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TV Review: The Big Bang Theory

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Instead of writing an intelligent review of CBS's only new fall sitcom, I'm tempted to use big words and scientific-looking graphics to disguise the emptiness underneath. But you'd quickly realize that's neither funny nor clever nor interesting, and flee.

That's pretty much how I feel about The Big Bang Theory, which focuses on two nerds who live next door to the attractive but dim Penny. We know Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) are intelligent because they have nerd names, wear mismatched clothes, have whiteboards filled with equations in their living room, and refer to theorems and scientists. However, these are hyperintelligent people who never say anything intelligent.

Galecki and Parsons are nebbishly adorable – Parsons in particular seems to be having a lot of fun as uptight, 'wouldn't recognize fun if it was embedded in a mathematical equation' Sheldon. The boys and their friends represent various species of nerd varieties, including Howard (Simon Helberg), the nerd who thinks he's a ladies man, and Rajesh (Kunal Nayyar), the nerd who can't talk to women. They speak Klingon and wear pocket protectors and glasses and, of course, never say anything remotely intelligent.

But as the object of Leonard's desire, Kaley Cuoco is too bland in a role any number of young actresses could have better filled. My biggest problem with her character is that she is given nothing to do but be a bimbo in skimpy clothes. She is written and acted with no charm or sweetness that could make his yearning justified as anything other than the premise for a sitcom that already feels stretched thinner than a singularity by the end of the first half hour.

It all adds up to an intellectually lazy sitcom about intellectually gifted people, by writer/producers Chuck Lorre of Two and a Half Men and Bill Prady of Good Morning Miami. Directing the pilot is James Burrows, who was involved with the actually intelligent sitcom about intelligent people, Frasier.

To be fair, if the criteria for a successful sitcom is one that makes us laugh a couple of times in a half hour — though are our standards so low? — then The Big Bang Theory is a success. One example of a joke that lands solidly is this exchange, as Leonard stares wistfully at Penny:

Leonard: Our kids will be beautiful and smart.

Sheldon: Not to mention imaginary.

Most proposed shows never make it to the pilot stage. Most pilots never make it to series. Most new series aren't successful. Given that, and my general lack of precognition, I rarely make predictions about which new shows will find an audience. But in a time when Two and a Half Men is the most successful sitcom around, The Big Bang Theory's similar tone and pedigree makes me think this one's got a decent shot.

And because another truth about pilots is that they're never as good as the eventual series they spawn, I have some hope that if it doesn't rely so heavily on the unrequited lust, and relies instead on the charm of the two physicists — yes, I said charm and physicists in the same sentence — The Big Bang Theory's potential success might not even make my brain explode.

The Big Bang Theory premieres Monday, September 24 at 7:30 p.m. on CBS, in the cozy spot between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men.

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About Diane Kristine Wild

Diane travels. She doesn't tan.
  • Sounds like fun! I got the distnct impression that it was not going to be all that good from the commercials. The sitcom landscape is pretty grim at the moment. Thank God for NBC Thurdsday with the best ones in a big group.

  • JCB

    I agree with chris…it looks like NBC is shaping up a nice monday with this show. Maybe we are seeing different things. I thought it looked interesting.

  • It’s always a matter of taste of course. I’m not a fan of Two and a Half Men either. I didn’t much like The Big Bang Theory but I’m predicting others will, especially people who do like 2 1/2. So yeah, smart timeslot for it, for sure.

  • Scott

    I love Two and Half Men. I saw the pilot for The Big Bang Theory and loved it. I have not laughed that much during a sitcom pilot in a long time. The Big Bang Theory is sort of like a younger version of Two and Half Men. As you say, myself and other Two and Half Men lovers will love this show. And let’s be honest, there are a lot of Two and Half Men lovers out there. More than for any other sitcom.

  • Ron

    The Big Bang Theory is hilarious. It made the top 10 new Fall shows list from USA Today.

    It also got all thumbs up from Variety’s blogger season pass chart

    It also is # 4 among the Yahoo most buzzed shows for searches on Yahoo.

  • Just to be clear, My “fun” comment was sarcasm. Nothing I have seen related to BBT looked all that good. All of the best sitcoms are currently on Thursday. With the notable exception of Everybody Hates Chris on Monday.

    BBT will most likely end up like its predecessor, The Class, canceled and forgotten.

    “And let’s be honest, there are a lot of Two and Half Men lovers out there. More than for any other sitcom.”
    Doesn’t make it good. It’s popularity is as puzzling as W&G’s was.

  • RealPhysicist

    This show looks like junk. It relies on stereotypes that are sometimes true, but more often are not. I know this because I am a physics grad student. The jokes look retarded, and just NOT FUNNY. Also, most physicists I know do have girl/boyfriends, and husbands/wives/significant others. They like sports and movies. They go to bars and drink and have fun. In other words, they are NORMAL PEOPLE that just happen to be good at math and science, and enjoy working in a field that uses their brain. Oh, and I HATE Star Trek, SG-1, and all that other crap. Star Wars (original trilogy) was pretty cool though.

  • Bob Jones

    So there are two geeks on TV, why does everybody think they MUST be representative of every geek? Its a show, they are two charcters who are geeks, it doesn’t mean every geek is like that … why would you assume it does?

    I guess all black people are like Urkel then?

    The show seems like rather dumb, harmless fun, those looking for deeper social meaning really need to wander further afield than a Chuck Lorre sitcom.

  • LinuxLinus

    I was unlucky enough to watch a sneak preview of this pilot, and it was God-awful — insulting, idiotic tripe with a hyperactive laughtrack and a completely moribund sense of humor. You couldn’t pay me to watch it.

  • Bob Jones

    I just don’t understand what is insulting … either you’re like that (as a geek) or you’re not, if you are – laugh.

    I saw this show, they’re not stereotypical – I mean the bandwidth, MySpace jokes were relevant to geeks (me atleast).

    Why do people think because there is a character on TV who is a geek, he must be representative of all geeks?

    All geeks aren’t afraid of women and all those afraid of women aren’t geeks, its just an interest combination.

  • Scott

    I saw the pilot and loved The Big Bang Theory. I will definitely be watching. Very, very funny show.