The Big Bang Theory 9.17: “The Celebration Experimentation” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “The Big Bang Theory” are present in this review



The Big Bang Theory officially observes its 200th episode with, “The Celebration Experimentation.” This is meant to be a point where the show delivers a heartwarming examination of why it’s been so successful over the course of its nine current years on the airwaves, and just what it’s meant to audiences worldwide, as the current biggest sitcom on television. That’s what it’s supposed to do… But infuriatingly, “The Celebration Experimentation” does none of that. As the series’ 200th episode milestone, it’s a very frustrating dud.

The episode’s starting portion is fine and good, as Sheldon’s birthday approaches, and the gang learns of his childhood struggles with never having a good birthday, since he shared a birthday with his sister, who always bullied him with her friends. After also learning that they lied to Sheldon about Batman showing up for his sixth birthday, Leonard comes up with the idea of bringing Adam West to the party, who guest stars as himself, and is one of the episode’s better sources of humour.

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The humour tends to come and go, though it’s easy to get the sense that the episode gradually loses steam as it goes on. Amusing moments like Sheldon’s initial reaction to a birthday party, and an in-car debate with Adam West about who the best Batman actor is, are pretty funny on their own merits, but the episode just can’t consistently bring worthwhile laughs unfortunately. Several of the jokes fall flat, and rather than celebrate the entire ensemble, the show just celebrates Sheldon alone in this 200th episode, which feels rather inexplicable.

There’s even a pretty great bonding moment with Sheldon and Penny during this episode, where Penny sits with Sheldon in the bathroom after he becomes overwhelmed by the party guests, and talks about how she would have been just like his sister if she’d known Sheldon when he was a child, but as an adult, he’s become one of her favourite people. It’s a very sweet scene, and another bright spot in an otherwise highly underwhelming episode, but again, this focuses the spotlight squarely on Sheldon alone, which feels improper.

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Making matters worse is that, for all the episode marketing’s touting of guest stars at Sheldon’s birthday party, none of them really do anything of note. The only thing that resembles a joke or a payoff with the guest stars is Kripke hitting on Leonard’s mother, which goes for a couple of cheap laughs, and is then pretty much forgotten by the end. It might have been interesting to have a Kripke/Beverly relationship, but this is disappointingly just played for a passing gag, and nothing else. On this note as well, Beverly shows up for Sheldon’s birthday party, but none of Sheldon’s family members could make it?! Sheldon’s mother, sister, or purely off-screen brother that apparently exists and that we’ve never seen, none of them could be bothered with showing up? That’s one of several wasted opportunities in this episode, especially since it’s been ages since we’ve seen Sheldon’s twin sister.

Even the long overdue return of Sara Gilbert’s Leslie Winkle is a complete waste. Leslie makes some talk about maturing and making peace with Sheldon, and then kind of doesn’t, and then that’s it. She just stands around, and barely has three lines. Why even bother bringing Leslie back then? It felt like a half-hearted, lazy way to tie in with the show’s beginnings, when Leslie was a bigger character for both Leonard and Sheldon. Now, they’ve moved so far away from that story arc with their respective relationships and accomplishments that Leslie’s character is completely superfluous, which perhaps explains why Leslie hasn’t returned to the series over the past several years, despite apparently still working at CalTech.

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Worst of all though is that there’s just not much to say about this episode overall. Everything is focused on this birthday party arc for Sheldon, which feels self-satisfied and half-hearted, yet completely glosses over the best chance to celebrate the accomplishments, relationships and emotional ups and downs of the entire show’s ensemble, not just its fan-favourite personality. As it stands, “The Celebration Experimentation” is a colossal disappointment, and a huge waste of the series’ landmark 200th episode. It feels unforgivably lazy as a series milestone, and can’t even make any real use of Adam West, beyond an uneven batch of gags. The Big Bang Theory is a groundbreaking comedy that still stands as one of the most appealing sitcoms on television, frequently managing to defy its age even now, but that’s all the more reason why it deserved a far, far better 200th episode.

The Big Bang Theory's landmark 200th episode is, sadly, an enormous disappointment, and a complete waste. The collection of guest stars are given nothing to do, the show gives an unfair and half-hearted focus on Sheldon exclusively, and not even Adam West can help the episode stand out.
Amusing Batman debate with Adam West
Sweet Sheldon/Penny scene in the bathroom
Sheldon focus is unmerited and half-baked
Most of the guest stars are wasted, and given nothing to do
Neither the comedy nor the drama manages to have legs