Sunday, 9 March 2008

THE BIG BANG THEORY 1.4 – "The Luminous Fish Effect"

Sunday, 9 March 2008
Writers: David Litt & Lee Aronsohn (story by Chuck Lorre & Bill Prady)
Director: Bob Koherr

Cast: Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz), Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper), Kunal Nayyar (Rajesh Koothrappali), Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter), Mark Harelik (Dr. Eric Gablehauser), Sierra Edwards (Summer) & Laurie Metcalf (Mary Cooper)

Sheldon is fired from his physics job, meaning Leonard has to try and get him out of the resulting malaise...

"There wouldn't have been any ass-kickings
if that stupid death ray had worked."
-- Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons)

After 4 episodes I think it's pretty clear if it's worth sticking with a sitcom, or not. The Big Bang Theory has a concept that promised screwball antics with a bunch of nerds chasing a sexy next-door neighbour, but it's really not living up to that...

It's definitely more original to have the show's nerds living as housemates in the "real world", instead of them being stereotypical roomies on university campus – but I'm actually lamenting the loss of a more exciting environment for these characters to live in. The Big Bang Theory's turning into more of a whimper...

A major factor in my growing irritation towards the show is how its characters are little more than mouthpieces for sarcastic back-chatting and over-elaborate comedy prattling – and never don't amount to anything but broad clichés. Johnny Galecki is coping best, by virtue of Leonard being the most normal-acting geek on the show, but Jim Parsons' Sheldon is practically a cartoon.

But at least cartoons can be funny, unlike poor Kaley Cuoco's character of Penny -- written by men (many of whom, if not all, are geeks themselves), and it really shows in her dull, one-dimensional characterisation. Writers David Litt and Lee Aronsohn commendably make Penny's reactions to Sheldon more plausible than they have been previously (i.e., she finds him weird and exasperating during a shopping trip), but Penny's still a pretty face with nothing going on behind her doe-eyes.

But this episode is less interested in the geeks-chasing-girl premise. Instead, the focus is on Sheldon's depression and the eventual arrival of his religious mother Mary (Laurie Metcalf, another Roseanne alumni after last week's Sara Gilbert) to snap him out of the doldrums. It was interesting to find Sheldon's mother values religion over the science her son adores, and Metcalf does her best with a fairly tedious character, but her belated arrival doesn't inspire much hilarity.

The show is great at occasional lines of dialogue and some off-the-cuff remarks, but it has yet to spin an involving storyline, or provide any depth and heart to its characters. Put simply: it's mechanical and by-the-numbers, typified by "canned-laughter" that, worryingly, comes from a real audience – who are told to laugh whenever a neon sign says "LAUGH", I can only assume.

The Big Bang Theory is a manufactured American sitcom to the nth degree. A lot of effort clearly goes into ensuring there are about 5 jokes per minute (no matter their quality), but that leaves no room for proper character-building. The storylines fail to sustain their runtime, or have any kind of comedic twist in the tail, and the show just generally limps along – with the audience of easily-pleased hyenas having a much better time than you are.

6 March 2008
Channel 4, 10.00 pm