NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode are present in this review.
Despite a bit of a weak season premiere for Season Eight, The Big Bang Theory rebounded with a more fresh and interesting episode during the second of the back-to-back premiere offerings. Sheldon may have gone right back to working at CalTech, and even back to studying string theory after enough begging the university, continuing to exacerbate the faults of the season premiere, but Sheldon getting his old career back comes with a catch; Sheldon must teach a class.
In all honesty, as the show has already teased before, the jokes in that situation would write themselves. The writers took it even further this time with the clever hook of Howard being Sheldon’s sole student as well.
Naturally, when Sheldon is forced to make the compromise to teach at the university, you’d think he would be delighted at the chance to belittle his students and prove his intellectual superiority. Hell, the other characters even point this out! Despite this, Sheldon is in a huff about not being able to get his field back on his terms. When he recounts that the university wants to pay him more, give him more authority, and give him autonomy over his field of study, then nonetheless declares, “You people are sick!”, it was a pretty funny moment.
If anything was very funny about this second episode in Season Eight however, it was the interactions between Howard and Sheldon in the classroom, which were just as hysterical as you would imagine. Sheldon obviously revels in the chance to really drive home his increased intellectual animosity towards Howard, and Howard responds in his expected immature manner, going out of his way to be a terrible student. This all culminates in Howard accidentally firing a spitball into Sheldon’s mouth, to which Sheldon files a complaint to H.R. Both Jim Parsons and Simon Helberg were at the top of their game with this story arc, and they both carried a pretty strong episode overall.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see much more of Howard being a student to Sheldon, if anything at all, but seeing definitively that Howard can hold his own against Sheldon in the field of physics was pretty satisfying. Likewise when Sheldon proved his engineering knowledge, particularly when this ended with Sheldon coughing up the spitball when it initially appeared that he was, ahem, choking at a question, it likely elicited what were the biggest laughs of the episode for many viewers, myself included.
While Sheldon was busying himself with Howard, Amy also had a great story arc this week, being caught in the middle of a catty argument between Penny and Bernadette about Penny’s behaviour at her new job. Amy embracing the chance to re-live the high school experience that she never had was delightfully kooky, and it also ended on a great note when Bernadette and Penny simply decided to talk and make up on their own terms, leaving Amy to try and pretend that she wasn’t conspiring to prolong their drama. There wasn’t any real consequence to Amy’s mischief, but at least it generated some good humour.
Leonard and Raj mainly just sat in the background for this episode, but they still contributed a handful of funny lines regarding Sheldon’s blossoming teaching career. I’m not surprised that they had nothing to do this episode, considering that this was a story that really wanted to play up Sheldon and Amy, two stronger characters in terms of comedy, as if the writers were aware that they would need to spend an entire premiere episode undoing their attempts toward drastic change at the conclusion of Season Seven.
The change in Sheldon’s job is enough to keep the early episodes of Season Eight interesting, and I hope that the show gets some real mileage out of this even later in the season too. There’s still a sense that everything is still rather familiar, even with Penny also trying to settle into a new job, as well as her inevitable engagement to Leonard (which wasn’t even really touched upon this episode), but rather than feeling rehashed, “The Junior Professor Solution” felt reliable in terms of the kind of humour that The Big Bang Theory really excels at.
Well, one strong episode out of two for the premiere day isn’t bad I suppose.
- Hilarious Professor Sheldon
- Amy's catty side
- Howard vs. Sheldon dynamic
- Raj and Leonard were sidelined
- Amy got off too easy