It All Started with a Big Bang

25-Jan-10 1:45 PM by
Filed under Television; 3 comments.

I've now had a month to play with and evaluate my Christmas bounties and have come to a conclusion: the thought and care that went into my handmade Pac-Man scarf puts it on top, but the first two seasons of Big Bang Theory on DVD made for a close match.

True to the conjecture that "the geek shall inherit the Earth", we finally seem to be in an era where it's hip to be a geek. The world runs on the Internet and is beholden to those who have mastered it, while the success of movies like Batman and TV shows such as Battlestar Galactica are evidence of the consumer power of the geek demographic.

Big Bang TheoryBig Bang Theory puts those geeks in the spotlight with two cohabitating physicists, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons). Together with co-workers Howard (Simon Helberg of Dr. Horrible) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar), they play Halo and Dungeons & Dragons, attend Star Trek conventions and costume contests, and postulate about quantum mechanics and string theory. When Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a cute Cheesecake Factory waitress, moves in next door, Leonard tries to get her attention without abandoning his esoteric lifestyle. Hilarity ensues.

Although the show does play to some stereotypes, it does so respectfully. Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, and Raj are respected by their peers and are successful in and fulfilled by their careers and hobbies. The humor arises not from lampooning what it means to be a geek as much as it does by highlighting the culture clash that occurs when geeks try to interact with the rest of society. Besides, how could the show poke fun at geeks when the geeks in the audience can empathize with so many of the jokes? This is a show about laughing with, not at, the heroes.

Although adorable and well-intentioned Leonard is ostensibly the star of the show, the scenes are often stolen by Sheldon, who exaggerates the geek archetype by proving himself completely devoid of emotion. Imagine a creature as logical as Spock but with a complete unawareness of the existence of other organisms' emotions or how to be sensitive to them. Such extreme snarkiness is unattractive, but it makes Sheldon's occasional humanity all the more surprising.

Take this scene from the second season's Christmas episode. Sheldon, not knowing what price range his gift from Penny will fall under, has prepared several gifts to give her based on the value of what he receives. Once he has received and evaluated her gift, he intends to sneak away to choose the appropriate reciprocation.

Would any of us have reacted any differently? (The fact that you're reading Showbits in the first place suggests "no".)

From the opening number performed and sung by Barenaked Ladies to the epilogue, each episode is a riot of intelligent, witty humor. If you liked the superior stylings of Frasier, you'll like Big Bang Theory. My thanks to those who took a chance on introducing me to this series for Christmas.

3 Responses to “It All Started with a Big Bang”

  1. Steven Weyhrich adds:

    Oh, yeah. That's what I'm talkin' about.

  2. Eric Shepherd adds:

    Yes, this is easily the best thing on TV nowadays, especially in the comedy department, and is among my favorite shows of all time. I've watched many of the episodes literally dozens of times.

  3. Ken Gagne adds:

    Almost all my TV these days is hour-long sci-fi, such as The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Heroes. Big Bang Theory is really something special for me to break out of that genre and add it to my must-see list.