The Big Bang Theory Made Me Cry…
I’ve never really liked television. Perhaps I have some subconscious fear of one day becoming a 583lb. coach potato, but there’s just something I’ve never really enjoyed about watching it. The sitting there, staring at mindless programming all at the expense of physical health just for a cheap laugh. The corny jokes. The shallow characters. “There’s so many other productive things in the world to be doing,” I’ve often said to myself countless times in the past.
But recently, things have changed…
And to be more accurate, I should probably say that I used to not like television.
A couple of years ago I went through a divorce. It was unexpected. Divorces happen to people, “But never to me,” I had thought.
Turns out I was wrong.
Instead of coming home from work and spending time with my dear sweet wife, I had an empty apartment and the deafening silence of walls. Instead of coming home at night and talking about my day, I came home at night and talked to my fake plastic tree in the corner of the room. “I had the funniest thing happen today!” I’d tell my tree. Sadly (or maybe luckily), the tree never talked back or told me about how its day had gone.
Yet, I still remained completely upbeat and positive as my life collapsed around me.
Given my innate nature, I redoubled my efforts as a Christian to be the best me I could be, and I spent countless hours, days, and endless nights reading the Scriptures, reading self-improvement books about sales and business, and reading my favorite thing ever: Books About Church History. In my quest to be the best me I could be, I often read the advice of folks like Brian Tracy and Jack Canfield who solidified my thoughts about television being the mindless entertainment for the masses. “The average American spends 3.5 hours a day watching television” was a statistic I probably read five thousand times. And each time as I read it I would think to myself, “What putzes. They’re wasting their lives away.”
Typical egocentric Stan.
After about a year of trying to be Super Stan, reading for four to five hours every night, and having doubled the size of my book collection, I grew burnt out. After long eleven-hour-days of managing a busy cellphone store, it was tiresome to come home and then “invest my time” in trying to further improve myself. I rarely took full weekends off. And my social life was kind of a buzzkill. My marriage had been everything to me, and instead of coping like I should have, I had taken on the Herculean and impossible effort to fill the now-empty spot in my life with sales skills and and business acumen.
I finally realized that my marriage was dead, and I finally emotionally buried it and began to go through the proper mourning process.
One Sunday afternoon I sat in my pajamas eating ice cream on my couch. I was enjoying the amazing citation and historical accuracy of a new book I had purchased, Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting for Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations, and in the middle of reading the floor-plan layout of a building in Ohio that I had never even been too, I had the stunning realization that I was a nerd.
I, Stan Way, was 27 years old. I was a divorced. I was Mormon. I was a divorced Mormon (never a good thing to be). And I was a nerd.
It was a shocking revelation for me, and I reacted like any other 27 year old divorcee would do in their pajamas on their couch on a Sunday afternoon.
And what did I do to cure my nerdiness at that moment?
I threw down the book and turned on the television.
And instead of flipping to my typical 202 (CNN News), which I had always remained devoted to despite my dislike for TV, I got wild and crazy and pulled up the television guide to watch something new. I typed in a random number and found something I’d never watched before…
I found Law & Order: SVU. And that afternoon I watched 12 straight hours of back-to-back episodes.
Mourning the loss of a marriage is a funny thing. But once you realize that you do need to mourn, there really is nothing more mind-numbing, gritty, and therapeutic than Law & Order: SVU. Instead of coming home after an 11 hour day at work and sitting down to read about Guatemalan archeological digs for evidence of The Book of Mormon, I now came home to join in on the adventures of Benson and Stabler. The comedic relief of Munch was a bonus. And every time there would be a particularly gruesome dead hooker found in the streets of New York, I would turn to my tree and say, “Did you see that? Jeez I’m lucky! At least some pimp didn’t drop me off in a gutter. I am one lucky guy.” My plastic tree would agree with me from its corner of the room by remaining still and silent. That’s how I knew it was listening.
Long gone were the days of self improvement and studying my management skills. I was enjoying “vegging out” and the joys of network television.
I quickly moved past the divorce thing. I moved past the fact that I was a nerd and talked to a tree. And I quickly moved past Law & Order: SVU. While I enjoyed solving international prostitution rings with my new pals Benson and Stabler, I didn’t enjoy solving the same crimes over, and over, and over. Frankly, I was disappointed that the USA Network couldn’t seem to keep up with my viewing needs. I mean come on, I only needed to fill 30-40 hours of my week with some sort of SVU entertainment, was that too much to ask?
So I was forced by my new television addiction to find something new.
One night after seeing the same rapist caught for about the 8th time I decided it was time to find a new television show. I pulled up the channel guide on the screen and started searching. As I moved into the higher numbers I found that the masculinity of choices was fading. Gone were MTV and True TV. I was moving into the Hallmark and Lifetime Movie Channel realm of stations. But amidst the late night foray of Golden Girls reruns and movies about nannies, I found Frasier, and a new love affair emerged.
I was taken back to the streets of my mission in Seattle. I had lived just a mile from the Space Needle, and seeing the opening credits sent a thrill up my spine just to see its white silhouette against a black background. I empathized with Dr. Frasier Crane as he himself recovered from a divorce, and I found a boyhood friend in Dr. Niles Crane who refused to touch public door handles. Now instead of solving SVU murders each night I was laughing hysterically at the high society Freudian jokes that NBC had created over a decade before.
Life was good. And after devouring about four seasons of the Frasier show in a two week period I quickly learned that I needed to develop a healthy life balance regarding my new relationship with television.
