Chuck Lorre has been one of the more successful television producers in recent years, co-creating "Two and a Half Men" and "Dharma and Greg" (Lorre also wrote for "Cybill", "Grace Under Fire" and "Roseanne"), two shows that are examples of both excellent writing and stellar casting. "Big Bang Theory" is Lorre's latest, and it's difficult to compare to the creator's previous pair - while the series is mildly above-average as sitcoms go these days, the series just doesn't quite connect in the way that "Dharma and Greg" or "Two and a Half" did.
The series focuses on Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), two roommates who have the common thread of being physicists. However, while they are both quite intelligent, they haven't figured out how to use their smarts to generate the kind of social life that they want. Instead of spending time with women, the two wind up hanging out with their pals, Howard (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar).
However, Leonard and Sheldon get a pleasant surprise when Penny (Kaley Cuoco, of "8 Simple Rules") moves in across the hall. While she's not as brainy, the gorgeous girl is kind to her geeky neighbors and she ends up learning from them as they end up learning from her. She also brings a bit of common sense at times, such as in season one's "Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization", where the guys explain to her how they just turned down their stereo by routing a signal through the internet around the world and back. She explains to them that they sell universal remotes at radio shack for cheap.
The series has some very funny moments throughout the episodes, and the show's minor issues aren't with the writing - they're with the cast. Galecki, while a good actor, doesn't have great comedic timing. Cuoco has her moments, but it takes some time in the first season before the character really gets developed. The funniest performance in the series is Parsons, who not only has the best delivery and comedic timing, but his incredibly arrogant character also gets some of the best lines.
The second season of the series still relies on a one-joke concept - hot girl lives next to geeks and the "culture clash" between the two leads to laughs) - but the writing at least improves mildly, as the gags come a little faster and are less uneven (although the geek-chic one-liners can still seem a little forced on occasion, with the exception of a few gems - Galecki's character is cheered up when he's reminded that "...only 9 more months to Comic-con.") Parsons' character also gets more screen-time, which is certainly a boost to the show - he also gets most of the best lines, including ones like "You know, it's amazing how many supervillains have advanced degrees - graduate school should really do a better job of screening those people out." Cuoco and Galecki are still not high on my list of comedic talents, but they approach their roles with a little more confidence and their timing improves noticeably. Galecki is also better playing off former "Roseanne" castmate Sara Gilbert than he does Cuoco.
Some of the highlights of the second season include: "The Bad Fish Paradigm" (Penny confides in Sheldon when she's insecure about her smarts), "The Codpiece Topology" (After Leonard and Penny break-up, he rebounds to Sheldon's nemesis, Leslie - played by Gilbert), "The Euclid Alternative" (the guys finally talk Sheldon into learning on how to drive), "The Panty Pinata Polarization" (Penny violates some of Sheldon's weird house rules), "The Work Song Nanocluster" (Sheldon combines web commerce with his very first coffee), "The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition" (Penny feels her place in the building is in trouble when another hot blonde moves into the building and flirts with the guys) and "The Monopolar Expedition" (When the guys head to the Arctic for a Summer-long expedition, they discover the place to be oddly familiar.)
18 2-01 22/Sep/08 The Bad Fish Paradigm
19 2-02 29/Sep/08 The Codpiece Topology
20 2-03 06/Oct/08 The Barbarian Sublimination
21 2-04 13/Oct/08 The Griffin Equivalency
22 2-05 20/Oct/08 The Euclid Alternative
23 2-06 03/Nov/08 The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem
24 2-07 10/Nov/08 The Panty Piņata Polarization
25 2-08 17/Nov/08 The Lizard-Spock Expansion
26 2-09 24/Nov/08 The White Asparagus Triangulation
27 2-10 08/Dec/08 The Vartabedian Conundrum
28 2-11 15/Dec/08 The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis
29 2-12 12/Jan/09 The Killer Robot Instability
30 2-13 19/Jan/09 The Friendship Algorithm
31 2-14 02/Feb/09 The Financial Permeability
32 2-15 09/Feb/09 The Maternal Capacitance
33 2-16 02/Mar/09 The Cushion Saturation
34 2-17 09/Mar/09 The Terminator Decoupling
35 2-18 16/Mar/09 The Work Song Nanocluster
36 2-19 30/Mar/09 The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition
37 2-20 13/Apr/09 The Hofstadter Isotope
38 2-21 27/Apr/09 The Vegas Renormalization
39 2-22 04/May/09 The Classified Materials Turbulence
40 2-23 11/May/09 The Monopolar Expedition
VIDEO: "Big Bang Theory" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The series was certainly given terrific treatment on this first season DVD set, as the episodes looked better than I remember them appearing when they were first broadcast. Sharpness and detail are superb, and the image remained clear and well-defined throughout. While a few minor instances of shimmering were noticed, the picture otherwise was free of flaws. Colors had a very nice pop at all times, looking well-saturated and spot-on accurate.
SOUND: The show is presented with a crisp, clear stereo soundtrack. Dialogue, music and effects all seemed recorded well.
EXTRAS: "Physicist to the Stars" featurette (a discussion of UCLA professor David Saltzberg's contribution to the show), "Testing the Infinite Hilarity Hypothesis in Relation to the Big Bang Theory" (a featurette looking into the second season) and finally, a gag reel.
Final Thoughts: Although a few issues still persist, "Big Bang Theory" has shown some improvement in the second season, which is often pretty funny. The DVD edition offers fine audio/video quality and a few minor extras.