Television sitcoms used to have their own unique feel, as well as a cast of characters that were relatable, but still different than anyone you've ever met. Once we lost classic shows such as Friends and Seinfeld, I couldn't really get back into the world of situational comedy. The 'funny' was still there with the numerous shows that tried to fill the gap, but the characters on display hampered the overall effect by being normal enough to be your next door neighbor. The factor of unique identity had vanished.
I've found relief from the mind of Chuck Lorre within the past month or so. I've fallen in love with a little show you may all know, Two and a Half Men. My wife also turned me on to The Big Bang Theory, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it was coming my way for review.
Living together as roommates, Leonard (Roseanne's Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Judging Amy) are in a world all their own. At first glance they may seem like a couple of regular Joe's, but it only takes a brief moment see otherwise. They're physicists by day and... well, by night as well. They like to sit around with their friends and save the world on Halo night, dress up for costume parties like an entourage straight out of Middle Earth, figure out equations on dry erase boards, and even conduct their own experiments in their spare time. They're the next door geeks we encounter in our normal daily lives, but these two provide those extreme unique personalities that a sitcom deserves.
Leonard is an extreme intellectual that's proud to be smart, but he doesn't flaunt his genius as if he were better than anyone else. Although he's proud of his geek-dom, he wants to fit in and have a normal life. He's always catching himself in an embarrassing rant that exploits his nerdy side, which reveals his sweet and bashful side.
Sheldon shares the same pride in his genius, but intelligence is the only thing he knows. In his mind, he's the smartest person on the planet, and he has no problem letting anyone know it through outspoken sarcasm. He doesn't try to be rude intentionally; he just can't help but comment when he disagrees. Being that he's put himself on a pedestal, it's usually all the time.
He's a neat freak, lives by routine, and is seemingly a borderline case of someone who suffers from Aspberger syndrome. His numerous quirks and inability to chat on a normal level, with normal people, adds classic one-liners and even superb physical comedy. I often ask myself how someone of his genius can always be left without a clue. However, it's this quality in which Sheldon steals the show time and time again. Despite his sarcastic and snotty behavior, the clueless aspect of his personality keeps him innocent and likeable.
For the nerds, talking to 'normal' people becomes a larger issue when their beautiful new neighbor Penny (Kelly Cuoco) moves in across the hall. She's very open, friendly, and actually gives these guys the time of day. Leonard is smitten immediately, and starts an ever increasingly warm relationship, that at times can feel like the same dynamic that existed between Ross and Rachel on Friends. You're always wondering if the little spark that's there, is going to someday blossom into a display of fireworks.
Penny is basically the stage for the premise of the show. Her introduction into the apartment across the hall opens a link to a world these nerds have never experienced. What's great about Penny is that she's in the same boat the guys are. She has to try and adapt to them, just as much as they have to try and adapt to her.
The three main characters work incredibly well on numerous levels. If you had a ruler that measured degrees of 'normal', you'd have two on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, and one that's middle of the road. The leading cast has fantastic chemistry together. Their personalities are always playing a balancing act to try and appease the others.
Notable mention goes to Howard and Rajnesh, friends of both Leonard and Sheldon. They're around at some point in every episode, adding more stereotypical and extreme personalities for bigger laughs.
Howard is the retro nerd. He wears shirts that are straight out of the 70's, and dons a Nintendo gamepad belt. Rajnesh is an intellectual that can do almost anything, other than talking to women. They're a welcome addition to every episode they're in. Make no mistake about them, they're not throw-away characters like the notoriously obnoxious Kimmy Gibbler from Full House. This show simply would not be the same without their presence.
There are surprises around every turn in the first season. The comedy is always pushing the envelope while staying relevant. Also, you can expect to see cameos from Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf from Roseanne.
I may sound like I'm gushing about the show, but that's because I was pleasantly surprised to have been laughing throughout the entirety of each episode. Between Two and a Half Men and now The Big Bang Theory, I once again can finally look forward to what the world of sitcom has to offer next.
The show is virtually flawless in its video presentation. Presented in 16:9, the image is clean ninety-nine percent of the time. The image is devoid of any digital artifacts, grain, edge enhancement, or excessive sharpness. The black levels are spot on for excellent contrast, and colors are impressively lush. The only complaint I ever had during watching the series, is the lack of this same quality from the first episode, which does have some excessive sharpness and grain. During one other episode, I noticed some very small and minor macro-blocking. It was in a very small portion of the screen where black on a wall was merging some shadowing. Other than these minor issues, the picture overall was fantastic.
It's a sitcom filmed on a series of sets, so don't expect the 5.1 Dolby Digital to keep you in the middle of the action. However, it sounds very good for the experience it's supposed to provide. The audience laughing and the music in the show do come on through the rear channels. The dialogue from the center speaker is always clean without any popping, hiss, or noise, so the experience that was meant to be heard via optical cable from an HD channel is accurately represented on this release.
Also included, are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, and Thai.
There's only one extra here, but it hits the nail on the head. Quantum Mechanics of the Big Bang Theory runs at just over seventeen minutes, and provides interviews with cast and creators of the show. The discussions in this special inform us of the ideas that culminated to into developing the story, as well as experiences the cast had during filming.
I would have hoped some commentaries would have been available for at a few of the seventeen episodes during this first season run, unfortunately they're absent.
The Big Bang Theory is a refreshing taste of the sitcom we've been missing for some time. The various assortment of TBS style sitcoms that get churned out are amusing, but they miss out on key ingredients that shows like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or even Home Improvement used to provide - characters that were unique, and a touch of absurdity around every bend. This show isn't revolutionary, and it certainly can't take credit for being one of a kind. However, everything this show does, it seems to do right every step of the way. This release is lacking on extras, but it has a magnificent transfer that's worthy of mention if you missed catching this on HD cable, such as I have. If you've ever felt buried under the sea of endlessly new sitcoms that are always being released just like me, I would highly recommend this release for you. You'll find a non-stop experience of laughter that's laced with small touches of love, making this show both crude at times, and suitable for couples to enjoy together.