The Big Bang Theory: This episode was really quite fantastic and I may even place it as one of the top episodes of the entire series. The major aspects working in favor of this episode were the fact that Penny had very little screen time (as much as I appreciate her female -- but not feminine -- presence, she's not particularly interesting), and Sheldon was less over-the-top and more grounded (albeit in an obsession with trains). This episode was also able to highlight Leonard's sarcastic coping mechanism to counteract Sheldon's absurd behavior ("We took it to a vote. Three of us wanted to take a plane, but Sheldon wanted to take the train. So we're taking the train."), Howard's epic crash-and-burn flirtation with Summer Glau (recalling his dream was particularly enjoyable: "And then I ripped off your legs and you turned into sausage. What do you think that means?"), and lastly, Raj's genuine charm as he becomes the victim of a placebo non-alcoholic beer ("Did you see Slumdog Millionaire? That was based on my life.") was very funny. It's hard to imagine Summer Glau as anyone other than River or a Terminator, and her bored state of mind looked very similar to an approaching desire to kill everyone. Which, actually, worked for her. But the best running gag belonged to the phone conversation between Sheldon and Penny. In allowing Penny one-time access to his room in order to retrieve a paper from his flash drive, Penny discovers a secret box of letters from his grandmother ("Only Meemaw calls me Moon Pie!") and destroys a difficult ten-step Chinese puzzle box by stomping on it ("Did you hear the click?"). I think this show works best the fewer locations they use. What's better than having Leonard stuck in a small confined space with Sheldon for eleven hours? What's better than Howard reciting his pick-up lines to himself ("It's hot in here, so it must be Summer!")?
How I Met Your Mother: This episode had so many honest-to-God laugh-out-loud moments that I don't even know where to begin. If you want an episode breakdown, I redirect you to Alan Sepinwall's wonderful recap, but here, I'm just going to list my favorite gags. First, the alternating time perspectives was fantastic. I don't know of too many shows who are able to manipulate in quite a seamless way as HIMYM, but here they managed to have flashbacks to college, flashbacks to earlier in the day, and a story that spoke about the potential future when it was really talking about the recent past. ("I'm not going to call her.... because I already did. I'm not going to have lunch with her... because I already did. I'm not going to have sex with her..." You get the idea.) Second, Neil Patrick Harris's forced laugh is completely contagious. What should be a very simple plot -- Marshall forgot his pants at work and had to sneak around in very short gym shorts -- ends up being gut-busting funny all because Barney cannot get past how much fun it was to ridicule his colleague and friend. Mocking Oliver Twist, he asks Marshall, "Please, sir. Can I have some more... pants?" It's a bad joke that NPH makes so deliciously funny that you can't help but laugh. (You know what, stop reading. Go over to Fancast and watch the episode.) Third, Laura Prepon did such a wonderful job being a "douche zombie." For example: "Salt? That's so bougeois." "What's that? Oh... I don't watch television." And my personal favorite, she pronounces van Gogh "van Gochk," the pretentious -- albeit correct -- pronunciation. Fourth, Marshall's rundown of the worst things in the world. One, a supervolcano erupts. Two, an asteroid heads to Earth. Three, all footage of Evil Canival is lost. Four, Ted calls Karen. And five, Lily gets eaten by a shark. ("I'm Lily, and I approve the order of that list.") And lastly, quite possibly the funniest sight gag I have EVER seen... due to taking sleeping pills in preparation for her early job, Robin engages in some unexpected behavior. She talks to herself in her sleep, catches but doesn't remember Ted making out with Karen ("Hey Ted. Hey Lily. Don't worry, I won't tell Marshall), and then... she's on the floor in the kitchen, belly-side down, devouring ribs. It's at the 14:40 mark. It's worth watching... over and over and over again.
Castle: I think we're all aware by now of my unabashed crush on Nathan Fillion. He brings such charm and easiness to his roles that it's really difficult not to absolutely love him. (And if you don't like him, you're just not human.) My thoughts on the premiere are pretty much the same from my earlier post -- I love Susan Sullivan's role as Castle's loose mother ("I performed Mousetrap eight times a week for one year and I still don't know what it's about.") and the female lead, Stana Katic, doesn't annoy me because she's tough but also soft, masculine but also feminine, and I appreciate her casual delivery of certain lines (that other actresses, like Robin Tunney) would over-deliver. As for the other thirty minutes of the pilot, I also enjoyed that the show did not "dumb down" the clues so that I could figure everything out immediately. The killer was predictable, yes, but how Castle and Beckett discover that truth was not as transparent as Bones or as random as House (seriously, some of his diagnoses come out of left field). I know some people may find Castle to be a little too charming or a little too goofy, but I think it's legitimate that an egotistical writer wouldn't take things seriously. I also felt like their "pilot flirtation" (how the series ultimately supplies the foundation for a future romantic arc) was well done. They both they would only be working with each other for a certain amount of time, and so their flirtation was very school yard pulling-on-pigtails that I think it set up a good relationship for future episodes. I hope that other episodes do not try to recreate the blatant flirtation like this episode did and focus more on their two conflicting personalities working together, and how that friction is what ultimately makes them cute together. You can't force chemistry; you have to build on it. All in all, I'm a fan and I'll be back next Monday.