The Big Bang Theory is a power fist in the air for every geek who's ever felt alienated or misunderstood. More than that, it's the hilarious comedy brought to you by a cast of relative unknowns who beat the odds as they head into their well-deserved third season.
The show is set in Southern California and follows two extremely intelligent CalTech physicists in their twenties, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), and their interactions with colleagues and friends from work as well as a beautiful aspiring actress/waitress, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), who lives across the hall and is the object of Leonard's affections. Building on the promise of the first season, season two finds Leonard and Penny continuing to flirt as Penny and Sheldon's friendship deepens. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Wallowitz (Simon Helberg) continue to infuse the show with awkward charm as their inability to make a good impression on women is a long-standing gag. Sheldon is the real star of the show, with his rigid insistence on routine and high opinion of his own intelligence. Among other flaws, there's his inability to bend for any reason, his refusal to share credit for discoveries, and his condescension, yet all of these come across as infinitely charming rather than annoying. The laughs are good-natured, and plots mostly center on small dilemmas such as Penny's foray into small business, or Sheldon's unwitting flirtation with a woman who idolizes him.
Though much of the show's technical lingo is often played for laughs and will fly over the heads of the audience, what remains is the relationships. Leonard and Sheldon are close, despite their differences, and their friendship with Penny is bringing them out of seclusion, as they in turn attempt to relate to her. And in truth, Penny is probably a lot nicer than most people would be to such societal recluses as Sheldon and Leonard. Penny is beautiful, desired, and socially accomplished in all the ways that many people value, while Leonard and Sheldon hold advanced degrees in one of the most complicated fields of science and can't seem to get a date. The show successfully plays these facts for laughs instead of endlessly mocking one side or the other.
As a side note, the show was created and is produced by Chuck Lorre, who also produces that monstrosity Two and A Half Men, (which is really more like Two and Three-Fourths Men at this point.) He also created Dharma & Greg, which was one of the most good-natured shows on television, and for this we shall forgive him his other mistakes.
The show doesn't stand on technical achievement or complex plotlines that require hours of dedicated viewership. It's a lighthearted, funny look at people who are too smart for their own good, being made to exist in a world that doesn't always measure up to their standards. Whenever Penny needs technical help or a shoulder to cry on, the guys are right there for her, and whenever they're having difficulty understanding women or culture at large, Penny is there to lend a hand. As friends become our families, as 20-somethings move away from college and home to find a new life, the friends that we surround ourselves with become that family we've left behind. What the five friends share is incredibly close to family, and while it's not clear where they're going, The Big Bang Theory is a welcome laugh in the swamp of mundane shows that have littered the television landscape as of late.
The season two packaging and special features aren't incredible, a functional case houses the DVDs themselves, and the supplemental material is limited to a gag reel, an exploration of the themes of the show, and an interview with David Saltzberg, the physicist who fact-checks the series. But the 22-episode season is infinitely re-watchable, and a must-have for any fan of the series.
The new season of The Big Bang Theory begins on Sept. 21, 2009. The DVD of the second season will be available from Amazon on Sept. 15, 2009.