The Big Bang Theory’s “The Procreation Calculation” has Both Hits and Misses

*Spoiler warning for The Big Bang Theory, season 12, episode 3.

Bernadette and Howard on The Big Bang Theory
Bernadette and Howard awkwardly listening to Stuart’s sex music on The Big Bang Theory. Photo courtesy of CBS, screenshot by Linda Maleh.

This week The Big Bang Theory tackled arranged marriage, the decision not to have children, and what to do when the pathetic friend living in your house actually starts having sex. Some of these notes it hit perfectly, with comedic timing that killed, while at least one was little bit tone-deaf.

The episode for the most part revolves around Penny’s confession that she doesn’t want kids. I’ve seen the show handle feminist issues with a lot of nuance in the past (when Bernadette was worried about her office finding out she was pregnant because she’d seen other pregnant women there get persecuted in the past, I was moved), but this seemed rather clunky. First, almost every single one of her friends respond with rage – mostly focused on their own selfish wants. Bernadette just keeps telling Penny that she didn’t understand what true love was until she had children, while Amy can’t believe she and Penny won’t get the chance to raise their kids together. The only person who’s shock and anger is actually a little bit justified is Leonard, since Penny knows that he’s always wanted kids. So, instead of giving us a conversation with a diversity of ideas on the subject of parenthood, we mostly just got Penny on one side, and everyone else on the other. She winds up having to convince each of them that not wanting kids doesn’t make her a bad person. Leonard eventually comes around by saying that his life with Penny is more than enough for him. I understand what the show was trying to do here, but it could’ve been done better.

The other big part of the episode is Raj deciding to marry a woman he’s just met, who he was set up with by his parents. Howard takes the most offense to this, which he later explains is because he knows how big of a romantic Raj is, and can’t see him letting go of that part of himself. This puts things into perspective for Raj, who up until now has been basing most of his actions on the fact that he doesn’t want to be alone anymore. When his future bride starts talking about how they’re going to file their taxes instead of what kind of wedding they’re going to have, Raj decides to back out and give romance another try. But wait, it’s not over yet. It turns out the future Mrs. Koothrappali is pretty smart, and so, to give Raj some of the romance he so desperately craves, kneels down on one knee and proposes to him there and then in the restaurant (no ring on hand). Raj, ever the sap, immediately says yes. Better get used to having Anu (Rati Gupta) around, she might be here for the long haul.

Last but not least, Stuart and Bernadette have to deal with Stuart having sex with his new girlfriend Denise in their house, and playing “Smooth Operator” really loudly to cover it up. This mostly just provided a lot excellent comedy. At some point, the camera holds steady on Howard and Bernadette sitting there awkwardly listening to the song blast from Stewarts room for a ridiculously long time. The longer they kept it going, the harder I laughed.

So to sum up, this episode missed its mark on navigating complex social issues, but put a check in the comedy category once again.

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Author: Linda Maleh

Entertainment writer, feminist, and New York City native. Personal blog is tvtotalkabout.com.

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