Typically, when one thinks of a laugh-track-laden sitcom, the idea is that the laugh track is there to cover up the fact that no viewer is actually laughing. This is not the case with The Big Bang Theory, one of the smartest and funniest sitcoms on TV. Oh sure, there’s a laugh track in the show, but viewers probably won’t notice it much because they’ll be too busy laughing themselves.
While the third season of the show, now available on DVD, isn’t quite as strong and hilarious as the stellar second season, it’s still exceptionally good. This season, Leonard (Johnny Galeki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) finally become boyfriend and girlfriend, and though it’s typical for sitcoms to start going downhill when the couple that’s meant to be together finally does (like Niles and Daphne on Fraiser or, to a lesser extent, Tim and Pam on The Office), the show feels oddly strengthened by their pairing due to the superb writing and continued outstanding performances.
You see, Leonard and Penny don’t have the kind of fairy tale “happily ever after” dating life that drags down so many other sitcoms, but their genuine affection for each other comes across so real that even though they hit some really rough patches, you still want to see them together even though it seems unlikely that things will ever reach “happily ever after.”
Howard (Simon Helberg) also gets a girlfriend this season, though his relationship with Bernadette (Melissa Rouch) is a little less thought-out, as her eventual departure from the show is merely handled with a comment about breaking up after several episodes find her character absent.
As for the rest of the main cast, Sheldon (played to comedic brilliance by Jim Parsons) continues to be a eloquent, obsessive and immature while Raj (Kunal Nayyar) remains unable to speak to women without liquor flowing through him.
Some of the highlights of season three include a sleep-deprived Sheldon hiding from Leonard in a kiddie restaurant ball pit, Howard going goth, Raj getting a shirt that plays music and sound effects, Leonard watching football with Penny’s friends, the guys getting stoned while camping, and Sheldon facing off with Wil Wheaton in a fateful game of Mystic Warlords of Ka’a.
In my review of the second season, I remarked that one of the first season’s flaws (that of Sheldon not being allowed to appear vulnerable) was thankfully rectified, yet the problem of bafflingly obscure and too-clever titles for each episode continued unabated. In season three, things look to be slowly getting better with episode titles like “The Wheaton Recurrence” obviously about Sheldon once again facing off against his nemesis, Wil Wheaton, and “The Large Hadron Collision” about the problem Leonard faces when attempting to take Penny with him to Switzerland to see the Large Hadron Collider instead of Sheldon. That doesn’t mean that every episode has a clear title, though. Take for example, “The Pirate Solution” wherein the title refers to a throw-away comment deep within the episode or “The Gorilla Experiment” about Sheldon attempting to teach Physics to Penny, which he compares to teaching Koko the gorilla sign language.
The three extras on this DVD set include the typical Gag Reel, a dumb MTV Cribs-style “Set Tour with Simon and Kunal” and a featurette called “Takeout with the Cast of The Big Bang Theory.” The latter is essentially a question and answer forum, set in the unique manner of having the cast open fortune cookies that contain the questions inside.
While not for newbies to the series, season three of The Big Bang Theory is sure to be a hit with fans. It chiefly serves up “more of the same” compared to the seasons before, but when you’re talking about a show as delicious as this one, that’s far from a bad thing.