the holiday. When he was five-years old he lost his grandfather. His grandpa was the only figure in his family to embrace his scientific nature and the only one that Sheldon really seemed to connect with. Losing him was a major loss for him. In a rare show of emotion, Sheldon admits that he missed his grandfather. This translates into holiday woes because he had asked Santa Clause to bring his grandfather back to life. All he got instead were some lincoln logs. The game managed to bring those deep-seated issues into the open. It also really helps to show Sheldon in a really human light that was necessary to keep him from losing the audience's sympathy. That it did this without losing Sheldon's core identity helps to maintain character integrity.
While the guys are playing Dungeons and Dragons, Raj is hanging out with the girls at a bar. The episode does two things with Raj. The first is that it makes light that he's still the only single character on the show. The girls decide that they'll try and change this by going to the single females at the bar and finding him someone to hook him up with. The girl that they chose seems to be a perfect fit: she's just broken up with someone and her favorite movie is Slumdog Millionaire. It is so crushing for Raj when this girl ends up denying his hopes when she gives him a fake e-mail address. He believes that he's going to be lonely forever despite having a good career and complexion. This leads into the second thing it does with Raj. The girl's rejection of Raj leads to him commenting not only on his loneliness but also that he's fated to be attracted to girls that don't want him. As proof, he points to Bernadette and Penny.
When Amy learns that Raj is attracted to the girlfriends of his friend, she tries to see if he was ever interested in her. She's crushed when she realizes that he's never seen her that way. This leads to a scene where she is able to connect with how lonely Raj has been. This connection enables the show to create a bond between them. A bond that is solely constructed in order for Raj to feel attracted towards her. When this bond accomplishes this goal, Amy is satisfied and reveals that she was only connecting with him for that reason. In a funny joke, Raj states that he's now kind of attracted to Amy because he knows she's not interested in him. It's a funny sequence that does comment on Raj's tendency to be interested in the love interests of other characters. This is compounded because the show hasn't really given him a love interest throughout it's run.
The Santa Simulation is a solid entry for the Big Bang Theory. It uses Dungeons and Dragons to surprisingly make Sheldon more sympathetic-which is really necessary as he's becoming slightly more unlikeable as the series continues. The girl's night out was a strong plot that really made me laugh. What's weird about this Christmas episode is just how depressing it can get-whether it's Stuart's comments on how his store is getting dominated by Amazon or Sheldon's Christmas issues remain unsolved. Christmas episodes are usually festive ones that try to bring light into the worlds of the characters but this series decided to go in the other direction.
I really liked the opening montage where all the characters told their significant others (or Raj his new friend in Stuart) that they're going to be playing Dungeons and Dragons.