Friday, 22 February 2008

THE BIG BANG THEORY 1.2 – "The Big Bran Hypothesis"

Friday, 22 February 2008
Writers: Robert Cohen & David Goetsch (story by Chuck Lorre & Bill Prady)
Directors: Mark Cendrowski

Cast: Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter), Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz), Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper), Kunal Nayyar (Rajesh Koothrappali), Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter)

Leonard and Sheldon help Penny with a furniture delivery, and Sheldon becomes obsessive about cleaning her messy apartment...

"These instructions are a pictographic representation of the least imaginative way to assemble these components. This, right here, is why Sweden has no space program!"
-- Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg)

It's always tricky to review sitcoms, as there's not much to say once the format, premise, general quality of writing, and regular actors' performances have been commented on. Consequently, I'll keep this fairly brief...

The Big Bran Hypothesis (named after a throwaway gag in the show, that has no actual bearing on the episode's plot), basically continues the central idea: love-struck nerd Leonard (Johnny Galecki) tries to impress sexy neighbour Penny (Kaley Cuoco), with the help of his nerdier friend Sheldon (Jim Parsons).

This time it involves the two friends having to heave flat-packed furniture up flights of stairs to Penny's apartment – where obsessive-compulsive cleaner Howard discovers she lives in a pig's sty, and returns in the dead of night to clean up while she sleeps...

The script, by Robert Cohen and David Goetsch, contains some good lines, and a Kevin Smith-style argument into the physics behind Superman's ability to catch Lois Lane when she falls of buildings, and the audience seem to lap it up. In fact, simply saying a word of more than five syllables seems to reduce this crowd to hysterics.

It's this queasy American style of sitcom that most irritates me, particularly coming from a UK comedy culture where the nearest "geek-com" equivalent was the infinitely slicker, funnier and cooler Spaced nearly a decade ago.

In The Big Bang Theory everything seems like an excuse for "regular people" to laugh at nerds (gross exaggerations of nerds, at that), with no time taken to show that the geeks are actually complex people, too...

At the moment, Sheldon is just the least-nerdy guy with a crush on Penny, Sheldon is the super-nerdy misfit with a Niles-from-Frasier voice, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is still rendered mute in the presence of girls (but given a fun voice-over to narrate his thoughts here), Howard (Simon Helberg) is the deluded nerd who at least has the confidence to crash-and-burn around Penny regularly, and Penny herself is still a wafer-thin fantasy girl – although it was nice to see her get furious when she discovered her apartment had been tidied while she slept...

Maybe I'm being too harsh on the show. The characters are likable enough, the dialogue sparkles with the sheen of a hundred rewrites (even if, consequently, that means nobody talks realistically), and I chuckled a few times.

I just think the characters are extremely stereotyped and cliched -- from the girl-next-door to the geeks-in-residence – and it's badly scheduled by Channel 4. This show would work much better at 6pm with a younger crowd -- not at 10pm, where you expect a substance and adult attitude The Big Bang Theory doesn't deliver.

21 February 2008
Channel 4, 10.00 pm