Has The Big Bang Theory turned into a damp squib?

Sitcom big-hitter The Big Bang Theory is back for a ninth season tonight, but Big fan Mark Braxton is distinctly underwhelmed…

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**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD**

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Big Bang buffs were left dangling back in June with not one but two romantic cliffhangers: Penny and Leonard preparing unenthusiastically to tie the knot, and Amy apparently ditching Sheldon. Well, the good news (hold on to that, there isn’t much of it) is that both those storylines resolve tonight – but in an episode almost entirely lacking heart. 

Anyone who dislikes spoilers should stop reading… but there are no great surprises here. Basically, what looked like happening actually does. So after entire seasons of will they/won’t they? tension, Leonard and Penny finally marry. And after Amy breaks it off with Sheldon, the lady is not for turning – much to Sheldon’s chagrin.

It’s advisable for fans to lower their expectations for the long-awaited wedding. It’s as unromantic as you can get: a conveyor-belt package in Las Vegas with Penny’s vows comprising a Disney song. 

America certainly didn’t much care for the episode. The bulk of the ensuing Twitter reaction last month was negative or expressed disappointment.

Sheldon, meanwhile, is slammed for being immature and selfish – aspects of his never-labelled condition, of course – but he now becomes bitter and, frankly, nasty. 

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of drama to shake things up and inject some spice. In many ways it’s courageous for the writers to open a season with such a different approach. The trouble is that the gags – the one thing you can usually rely on in TBBT – are in desperately short supply. And by the end you might be gasping from all the cynicism.

Part of the problem is the much-publicised crazy-money that the show’s stars are paid (the three main players get $1 million an episode). And when there’s a dip in quality, people understandably start questioning value for money.

However, it’s not all doom or indeed gloom. After tonight’s spluttering start, the spark plugs start to do their job in next week’s instalment. It’s still not vintage BB, but a noticeable improvement. Fun with Flags is back, the lines are a little crisper and there are a couple of sorely needed “ahhh” moments. 

So let’s hope the Hadron Collider of hilarity starts firing once again.

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The Big Bang Theory series nine starts tonight at 8:30pm on E4. Catch the last episode of series eight at 8pm