As the Television Critics Assoociation awarded The Big Bang Theory the Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Award this year and I personally just caught up with the complete first season it seems this kind of synchronicity is suggesting I should review the UK release of the first season boxed set.
Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady this show centers around two geeky nerds, their closest friends and the attractive young woman who moves into the flat opposite them. Leonard (Johnny Galecki) is the most normal of the group, an intelligent if socially hampered young man, he's enamoured with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) the woman who moves into the flat opposite and befriends them. His two closest friends are Raj (Kunal Nayyar) who suffers from such extreme shyness around women he's rendered speechless, literally and Howard (Simon Helberg) who is an engineer and a terrible letch. Leonard also lives with Sheldon (Jim Parsons) a man so far up the nerdiness scale that he's almost some form of alpha nerd, or at least an omega one - perhaps the term uber-nerd or the gentlenerd's nerd is better...
Now, I've experienced bits of The Big Bang Theory on television before, and I always struggled to get into it and as such tended to switch off partway through an episode. But the release of the show on DVD allowed me to watch it from the very first episode. Initially I found somethings grated on my nerves, especially the laugh track, which is almost inappropriate at times - I do find laugh tracks annoying as they seem to be pleading with the viewer to laugh at the jokes. And in the pilot episode the laugh track managed to make everything feel unfunny until about halfway through the episode, where Sheldon's masturbation comment got it's first laugh out of me.
I've now managed to tune out the laugh track, it still annoys me if I think about it, but for the most part it's faded away from my consciousness. Mostly because the show is very good, while previous shows from these two, including Two and a Half Men, Dharma & Greg and Roseanne (amongst others) are all shows I've never really clicked with, The Big Bang Theory has succeeded. It's brought these four nerdy individuals to life and made each of them very likable and fun without going to far - many shows and films in the media tend to use the geek/nerd type as something to laugh at, but The Big Bang Theory positions them as something to laugh with. Leonard is an immensely endearing individual and a great 'straight man' for the other guys to play off, Raj's shyness hides a fun and sharp character and Sheldon is just the crowning achievement of the show. Penny is also fun and sympathetic and it's just Howard who's unlikable - but that's the point of Howard, so it's OK.
It is a crime not to mention how brilliant Jim Parsons is as Sheldon, so here we go. He's brilliant, best thing in the show and the number one reason to watch it.
In essence I'm saying that The Big Bang Theory's first season is quite brilliant, it's managed a great trick in giving us dorky, nerdy geeks who are human, positive and likable (instead of being pitied or joked about). This, along with Chuck is documenting a rise in the number of decent nerdy types being portrayed on TV, which is great - because the less "hyper-intelligent" characters like Zack (Bones) around on TV Shows the better.
I think it's also worth mentioning one point which I picked up on, The Big Bang Theory is very proud of how accurate it's nerdiness is, one of the extras goes into a whole thing about how they have a real physicist advising for all the physics sections to keep it authentic. But in the episode The Peanut Reaction the guys are sat around "playing" the Black Industries re-release of Talisman (4th Edition version) and I immediately picked up on the fact that they weren't playing by the proper rules as there were too many playing pieces on the board and Raj's dialog is complete nonsense*. This amused me, because the writers are willing to go to huge lengths for authentic nerd-osity in their Halo, their physics, film references and so many other things AND they went to the lengths of getting a suitably geeky game to play, but then skipped out on reading the rules to complete the authenticity. So close Big Bang Theory, oh so close!
The set itself is very simplistic, it's a standard DVD case with nothing fancy about it, the menus are rough and usable but nothing to write home about and there are just two extras on the discs. So there's not that much here for someone who has already watched the episodes, but the relatively low price of the set makes up for this a lot.
So as some kind of geek myself I give The Big Bang Theory approval and look forward to the second season being released on DVD.
Quantum Mechanics of The Big Bang Theory
A Behind the scenes look at Geek Chic
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Runtime: 358 mins
Subtitles: English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish
*For the record, this is because I collect board games and have a somewhat passionate interest in owning them and playing them with friends as a form of recreation.