Big Bang Theory: Season 4
The situation comedy has been the backbone of television programming for the last sixty years but there is one major weakness inherent in this well established format; the defining situation. A set up that may initially be hysterical can quickly deteriorate down through amusing and finally annoying. The thing is the writers have to constantly come up with ways to squeeze a few more jokes out of hackney characters and a diminishingly effective premise. That is the usual pathway for the vast majority of sit-com. Then there is ‘The Big Bang Theory’. This series started out with an exceptionally simplistic set up that in now in its fifth season with absolutely no signs of ramping up to that final shark jump. The key factor to longevity in any TV series that is especially pertinent to the sit com is keeping things fresh; both for the audience and the creative talents behind the scenes. In the case of CBS’ brightest comedy, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ the foundation was strongly built on the juxtaposition of a beautiful young woman with a pair of intellectually gifted but socially awkward young men. It sounds like the start of a joke you might hear in a neighborhood tavern but the treatment the series has received by its show runners Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre, the word genius not only is applicable to the main characters; it is fully descriptive of the writers, directors and actors that make this series one of the few half hour comedies I make sure I never miss. In fact one of my best friends is a very discerning viewer exceptionally picky about what she watches and she likes this show. Within my immediate circle of friends this is the highest praise possible. This series is a bright spot of color on a bleak, grey landscape of sit-coms. With the fifth season just airing it is, of course, time for the previous season to hit the stores with DVD and Blu-ray editions. This is the rare sit com that is able to hold up with repeated viewings making it the ideal addition to any home theater collection. Your entire family is certain to get into this series although it bears noting that some of the themes do touch lightly on sexual matters, in a PG-13 sort of way that is.
Leonard Hofstadter, Ph.D. (Johnny Galecki) and his roommate Sheldon Cooper, PhD (Jim Parsons) are both certifiable geniuses with IQs of 173 and 187 respectively. They live in a nice small apartment building although with the elevator broken they do have to walk up four flights to get to their apartment. A few years ago a beautiful young woman, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moved from Nebraska to California in hopes of becoming an actress. While waiting for that to happen she works in a local restaurant. This premise is deceptively simple and the true brilliance of the series and primary reason for its continued success is the careful way the writers build upon it. They retained the scaffolding but carefully add on to it in order to keep the show fresh. If it kept to just the core characters and a few one dimensional ancillary players the show would have been doomed after a season or so. The series works because the writers took exceptional care to build up all the characters crafting one of the best ensemble casts the genre has seen since ‘The Mary Tyler Moore’ days.
Initially the circle of friends were restricted to those working in the rarified world of scientific academia but a season back they began to introduce some gal pals for Penny. One becomes sort of a girlfriend for Sheldon, the equally odd Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik). Although they shy away from the physical affectations of a relationship they do interact on a somewhat social level. Amy quickly declares Penny her "BFF’ and looks to her as a touch stone for normal female behavior. Penny had a deep relationship with Leonard which as since ended leaving him to carry on a long distance relationship with the sister of hid friend Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), an astrophysicist unable to speak to women unless he is drunk. His sister Priya (Aarti Mann) who as beautiful and a successful lawyer is pretty much hated by Penny. The last member of the female cadre is microbiologist Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch), who worked with Penny during grad school and is now engaged to the final member of the boy’s team, Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg). He is the only non-doctorate in the group and is the ultimate ‘Mommas’ Boy’.
The comedy remains fresh because the writers consistently move things around expanding the focus on each of the principles. Just as the plots involving one thread winds down another is ready to take its place. For example initially the premise had Leonard pursuing Penny. Once the relationship was consummated the resulting happy couple is frequently cited as a cause of death for the show. Instead of going down that well trod road the couple were pulled apart but remained friends. In this season Leonard was with Priya but the potential to reunite with Penny remains a string possibility. The biggest change is Penny’s circle of friends. Bernadette and Amy offer the viewers an alternate vantage point to observe the action. When the guys are off talking about comics, theoretical science, and popular Sci-Fi franchises the ladies are engaged in more ground discussions frequently highlighting the foolishness of the fellows. Penny is still interacting with individuals of far better education but now it is more on an equal social footing. The three guys/three girls’ format is reminiscent of shows like ‘Friends’ but this is a delightfully engaging variation on the theme. The execution of the series is novel and remains a pure joy to watch. One measure of the acceptance of this show beyond the normal sit com demographic is demonstrated by guest appearances not only by notable people in the Sci-Fi world like Katee Sackhoff and Summer Glau but also real life respected scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson. I understand that the Big Band table at Comic Con was hands down one of the most popular at the convention. This is one series that is not dumbded down yet still can appeal to everyone.
Actor On Actor: The Big Bang's Theory of Relativity - Cast Members
Interview Each Other About Favorite Season Moments