Big Bang Theory : Are Amy and Bernadette Helping or Hurting the Series?

What's going on with the Big Bang Theory these days? I understand a show needs to branch out out from the regular cast and bring on a few supporting characters and/or love interests. When Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik were cast as Bernadette and Amy, I didn't mind at first. It was about time Howard's desperate and borderline creepy attempts at love actually amounted to something and the addition of Amy as a girlfriend (of sorts) for Sheldon had the potential to bring a new dimension to the Sheldon we've always known and loved.

But now that they've been around for a while, I'm kind of sick of them. While Amy has introduced a few (however minor) feelings in Sheldon, a recent episode proved that he still largely cares only about himself. When she told him about her paper being published, he was dismissive of her and her field, despite previous boasting about her intelligence. His apology gift wasn't even based on real remorse (although I admit her reaction to the tiara was funny). Sheldon still appears stilted. Will he ever change at all? And if not, what's the point of Amy? Is it just for her to make awkward jokes about Penny's beauty all the time? Personally I think they should have given her a few more dates with Stewart to finally give the girl more to do; maybe then I'd care more about her.

As for Bernadette and Howard, they are becoming boring for me. Howard is as stilted as Sheldon: Still living at home, still living under the thumb of his invisible mother, unwilling to change or move out. Last week's episode revealed that Bernadette hates kids. While interesting and a little amusing, the birthday party wasn't as funny as I was hoping. Bernadette's anger seemed too quick and overdone. But I'm interested in the resolution at the end of the episode: Howard will stay home and raise their future kids while Bernadette works and makes the money -- will that hold up? Will they even get that far? Can Howard give up engineering for his future children? That would be a big change for a character that hasn't compromised very much so far.

With the ushering in of these new characters, I also find myself missing the days of Sheldon, Raj, Howard, Leonard and Penny sitting around, eating their usual takeout with their usual banter. It's been so long since we've seen an interaction with all of the guys and Penny without Amy or Bernadette present. Even Raj seems to have been relegated to a supporting character with these new ladies around. When was the last time they gave that guy a real love interest or story arc? The last thing I can think of was his crush on Bernadette, and even that didn't amount to very much.

Also, the writers need to give Penny more to do than drinking all the time and looking awkward next to Amy's weird compliments. They haven't given her another acting job or even another love interest in so long. I'm as happy as anyone that this week's episode teases a return to the possibility of Leonard and Penny, I just hope they do it right. My favourite Penny moments are when she's figuring things out with Leonard or verbally sparring with Sheldon.

The first few seasons of Big Bang had me laughing out loud, even when watching alone, but I've started to watch it in the background as I do other things. I hope they find a way back to what I consider the core of the show, which is the guys' relationship with each other and with Penny.

But I put it to you, Big Bang fans, am I wrong? Do you like Amy and/or Bernadette? Did you enjoy the first new episode of the new year?