The Big Bang Theory's Season 6 Premiere: Date Night

The Big Bang Theory S06E01: “The Date Night Variable”

Howard Wolowitz was living the dream when The Big Bang Theory returned for Season 6 last night: He’s happily married to brainy, geeky, sexy Bernadette AND he’s a freaking astronaut. Life was pretty awesome for about thirty seconds. Then his mom called. No, not even space is free of Mama Wolowitz’s overbearing presence.

It’s part of a sitcom’s nature that though certain details may change, the core of a series must largely stay the same. They just aren’t intended to serve as deep, complicated explorations of complex characters or situations. Sure, you can happen upon the occasional exception, like Scrubs, but for the most part, the fundamentals that are present in the first season stick around until the very end. Sometimes it’s welcome and comforting and sometimes it’s tiring and annoying. I think The Big Bang Theory currently falls somewhere in the middle.

Howard may have “won” in that he got his girl and his dream job, evolving into something more palatable than his early days as the creepiest of creeps, but he’s still incapable of standing up to his mother. If anything, we learned in “The Date Night Variable” that Howard has twice the trouble to look forward to when he inevitably returns to Earth, caught between the iron wills of his mother and his wife.

When Bernadette pressed Howard to tell his mother that they were moving out of the house and getting their own place, Howard assured Bernadette that he would. When Mama Wolowitz accidentally learned their plan from Bernadette and confronted Howard about it, he evaded the subject. While Howard’s life has probably undergone the most noticeable changes out of all of The Big Bang Theory’s characters, he’s still pretty much a giant schmuck and a wuss and by the end of “The Date Night Variable” he resolved nothing.

That same SAMENESS applies to our other couples: Amy and Sheldon and Penny and Leonard. In an attempt to smooth things over after his awful mid-coitus marriage proposal, Leonard crafted the ideal evening for Penny: sports, beer, wings, and burgers. He promised not to bring up the messy state of their relationship, and then in typical neurotic Leonard fashion, he did just that. Poor Penny. But then again, when HASN’T their relationship been ten seconds away from implosion and did she HONESTLY think that he wouldn’t use the opportunity to grill her about whether or not she’s still his ladyfriend? Seriously.

Amy and Sheldon celebrated their anniversary as much as Amy and Sheldon are capable of celebrating anything. Amy forced Sheldon to take her on a nice dinner date by reminding him of the stipulations set forth in their Relationship Agreement. He reluctantly took her out, but cited a loophole in the contract that allowed him to outsource his significant other obligations to Raj. Amy was understandably displeased and came THIS close to quitting Team Sheldon, but Amy is, sad though it repeatedly makes me feel for her, the most compatible woman on the show for Sheldon. Her willingness to take what she can get meant that Sheldon’s half-hearted recitation of a romantic line from Spiderman was more than enough to save the relationship.

Meandering through each botched date was Raj, sad and lonely in the wake of BFF Howard’s marriage and mission to space. After finding himself kicked out of Sheldon and Amy’s date, Raj crashed Penny and Leonard’s awkward-fest. Penny welcomed the distraction from Leonard’s inquisition, but sent Raj away after he tried to facilitate the discussion that Penny had clearly intended to avoid by indulging in his company.

While his friends and their respective partners tripped over the same obstacles they’ve struggled with for several seasons, Raj struck out on his own. He wandered into the comic shop and shared a drink with owner Stu, bonding over their mutual love of bossanova music and beaches and... and then things got rather interesting.

Did Raj ask Stu on a date? The canon and fandom alike have theorized about Raj’s sexuality from the very beginning and the occasional playful detail has been dropped into his characterization from time to time to keep the gay/not-gay debate going. From his accidental kiss with Howard in Season 4 to his admission of once “accidentally” going to a gay bar, the question has always lingered over Raj’s head.

After some initial awkwardness over drinks with Stu, Raj stammered that he had to go, then paused at the last minute to ask Stu if he’d like to get dinner the next day. Stu said that he couldn’t really afford to splurge on going out, to which Raj assured him that it was fine. It would be his treat. While nothing was blatantly confirmed on Raj’s end, Stu’s comment that he “could do worse” certainly implies that at least one of them considers date night confirmed.

What do you think?

The Stray Observation Addendum

– One-liner of the night: Bernadette’s threatening, “You know that thing that I said I would do to you when you got home? You can do it to yourself.”

– Leonard’s painted “GO SPORTS!” across his stomach was priceless. Too bad he had to blow it by being needy and demanding. Is anyone even cheering for Leonard and Penny as a couple anymore?

– What do you hope to see happen this season?

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