Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"The Big Bang Theory" Season 2 [dvd]

"The Big Bang Theory" Season 2 [dvd]
Starring Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco
Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady

A quote from 'Entertainment Weekly' on the back of the box proclaims "The Big Bang Theory" is "TV's funniest traditional sitcom."  If that's true, then traditional sitcoms are in more trouble than I thought.  As middling as the first season was, this second collection of episodes of "The Big Bang Theory," the story of a group of nerds and their hot blond neighbor, is even more so.  While the first season finale managed to move the show forward a step by having Leonard (Galecki) and Penny (Cuoco) finally go out on a date, season two does what all terrible sitcoms do: sacrifice story progression in favor of a frustrating status quo. 

We're immediately back to where we were in season one, with Leonard and Penny not dating each other (despite clearly being interested in doing so) for reasons that are thinly manufactured and obnoxious.  By the time the second season finale rolls around, you think maybe the writers might attempt to regrow the little balls they'd had at the end of season one and attempt to move forward again... but they don't.  The season finale is limp, substandard even by the low bar set by the rest of this collection.  Nearly every episode features dull, lazy plots that often aren't even resolved.  When the next episode starts, we're reset back to normal with no mention of anything that happened in the previous episode, regardless of whatever weight or revelation it might have entailed. 

Hell, I'll throw out spoilers here, because I'm just so damned frustrated - In one episode, Penny goes out on a disastrous date with a comic book store employee named Stuart.  Whilst making out with Stuart, she calls him "Leonard", and Stuart reveals this to Leonard, who rejoices.  And then what does Leonard do with this information?

Absolutely nothing.

The second season of "The Big Bang Theory" essentially amounts to absolutely nothing.  The characters are static, spewing nerdy pop culture references and opaque scientific technobabble without regard for things that make a TV show truly funny.  When they visit the comic book store, the audience laughs riotously when Penny innocently asks Sheldon (Parsons), "What's a multi-verse?"  Why is that funny?  Because she doesn't know what a multi-verse is?  Is it funny because of Sheldon's condescendingly dismissive reaction?  That joke was okay the first few million times this show used it, but the pattern has become entirely forced by now.  I have to give the show credit for even attempting a joke about the DC Multi-verse, but sometimes even get the pop culture references are off.  In one scene, Sheldon argues that the first "Star Trek" movie fails on every level, naming music and special effects... except that Jerry Goldsmith's score for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and ILM's effects work on that movie were both nominated for Oscars in 1979.  So where is Sheldon's derision coming from?  

The show works best when it leaves behind all those references and jargon and simply presents its characters in a plot that makes sense and has some progression.  When it takes those awkward fish out of the water and has them react to the world and the other people in it.  Sheldon's presentation to a group of graduate students is a riot; endless repetition of him belittling Penny is not.