Created by: Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady
Starring: Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg
It’s hard to think of a combination of characters that has not been used in a sitcom, but Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady have actually come up with an original. Take four geeks, an attractive blonde and a good dollop of sexual tension and you’ve got The Big Bang Theory.
With any sitcom it’s the characters that are important. It doesn’t matter what kind of situation the writers can dream up if the people you’re watching aren’t interesting then it’s not worth the thirty minutes. So who is The Big Bang Theory?
First up is Leonard, played by Johnny Galecki. Leonard is a physicist working at Cal Tech who is content to hang out with his buddies and co-workers, Sheldon, Rajesh and Howard playing MMORPGs, collecting science fiction memorabilia, and solving the mysteries of the universe, in short living Hollywood’s idea of the perfect geek lifestyle. That is until Penny moves in across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. Penny’s arrival awakens in Leonard a longing for something he didn’t realize he was missing, namely a relationship with Penny. Leonard is the kingpin of the show. It’s his infatuation with Penny that provides the arc of the first season plus he’s the most socialized of the guys and kind of serves as our liaison to the world they live in.
Then there is his roommate Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons, a former child prodigy with two PhD’s and a Masters He is head and shoulders smarter than the others, a fact that he takes great pride in. His intelligence and total lack of empathy fuel his arrogance and narcissism, but as cruel as he is sometimes it stems from his ignorance of social norms not any actual innate meanness. Sheldon gets a lot of the best lines, but since he’s the supposed to be the most intelligent of the group he also ends up with more than his share of tecnhospeak which Jim manages to make sound not necessarily natural, Sheldon acting natural wouldn’t seem natural anyway, but believable.
And living across the hall is Penny, played masterfully by Kaley Cuoco. Penny is a sweet Midwestern girl who has moved out to California to escape Nebraska. She works at the Cheesecake Factory and at one point mentions that she’s writing a screenplay but mostly she’s a foil for Sheldon and a potential love interest for Leonard. Still it’s easy to see how Leonard falls for her and she’s always got a twinkle in her eye when she manages to one up Sheldon.
Rounding out the ensemble is Rajesh and Howard. Rajesh, played by Kunal Nayyar, is, as you may have guessed, Indian. At the beginning of the season that and his pathological inability to speak with women is about the depth of his character. Over the course of the season we learn that Rajesh can actually speak to women if he’s drunk or taking experimental medication that has humorous side effects. Chuck Lorre described Kunal as “our Harpo” in the bonus features. Chuck may have been engaging in a bit of hyperbole but Kunal is a great physical comedian. Good enough that I find myself hoping that he never overcomes his neuroses. Howard, played by Simon Helberg is a little guy with a big confidence problem. He’s got way too much. He’s a legend in his own mind. It doesn’t seem to make a difference that he can hit on women in six different languages he nearly always gets shot down. Howard possesses an unwavering optimism though that keeps you from cringing as he faces constant rejection and keeps you laughing as he gets rebuffed time after time.
Once you’ve got your characters you can start to build the humor and this show is funny. It’s laugh out loud traditional sitcom humor, but at the same time, I’m not sure how they did this, it’s fresh. One thing that I was afraid of with the set up of this show is that the geeks would be the butt of all the jokes, and sure that’s where some of the humor comes from but you can tell the writers love these characters and most of the time you’re laughing with them not at them. The dialog is snappy and witty and like I mentioned before some of the physical comedy from Kunal is simply great.
One thing that really impressed me about this show is how strong it is right from the start. Some of the best episodes were in the first third of the season. This really does not feel like the first season of a sitcom, you get the impression that all these people have been working together for a long time. They keep up the pace as well. Of all seventeen of the episodes there’s only two that I would consider weak, one’s that I skip forward through if I’m watching them all again. Which is something I’ve done too many times, I need to loan this to somebody just to get it out of the house. After watching all the episodes a couple of times one thing that struck me is how much I liked these characters and how little I actually know about them. On reflection this strikes me as very clever. The characters, through the combination of the writing and acting, are strong enough that you don’t need to know every little detail. Those details can be parsimoniously dribbled out over the next hopefully ten or so seasons.
The wide screen video is good for a television show. The pilot episode was a little grainy maybe and not quite as sharp as the rest of the episodes, but it was far from bad. The show uses a bright, vivid color palette, but even so the only problems with the video that I could perceive were some moiré around sharp horizontal lines. Nearly all of the shots have a deep focus so the backgrounds are as crisp as the foregrounds. The blacks are deep and rich and the skin tones look good.
The audio is presented in Dolby Stereo with subtitles in English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese and Thai. The mix is good and even with the dialog easy to hear and understand, the laugh track gets noticeable after a while. Having it buried a little deeper in the mix would have been nice. The jokes are good enough that you don’t need prompting to know when you’re supposed to laugh.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in the standard Amaray case with a cardboard slipcase. Instead of using multiple cases two of the three discs are stored on an insert that fits inside the standard size case. I like the fact that they put all three discs in a single width case. The fancier cases may be nice but they take up a lot of unnecessary space on the shelf. The artwork is a little posed but manages to sum up the show excellently in one image. There is not a lot of bonus material, just a featurette consisting of interviews with the creators and the cast. Come on at least give me a commentary on the pilot.
Whether this is an accurate depiction of genius geeky physicists or not I’m not fit to judge, but it doesn’t really matter because the show creators and cast have managed to create an interesting bunch of characters that you really do sympathize with. I can’t say that I’ll go out of my way to watch it as it is broadcast, but I will hunt down the second season DVD’s when ever they come out.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features5/10
Overall (Not an Average)8/10