I did so, and came to really enjoy my two episodes of Frasier a night. Thanks to my Amazon Prime Membership, and the ability to watch all episodes from anywhere (TV/computer/phone/Kindle) I realized that my evenings with Dr. Crane would not last forever though, and I would eventually have to find yet another new show to enjoy.
Enter The Big Bang Theory.
Somehow I had never even heard of it before February of this year. – Like I said, I never really liked television. Don’t hate me for living under a rock! – But the second week in February of this year I caught a single episode and really enjoyed it. So I decided to trade out Dr. Frasier Crane for a whole new set of doctors.
For those of you who don’t know, the show is centered on seven main characters. There are roommates Dr. Leonard Hofstadter and Dr. Sheldon Cooper, two physicists who work at Caltech; Penny, a blonde waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard; and Leonard and Sheldon’s equally geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali. The geekiness and intellect of the four guys is contrasted for comic effect with Penny’s social skills and common sense. Then there is Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski, Howard’s fiancée, who is a microbiologist and former part-time waitress alongside Penny, and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist who joins the group after being matched to Sheldon on a dating website, help round out the cast entirely. (Thanks Wikipedia for helping me keep that concise!)
Essentially though, it’s a bunch of nerds all set into perfect situations to fall in love. And instead of the Freudian Jokes of Frasier, I now found the String Theory Jokes of Sheldon. Shortly after beginning to watch The Big Bang Theory I mentioned to a close friend of mine that I had taken up watching it, and he started to affectionately call me the Mormon Sheldon Cooper. Sadly, yet hilariously, the similarities are stunning, but only a funny observation on behalf of my friend. Yet it has endeared me to fall even more in love with the show.
Tonight’s episode was the season five finale, and it proved to be touching. Unless you’re an avid follower of the show the last couple of minutes wouldn’t have meant much to you, but knowing the social awkwardness of each character and the underlying emotions to each relationship, it touched me to see what happened. Howard had just married his fiancée in a rushed ceremony before going to Kazakhstan to be blasted into space on a Russian rocket. Meanwhile, watching back from the comfort of Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment, the rest of the group watched in nervous anticipation on TV as the countdown began. Howard, aboard the rocket was freaking out. His new wife, worried for his safety said sweetly, “I love that man,” at which point his best friend Raj said, “I do to.” Then, without looking away from the TV, they clasped hands and watched as the countdown for blastoff continued. Leonard and Penny, although fighting throughout the episode, but deeply in love, also ended up clasping hands subconsciously as the countdown continued. And then, defying all social protocol for the usually emotionally distant Sheldon, Sheldon reached out and clasped Amy’s hand. It was a tender moment.
Just then, I realized there was a single tear rolling down my cheek. And as I blinked to get rid of the leaking feeling in my eyes, a whole group of tears rolled down my cheeks.
I was crying tears of…
…of some kind.
I sat emotionally touched as the credits rolled by, and I saw a mass of text come up on the screen, then flash away almost instantly. I quickly rewound it and paused the screen to see this message from the show’s creator and main writer:
CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #389
This may sound silly, but I had to stifle tears when we wrote the last scene of tonight’s episode. The same thing happened when we rehearsed it. And then again when it was performed in front of a studio audience. And yet again when we watched the final version in an editing bay. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something primal, something deeply human being expressed when these characters unconsciously hold hands while watching their friend embark on a monumental journey. Speaking of which, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for watching The Big Bang Theory, for being part of our journey. I hope you’ve laughed a lot and stifled a little. I hope you’re holding someone’s hand. See you next year.
Then I really lost it, and I wept freely.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Somewhere along the way I grew a hard outer shell that made me nearly invincible to the troubles of life. Crisis at work? No problem. I could handle it. Death in the family? It’ll be okay. There’s always the resurrection. I end up in the ER with symptoms of a heart attack? I crack jokes and take pictures of the nurses on my smartphone! (True story, they thought I was crazy. And, just an FYI, my heart is fine thanks.) I perfected the outer shell of toughness to the world. My faith that the Lord would never give me anything that I couldn’t handle has kept me strong.
But it’s also kept me distant.
When I was a Lutheran kid growing up in Utah and I was the social outcast, I still had Jesus.
When I became the Mormon kid and moved to Alabama, and once again was the social outcast, there was still Jesus.
When I went on a mission and my family wanted me to stay home, there was still Jesus.
When my grandmothers died, when my father died, and when my marriage died, there was always Jesus Christ.
The Lord and I have kind of became BFF’s along the way. And throughout my life that has always made it hard to grow emotionally close to people, because in the back of my mind I’ve always thought they would end up leaving. When my marriage ended two and a half years ago, that kind of cemented the deal for me.
But it didn’t keep me from trying. In the past couple of years I’ve dated, flirted, prayed about marriage, and been dumped. I dated some more, found a few crazies, learned a few lessons, then learned how to dump. (Sounds like a country song, right?)
Tonight as I watched fictional characters clasp hands in love though, it pulled on my heart strings, and I wanted that for myself.
I’ve said before that wherever my future wife is she is very well prayed for. And tonight, perhaps more than ever before, I can say that that’s true.
Somewhere out there I know there’s a young lady who loves Jesus Christ, wants to raise her children faithful to the Gospel, and can accept a short, emotionally distant, divorced, and highly flawed individual like me…
Until I find her and realize who she is though, all I can do is pray.
Yes Chuck Lorre, I wish I had been holding someone’s hand tonight as I watched the season finale of The Big Bang Theory…
Hopefully I’ll have someone’s hand to hold for the season finale next year.
– Stan Way