Director: Mark Cendrowski
Cast: Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper), Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter), Kunal Nayyar (Rajesh Koothrappali), Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz), Sara Gilbert (Leslie Winkle), Allen Nabors (Doug), Treisa Gary (Waitress) & Sherry Weston (Instructor)
Leonard is depressed after seeing Penny kissing someone, so he attempts to get over his broken heart by asking a geeky girl out on a date…
That someone turns out to be Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert, who co-starred with Galecki in Roseanne), a similarly-minded nerd at university, who turns him down flat. Now overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, and later forced to suffer the indignity of attending a senior citizen's salsa class by Howard (Simon Helberg) to pick up a girl, Leonard plucks up the courage to ask Penny out.
In the world of The Big Bang Theory, Penny is bright-eyed and compliant to most ideas, so agrees to go for lunch with Leonard and his friends. As part of Leonard's plan, his friends "drop out" of the lunch date, leaving him one-on-one with Penny in a plush restaurant. Inevitably, the date doesn't go to plan after a promising start, with Leonard cracking his head on the underside of the table after impressing Penny with a scientific "trick" with a cork and a glass, putting an end to his plan to reveal his true feelings…
There weren't as many laughs in this episode, primarily because Sheldon (Jim Parsons), the main source of wit, played second fiddle to the more introverted and sweet-natured Leonard. But this actually gave the episode more room to focus on Leonard's character, with Galecki undoubtedly a sympathetic presence. I'm still not particularly enamoured with Kaley Cuoco, as Penny is a somewhat dull fantasy-figure that isn't ringing true on any level. The only thing I'm really appreciative of is that Cuoco is believably attractive and down-to-earth, and not the overwhelming buxom blonde supermodel type she could have been.
As it's clear Penny and Leonard won't become a love-match for a very long time (years, if the show stays successful), I'm a little loathe to get too invested. The long history of sitcoms often involve love stories like Leonard and Penny's (remember Niles and Daphne in Frasier?), but usually they're employed as enjoyable, recurring subplots. Can you imagine if Frasier had focused on Niles and Daphne's relationship for its 11 seasons, with Frasier and his dad also besotted by her? It would have been nigh unwatchable!
Sadly, there's no sign yet that The Big Bang Theory has anything else to offer beyond its geeks-swoon-over-sexy-new-neighbour premise. I appreciated a few scenes outside of the apartments, which helped open up the world a bit, but everything's still very insular, broadly played, rather unbelievable, and full of exaggerated audience reactions to the tiniest joke. Still, this episode did a good job of making me care more about Leonard's attraction to the "unobtainable" dream girl.
28 February 2008
Channel 4, 10.00 pm