“Maths, science and history unravelling the mystery that all started with the Big Bang.”
For the uninitiated, The Big Bang Theory (created by Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre) tells the story of five friends’ interweaving lives, four of them comic book-loving science geniuses, the fifth a not-so-clever actress working as a waitress.
Two of the geniuses, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), are flatmates. The actress, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), lives across the hall from them in the same apartment block. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) resides alone elsewhere and Howard (Simon Helberg) is still living at home with his (unseen and wonderfully grouchy) Jewish mother.
They’ve all got their foibles: Sheldon, a hypochondriac with extreme OCD and a Spock fixation, Raj, who can’t talk to women unless he’s drunk, Howard, who is of the painfully misguided opinion that he’s a woman-magnet and Penny, desperate to find that big acting break. In fact, it’s only Leonard who seems to be about as normal as the rest of us and far less eccentric than his high-IQ-a-like cohorts (apart from his sleep apnoea).
The series picks up from where Season 1 left off, with Penny and Leonard in what can only be described as a pseudo-relationship. It’s clear from the interaction of the characters that this can’t last, in any sense of the imagination, and there’s more fun to be had playing with Leonard’s unrequited love for her.
As the series unfolds, the 23 stand-alone episodes can be viewed exactly as that, and the series’ own continuity doesn’t detract from the plot lines. It puts the characters in a selection of varying scenarios from paint balling to cottage industry production lines to the Mars Rover malfunctioning (on Mars).
Season 1 dealt with the guys getting to know Penny and in particular Leonard’s attempts to get to know Penny. Now they’ve got that out of their systems, it feels like the way is clear to really drill down to what makes these characters tick. Yes, Leonard’s pining for Penny is still there (and I can’t really blame him, especially when Kaley spends most of her screen-time in very small PJs) but the interaction has changed somewhat. And throughout it all is the double act ofPenny and – no, not Leonard – Sheldon.
They seem to share the most screen time together, or certainly have the most one-on-one scenes. At some point throughout the series they end up just the two of them and while the characters themselves are apparently not meant to get on, just like a very odd Odd Couple, it’s clear they have an enormous affection and respect for each other. This is emphasised by their falling out over Sheldon’s OCD and by Penny’s unabashed act of tenderness towards him when it’s his birthday. I’m not convinced that this pairing was a deliberate move on the part of the writers, but if it was, it was subtle and quite pleasantly unexpected. It changes the dynamics perhaps, but shows that clashing personalities can really get along.
Equally surprising was the episode dealing with Howard’s issues with women. The writing was gentle and it played on Penny’s role as the most emotionally stable out of them all. Howard’s ultimate response, however, brought us crashing back down with the warm knowledge that all four of the guys, especially him, are utterly crap when it comes to girls.
Season 2 commands a few cameos – Charlie Sheen to name but one – and guest stars – Summer Glau as, erm, Summer Glau and Christine Baranski (Mamma Mia!, Ugly Betty) in a fabulous turn as Leonard’s strait-laced mom.
Now, I’m no scientist and from a geek perspective, I like what I like, so I can’t say with hand on heart that I get all the in-jokes and scientific puns Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard bandy about. But I don’t think that matters, to be honest. (I guess I’m in Penny’s corner when it comes to that.) I like this series very much and there’s an air of contentment that it gives off. I think it’s because everyone has their place in the set-up and it shows that these characters (while at times becoming caricatures) do actually need each other, feed off each others’ neuroses and simply can’t exist without their friends. And isn’t that, in some ways, what we’re all like – no matter our IQ or what comics we buy?
There are very little extras for your money, but nevertheless entertaining all the same.
A 10-minute featurette on David Saltzberg, Physicist to the Stars, features the clever guy behind the long-drawn out sciencey speeches. He’s a real physicist too, and his own nerdometer reading certainly sky-rocketed on the explanation that, when he knew some of his students would be in the studio audience, he wrote the answers to the exam they had all just sat on a whiteboard in Sheldon’s and Leonard’s apartment. Genius. You might say.
Testing the Infinite Hilarity Hypothesis In Relation to the Big Bang Theory contains15 minutes of interview and clips with the main cast and creators, Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre. Nothing too reaching, but it’s clear that the cast absolutely adore the production they’re working on. It would have been nice to maybe have seen some read-throughs and rehearsals, but perhaps US television doesn’t work like that?
The Gag Reel is 10 minutes of bleeped out-takes. Less funny than the series itself – but I guess that’s a good thing.
Big Bang Theory Season 2 is out now.