Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revenge of the nerds revisited - The Big Bang Theory - originally published Nov. 16, 2007

The Big Bang Theory has come a long way from its early days as a largely underappreciated comedy show.
Originally a Monday night entry, the series is now a cornerstone of Thursday nights on CBS in the U.S. and CTV in Canada.
It wasn't always that way, though.
Back in 2007, when this column originally appeared, the series was adorning the schedule of CTV's minor-league cousin, A-Channel. The network pulled rank since then and has made the series part of its lineup.
Smart move.
Which is why it seems fitting now to take a look back at this column from November 2007.


ONLINE: (U.S.) (Canada)



Revenge of the nerds

The Big Bang Theory is really smart in all the
right places. That's why it should appeal to
the geek that lurks within all of us.

By Eric Kohanik

There was this one particular scene back in the Halloween episode of The Big Bang Theory that made me laugh out loud.

Actually, there are a lot of scenes in the show that tend to do that.

If you haven’t seen The Big Bang Theory yet, you should give it a shot. The series revolves around two nerdy geniuses named Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), who live across the hall from a hot babe named Penny (Kaley Cuoco).

Much of the comedy revolves around how these super-intelligent guys are anything but smart when it comes to basic social skills and human interaction. Sheldon doesn’t really see this as a problem or dysfunction, but Leonard does. He struggles to smarten himself up socially. He is spurred on, in part, by a crush he has on Penny.

In the Halloween episode, Sheldon and Leonard – along with their equally geeky pals, Howard (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh (Kunal Nayyar) – are set to attend a costume party thrown by Penny. After the four guys first meet up wearing the same comic-book-hero costume (The Flash), they regroup wearing a variety of outfits, with Sheldon dressed up as “the Doppler effect.”

Maybe it’s because I was a math and science nerd in high school, but the subtle brilliance of that bit made me laugh. (It would take too long to explain the Doppler effect, so look it up in a dictionary.)

The Big Bang Theory is full of such subtle brilliance, from its title right on down to the names of the two lead characters – a salute to the late Sheldon Leonard, the pioneering TV producer who gave us The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Hand the credit for this brilliance to executive producers Chuck Lorre (who is also the creative force behind Two and a Half Men) and Bill Prady. They have delivered a show that is smart and silly in all the right places.

The Big Bang Theory isn’t exactly a big hit. The show averages only 8.9 million viewers a week, putting it in 45th place in the Nielsen ratings in the United States. In Canada, meanwhile, the series plods along on CTV’s second-string team of A-Channel stations.

The show deserves better marks than that. Galecki and Parsons have developed solid and polished comic timing, with Helberg and Nayyar backing them up ably as needed. As for Cuoco, her comedic exuberance always lights up the screen as a nice counterbalance to the dweeb factor on the show.

The Big Bang Theory has surprised me. Initially, I figured this might be one of those shows that was “too smart for the room.”

Fortunately, though, CBS gave the series an early pickup for a full season. Maybe that’s evidence that network TV executives are smarter than we thought.

Or maybe they simply recognized early on that there really is a bit of geek lurking within all of us.

(Originally published in TVtimes - Nov. 16, 2007.)