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.