Part of CBS’s comedy block, The Big Bang Theory didn’t make much of a splash at first, but it quickly grew an audience and loyal following. With a full seventeen episodes being made before the end of the first season, fans had plenty of time to get acquainted with the characters, unlike some other new shows this past season that were grossly affected by the writers’ strike, thus causing incomplete seasons and rushed storylines. Luckily for the fans of The Big Bang Theory, however, the show didn’t hinge on a single plot and instead is just a very easy to watch show that doesn’t require you to tune in each week—although you’ll certainly have more fun if you do.
When Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves in across from physicists Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), tension is immediately felt…well, from Leonard, anyway. Moments after laying eyes on her, Leonard begins to make a fool of himself around Penny, but soon the two have formed a strong friendship with one another. Penny isn’t the only thing Leonard has to worry about, however, as his over exact roommate Sheldon is constantly causing trouble for him, as are their two friends Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Rajnesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar).
I actually had never heard of The Big Bang Theory, likely because the CBS network is one of my least watched networks out of the big three. There isn’t a single show on CBS I watch…well, until now at least. While I was not amused, at first, by The Big Bang Theory, I found myself warming up to it about halfway into the pilot. I had assumed the series was another exploitation of geek culture, which, while it is, is not anything nearly as bad as I’d figured. The majority of the “geek” humor is centered on physicist’s jokes, so even as a nerd myself I can feel as lost as the majority of the audience watching this. XBOX and internet jokes are kept to a minimum, although there are quite a few present as well, but nothing about the show ever really screams out that it’s merely referencing pop culture, which was my main concern going into the show.
Once I became accustomed to the geek chic aspect of it, I had to warm up to another thing: the laugh track. I understand that some shows require a laugh track, but in the age of The Office, My Name is Earl, Scrubs, and 30 Rock, a laugh track feels so unnecessary. I feel that the writing in The Big Bang Theory is strong enough to allow the audience to laugh for themselves and while I had begun to slowly ignore the laugh track, it quickly jumped out at me again in the final episode of the season, when Penny recounts something she walked in her boyfriend doing something and the audience reaction was a big “ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” with a “snap” that could have easily followed. I’d learned to live with the laugh track up until that point…I just honestly despise the tracks. If the shows funny enough to work without it, then it should be required. In addition you know it’s all canned laughter, so unlike the days when the audience reaction was unique because it was filmed before a live studio audience, this canned laughter just doesn’t have the same effect.
Laugh track aside, there are some genuinely entertaining moments in this season and while I was pacing myself with only a few episodes a day, I came upon a day when I just burned through a disc in one sitting, so that whole “making it last” plan didn’t go so well. Still, whether it was the early “The Luminous Fish Effect” or the later “The Pork Chop Indeterminacy”, the writing quality never dipped in the season and really got a lot better as it went along. I was thoroughly entertained and impressed by every episode on the set, with only the “The Pancake Batter Anomaly” kind of grating on my nerves—I just don’t like episodes of TV shows where someone’s sick. Always makes you feel like you’re coming down with something.
Of course the characters are the main draw to the show, each of which brings their own thing to the table. Penny’s character doesn’t have much depth to her, but she’s not merely the “shallow, hot blonde” that the geeks are attracted to. To the character’s credit, she’s not ever played as being “dumb” and we never see her acting completely clueless for any reason, so she’s definitely not just eye candy for the show. As for our “geeks”, Leonard is the most well-rounded, with Howard playing the sleazy ladies man and Rajnesh the quiet one (there’s much fun had with that quality throughout the season). Sheldon is perhaps the most “nerd” of them all, playing everything straight forward and is the most socially disconnected from everything. I actually became annoyed with his character at several times in the series simply because he was almost a little too extreme, but it’s not always quite so bad.
It’s a very entertaining show to watch and also filled with some humorous in-jokes with Galecki’s character interacting with characters from his most popular previous show, Roseanne. Both Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf show up. At this rate I fully expect John Goodman and Roseanne Barr to pop their heads in at some point…which would be pretty awesome. In any case, I was really blown away by what the series had to offer and you’ll probably be surprised as I was to only count a few Star Wars jokes mixed in with the rest of the geek culture. I think that’s what made the show so appealing—you knew it was geekville and filled with nerddome, but it wasn’t as overloaded as one would expect. Highly Recommended.
Warner Home Video has slapped together a nice three-disc set for The Big Bang Theory, although upon further inspection it wasn’t entirely necessary. The set itself comes in a standard clear amaray disc case with the three discs housed inside with a booklet and double sided insert, with a cast image adorning the back of it. The front of the insert (the cover art) is mimicked on all three of the discs, while the booklet included has all of the disc content information as well as episode information. Menus are unanimated and simple to navigate with the Barenaked Ladies theme (another positive element of the show!) playing over the main menu (sub-menus are without sound).
While watching some of the episodes, I popped in the discs into my PC where I was surprised to see that the discs really weren’t taking up their full disc space. Disc 2 was barely over 4gb, which means they probably could have, very easily, shoved this season onto two discs without any quality concerns. “What about the extras?” you ask. What about them indeed.
Of course I’m sure someone would have complained about compression issues had they smashed it all onto two discs, so I guess its best they didn’t. In any case, the episodes look great, with plenty of detail and no real signs of over-compression or anything. It isn’t exactly the most color diverse show to judge, so there’s no real range colors—lots of muted elements, with the occasional electronical device that glows blue. The audio is a fair Dolby Surround Stereo mix; it’s all dialogue driven, so it makes sense to not waste time on a 5.1 mix, although if this show was broadcast in HD I’d think there’d be one by default. Kind of strange, but no big loss—as I said, this isn’t a show that requires a full on 1080p transfer and 5.1 lossless audio, so it’s no big deal. It makes for a nice little package.
Unfortunately for those wanting commentaries or a ton of fun little extras…you will get hardly anything. There’s a single “making-of” style featurette on the third disc of the set titled “Quantum Mechanics of The Big Bang Theory” (17:12) where we get to hear from cast and crew, but it’s really not as much as I’d hoped. I’m not big on deleted scenes, but some bloopers and commentaries really would’ve helped make this set feel less…barren. Seeing how much WHV put on the Terminator set and then compare it to this and it’s…really disappointing.
Overall this set is Recommended, but only for the episodes. You’ll definitely want to watch them over again down the road, so it’s worth owning just for that, even if the extras really are quite pathetic. As of this writing this set is going for under $20 on Amazon, which is an absolute bargain and well worth the price, so definitely don’t pass this one up if you can squeeze it into your DVD budget.
The Big Bang Theory: Season 1 arrives on DVD on September 2nd.