Thursday, March 25, 2010

'The Big Bang Theory' Season One [dvd]

"The Big Bang Theory"
Starring Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco
Created by Chuck Lorry and Bill Prady

I don't often care for sitcoms.  In my household growing up, I was often subjected to the overly-sugary, bubblegum adventures of "Full House" or "Step By Step."  After a while, as my tastes diverged from those of my other family members, these shows became grating.  As I learned more about TV production, became more interested in more mature and impressive shows, the gag-setup-cue-laughtrack form of sitcom TV became less and less appealing to me.  Hearing a studio audience destroys my attention to the world being created on-screen.  It makes the shows seem much more staged and artificial, whereas I prefer to be engrossed in a more natural world - no matter how absurd that world may be.

These days, I prefer sitcoms like "The Office" or "30 Rock" that don't employ open sets and laugh tracks in the typical manner.  These sitcoms develop characters and rules for their fictional universes, and with camera work and better lighting, come across as more mature productions.

"The Big Bang Theory" came to me highly recommended, and I gave it a chance, despite not being a fan of the format.  "The Big Bang Theory" is an enjoyable enough show, but still suffers from all those things I hate about sitcoms.  Dialogue has a certain rhythm to it, everyone pauses after delivering what one hopes will be a witty remark, and the likely nonexistent audience reacts raucously each time, no matter how unfunny or esoteric a comment might be.

The show chronicles the misadventures of social misfits Leonard and Sheldon, two nerdy genius physicists living together.  Their lives consist mostly of work and nerdy pursuits like "Halo" night, buying sci-fi movie props on eBay and eating at the same restaurants on a schedule.  One day, this life is thrown out of whack when an attractive new neighbor moves in across the hall.  Leonard quickly develops a crush on gorgeous Penny, even though her IQ can't nearly match hers.  What she can do, however, is teach Leonard and Sheldon how to function better in social situations.

The bulk of the season consists of building a variety of situations in which Leonard gets to pine after Penny, while Sheldon is socially oblivious or obnoxious.  There are numerous misunderstandings that require Leonard to apologize to Penny for some slight, which he believes will ultimately mean they won't get together.

The characters are likeable, and well-played by an able cast.  Penny's voice can, at times, grate, but she's easy on the eyes and has solid comedic timing.  She's able to react well enough to Sheldon's various obnoxious routines, many of which offend her.  Why she continues to put up with his presence is often beyond me.  The problem with Sheldon is that at times he comes across as socially inept, or oblivious, and sometimes he just comes across as an asshole.

The show is enjoyable enough.  There were a few gags here or there that I found laugh-out-loud funny, but for the most part, "The Big Bang Theory" is a chuckler.  I like it enough to keep watching, but it's not destined to become a favorite that I'll return to over and over.

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that this show employs a live audience, and not a 'laugh track'.  Regardless, the style is the same and doesn't change the review.  A show would never make it to air without laughter at all the parts the producers wanted it, so whether the laughter is live or simply cued really makes no difference any any way other than that the quality of that particular sound will vary.  Compare this with something like "The Daily Show", where you know when a joke bombs - in a sitcom, there's an eruption of laughter no matter how unfunny the material.