As of the time of this posting, I still haven't seen the 31 March 2011 episode of TBBT. Please keep your spoilers out of my comments section (^_^)
Navigating the waters of interracial dating, especially in the public eye, is fraught with all kinds of landmines. I'd like to take a few moments to commend TBBT for doing so with both humor and sensitivity in the recent romantic developments between Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Priya Koothrappali (Aarti Mann), Raj's (Kunal Nayyar) sister.
It would be easy enough to play up Orientalist conceits for easy laughs and simple sight gags. For the most part, TBBT has avoided playing to the lowest common denominator. Instead of curry and spicy tandoori jokes, Slum Dog Millionaire jokes, and the like, most of the humor has come from Leonard trying not to be culturally insensitive.
For instance, Leonard feeling awkward about and apologizing for inviting Priya for Indian food, "or as you probably just call it, food." Or trying out techniques from the Kama Sutra. To whit, that joke was punchlined with something to the effect that if there was a book of sex for nerdy white guys, he wouldn't be offended if she wanted to call plays from it.
Mostly I enjoy this relationship because Aarti Mann is quite attractive and, being Raj's sister, she's used to dealing with nerds. Leonard asked if she would be willing to wear a Lt. Uhura costume for a little roleplay sex if he could "hypothetically" procure one. Her reply? That Rajesh had caused much family discomfort with his ownership of said costume.
I've still got my worries. Though the issue of sex has been handled with a fair about of maturity, it could easily devolve into mere exotic eroticism. Or Leonard's "sensitivity" could itself become racist by focusing too heavily on the difference.