It may surprise some to learn that Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre’s The Big Bang Theory is quickly moving into position as one of the most watched American sitcoms in television history. Indeed, The Big Bang Theory has something in common with the earlier leader Friends. Both shows feature casts of attractive and incredibly talented young people in the midst of life. While Friends had the courage to supply an anthropologist/paleontologist to the watcher’s world, The Big Bang Theory has gone far beyond, treating us to a hodge-podge collection of scientists, physicists, and intellectuals unmatched in TV history.
Central to the show is Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), a theoretical physicist, acknowledged to be one of the great minds alive today. Sheldon continues his work toward a Nobel Prize, redefining the universes infinite and subatomic. Blackboards with myriad equations fill every set and cranny at the California based college where Sheldon and his three closest friends do their thinking and teaching.
Sheldon Cooper climbs the stairs to his apartment, the elevator having exploded in an early episode, and rents a room to fellow physicist Leonard (Johnny Galecki). Galecki, some remember played David, the downtrodden boyfriend of Darlene (Sara Gilbert) on TV’s Roseanne. We enjoyed the pairing of Darlene and David, not beat, not hip, just pained and thoughtful. Leonard is still downtrodden. Although a Nobel-level physicist himself, he can’t hold a candle to Cooper. Darlene we knew as the soul-tormented, mother-tormented daughter of Roseanne (Roseanne Barr). Darlene will be long remembered for her heart-wrenching poem, To Whom It May Concern; “Life is hard for a girl like me…” and she is brighter and better in her visits to Big Bang. Now as Leslie Winkle, she is Sheldon’s nemesis; the only scientist in the scholastic world that can pull his strings. She calls him “Dumb Ass,” and has been known to add insight on his equations.
Leonard is often seen in the company of neighbor Penny. Penny with Leonard and, of course, Sheldon are the heart and soul of the twenty-first Century’s greatest sitcom. Penny worked with John Ritter and Katey Sagal on 8 Simple Rules… for Dating My Teenage Daughter, a great sitcom unfortunately cut short by the sudden tragic death of John Ritter. Penny has a wondrously expressive face and she moves the plot with every line, and that’s no easy matter. She is a treat for the eyes,
and we love her wardrobe, including those silly shorts she sleeps in. Penny has come to Pasadena to be an actress, and she works at the Pasadena “Cheesecake Factory.” Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) once quipped, “She does know we’re nerds, doesn’t she?”
Howard Wolowitz is one of the four scientists/buddies the show is about. He hasn’t got a clue as to what to do with women. He suspects it has something to do with ascots, but he’s not quite certain what. Howard is a space technician; he developed the waste disposal system used in the orbiting U.S./Russian space station. He sometimes needs to visit there and doesn’t enjoy weightlessness. Howard is a little short and mightily Jewish. He lives with his mother, whom we never see, but often hear (voice of Carol Ann Susi). “I’m on THE TOILET!!” she hollers, or, “Are you boys roughhousing??” “Ma,” Howard will say, “I’m a grown man!” In fact, the most smothered Jewish son in the world could never match Howard.
Life is good, and Howard, for all his ineptness with women has a girlfriend, now wife. Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) is an incredibly sweet young thing. Bernadette is the only girl in the world who could love Howard, and she does. Howard never seems to realize that when he isn’t paying attention, she barks much like his mother, and the pair will be happy forever.
Who is this Sheldon Cooper fellow? He calls himself “Nuevo Homo-Sapien” ; first wave of a new order. It’s hard to be the world’s smartest human, and Parsons is entirely believable in the part. When Penny asks the guys, “What’s Sheldon’s thing? Girls? Boys?… Sock Puppets?” They agree he doesn’t have a thing!
Sheldon has a friend who is a girl, but not his girlfriend (he reminds us) in Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik).. Amy Farrah Fowler we remember as none other than Blossom, a role she played as a child from 1990 until 1995 in those early days of television. She was lovable then, and still is. When Amy Farrah Fowler plays with the girls — “I’m a girl…” — she is the first to suggest they explore the possibilities intrinsic within an electric vibrating toothbrush. She has trouble with boys; she develops a comical case of Tourette’s syndrome wherein she can only say “Whoo!?” and finds it hard to stop saying that. Amy Farrah Fowler is a biochemist, and she can slice up cadaverous brain tissue with one hand, while munching lunch with the other. The pair of Amy and Sheldon brings non-stop laughter and lots of fun.
A pleasant feature of The Big Bang Theory is its faithfulness to 21st century life. Penny is happy with Leonard, but Sheldon is always the dominant male (“She’s sitting in my spot!”) and Penny accepts gracefully. When Penny falls in a slippery bathtub and breaks her arm, Sheldon is the only one there to assist. He has to close his eyes and turn his back to help her dress for the hospital. “That’s not your arm I’m holding — is it?” Sheldon notes. With her trademark, hopeless look Penny manages an “Uh…. no,” bringing the audience to gales of laughter. But in a later episode, when Sheldon continuously expresses concern about her ‘check engine’ light, and then is determined to play a game based on the periodic table of the elements, Penny demands “get out,” and to his chagrin, Sheldon finds himself afoot.
Penny brings light to Big Bang. When Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), the fourth of the male leads, makes it apparent that he has a painful crush on Penny, she winds up cuddled under the covers with the poor boy. Raj Koothrappali is perhaps the most significant Indian boy – India, the country – in American television, and his presence in the cast will change the world.
Koothrappali is a physicist in his own right. He regularly corresponds with his wealthy parents in India via internet video chat. He develops a major case of situational mute-ism (can’t say a word) when he must talk to a girl; but a sip of alcohol brings out the “Hi, there!” in him. Give him a close watch, and learn to love him, actor and character. Raj, we should mention is best, best pals with Howard. The two are inseparable and clearly need one another. When the plot gets going, Raj will lean over to whisper to Howard, who enjoys the relation muchly.
The writers of The Big Bang Theory have brought light to the world. We wonder how they produce such excellence in several episodes each year. Working with Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, and the supporting cast, they have created a work inspired and inspirational. They have exceeded anything earlier in television. The mind boggles and praises their work. Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre are the program creators, and team with Steven Molaro as head writers. The CBS writer staff is on officially recorded as Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, Lee Aronsohn, Robert Cohen, Eric Kaplan, Eddie Gorodetsky, and Stephen Engel.
Chuck Lorre wrote for Grace Under Fire, Dharma & Greg, Roseanne and Cybill. Bill Prady worked with Walt Disney, and with the Muppets, including Muppetworld. Lee Aronsohn wrote for Two and a Half Men, Who’s the Boss, and Cybill. Steven Molaro wrote for What I Like About You, and has three prime-time Emmys.
If you haven’t seen the Big Bang Theory, or are put off by your preconceptions, do not hesitate to tune it. It’s well worth your time.
Photos: The Big Bang Theory