In addition to becoming network television’s most popular scripted situation comedy in its third season, The Big Bang Theory finally garnered the industry respect it’d been missing when the show’s irreplaceable lead actor Jim Parsons took home an Emmy for his performance as the socially inept but brilliant physicist Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Slightly repetitive yet consistently funny, Big Bang carefully built on the progress that series creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady’s brainchild had made in the previous installments. Morphing from the original “Beauty and the Geeks” premise only to reinvent itself in the second season as a solid Comic Con generation’s “answer to Friends” as EW remarked, the third season saw their characters begin to evolve within their makeshift family unit.
And signaling the fact that change is in the air and that similarly Lorre and Prady’s writing staff isn’t afraid of taking major risks, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) graduates from nerd in heat to full blown romantic comedy leading man as his previously unrequited two year love for Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is boldly consummated in the season premiere instead of dragging it out until sweeps week.
Yet instead of immediately kicking the two in and out of bed as a frequently on-again/off-again Ross and Rachel style couple from the start, impressively the two embark on an actual relationship that never fails to keep us entertained throughout the twenty-two episodes that follow as boundaries are tested and both struggle to adapt, with a little help from Sheldon and company.
Pulling a Pygmalion first on Leonard by giving him a crash course in football and then Penny by giving her an overview of physics, Sheldon pushes the two alternately closer together and further apart in some of the season’s funniest moments, acknowledging that – however so slightly – Sheldon is changing as well.
And at times, even more than Leonard’s sweet, natural chemistry with Penny, it’s the scenes that the Cheesecake Factory waitress shares with the monologue spouting Sheldon that frequently take the series to another level.
From adorable moments wherein he takes Penny to the hospital and sings “Soft Kitty” in the round to her before actually being the one to initiate a hug at Christmas time to Sheldon’s more diabolical schemes wherein he tries to conduct a Pavlovian conditioning experiment on her without her knowledge by rewarding her for good behavior with chocolate, we realize that the two of them manage to play off of one another rather deliciously.
Obviously he’s still up to his usual “bazinga” tricks from jokes nobody seems to get to landing in jail for refusing to say he’s sorry. But without drastically altering his character by instead allowing the progression to occur much more naturally, this time around Sheldon seems to be a greater member of the group as opposed to the butt of every single outsider joke from pals Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg).
Unfortunately, while the actors are solid in the main ensemble storylines, the show still suffers slightly with some of the stale material the writers utilize for the characters who live outside the apartment building.
Namely, by this point we’ve gotten over the one-joke dimensionality of Raj’s inability to talk to girls without alcohol and the abrasive faux ladies man gags given to Howard whose screaming Jewish mother seems like a dated sitcom stereotype.
This being said, it’s well worth looking past some of the repetition along with the chuckle free recycled and/or predictable fodder that the rest of the ensemble sans Sheldon has to deliver from time to time as no doubt the thinly stretched screenwriters can’t be expected to knock all twenty-three episodes out of the park when you’re reminded that cable seasons are only half the length.
Luckily, as evidenced in this infectiously funny 3-disc DVD set, the quality of Big Bang is consistently high regardless of the quantity of shows that the Warner Brothers series is ordered to air each season.
Considering the blockbuster ratings, Parsons’ richly deserved Emmy and CBS’ gutsy decision to move the show to Thursday nights as opposed to its cushy Monday evening line-up neighboring Two and a Half Men, Big Bang is no doubt pushed even further under the microscope as it experiments with its recently launched fourth season.
Yet if the show continues to look to its past as it naturally evolves in the future, my theory is that regardless of the old-fashioned laugh track or tendency to rely a bit heavily on guest stars, Big Bang will continue to charm its way into the new decade.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD