Friday, December 18, 2009

Get your geek on

Everyone who knows me knows I'm a geek, and have a thing for geeks, so how could I not love The Big Bang Theory? A sitcom for geeks, about geeks (and presumably by geeks), TBBT is right up my alley. I always appreciate a TV show with intelligent writing, but this one takes intelligent writing to a whole new level. Punchlines are peppered with factoids and formulas from physics and other branches of science, as well as references to Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, and various comic book superheroes and video games. During my marathon viewing sessions (I finished season 1 in 3 or 4 sittings), I lost track of how many times an episode had me laughing out loud, so loudly I had to clamp my hand over my mouth because my sister was already shushing me.

I got my sister hooked on TBBT as well, and she observed that it's similar to another sitcom we love, How I Met Your Mother, in that the central character is overshadowed by more lovable supporting players. In this case, the central figure is Leonard (Johnny Galecki), an amiable, mild-mannered physicist (think short, unmacho Clark Kent in a hoodie and jeans). His roommate is the incredibly brilliant, insufferably arrogant, socially stunted Sheldon (the incredibly brilliant Jim Parsons), whose deadpan demeanor and delivery of intellectual putdowns encapsulate the spirit of this show, both celebrating and satirizing cerebral superiority. Leonard and Sheldon's cohorts are Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg), fellow brainiacs with deficient social skills (Raj literally can't talk to women and Howard can't stop talking to/about them). Into the lives of these four friends enters Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a blond, beautiful, waitress/wannabe actress who moves across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon. Leonard develops a mad crush on Penny, who of course regards him with platonic fondness only, but the unrequited romantic feelings tend to take a backseat to the comic chaos that ensues from the dynamic between the beauty and the geeks.

That said, I do like Leonard more than Ted Mosby of HIMYM because the former is more sympathetic and endearingly sweet. But I must say Sheldon gives Barney Stinson a run for his money in terms of hilarity and personality. Where Barney is oddly charming in spite/because of his unapologetic sleaziness and narcissism, Sheldon is oddly charming in spite/because of his unapologetic snootiness and egotism. They both get the best lines and the most memorable scenes, and both Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons stand out as the most polished actors with the most natural comic timing among their respective casts. The thing about Sheldon though, his appeal doesn't seem to be as universal as Barney's. As my best friend (a geek herself) said, most people she knows find Sheldon obnoxious, but the truly smart people she knows all adore him.

And I suppose that also applies to the show as a whole. TBBT might be too smart for its own good, and may not appeal to a mainstream audience as much as a musical comedy about a high school glee club or a drama series about sexy vampires. But I for one think TBBT's one of the best things to hit television in a long while, and I'm not just saying that to prove my IQ's up to par. I really am just a geek, and happy to have a TV show that gets geeks... and where the geeks occasionally get the girl.


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