How "The Big Bang Theory" Renewed My Faith in Sitcoms

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These days The Big Bang Theory might be referred to as "one of the other Chuck Lorre shows on CBS that never starred Charlie Sheen." But it's got a lot more going for it than that.

After the cancellation of Seinfeld, I'd pretty much given up on sitcoms.  As far as I was concerned, the genre was tired, overused and creatively spent.  And while I had memories of great classics like The Cosby Show, Roseanne, The Golden Girls and even I Love Lucy to keep me chuckling, I had little tolerance for pale imitations.  

Of course every season I would check out the latest the networks had to offer, but even pretty good shows like Modern Family couldn't get my comedic juices flowing.  So I had to find my laughs in dramedies like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives.

Then came The Big Bang Theory.

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

When it first premiered, I watched snippets of the show but was so down on sitcoms I never really gave it a chance.  Then Jim Parsons won an Emmy last year for his performance as the brainy, yet socially inept Dr. Sheldon Cooper.  He was so charming, I decided to give the show a second look.

I haven't stopped laughing since.  

TBBT is now appointment TV in my house and I've added the first three seasons to my Netflix queue.

The show's about four nerdy friends who also happen to be brilliant scientists.  Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki, pictured above, right) is the most normal of the bunch, though he hasn't updated his wardrobe since the 70s. Sheldon's a  a germaphobic, OCD poster-boy who knows how smart he is and won't rest until you know it too.

Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar, pictured above, center) can't talk to a woman unless he's drunk or medicated and Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) is an oversexed, Lothario wannabe who lives with his mother.

Leonard and Sheldon are roommates and live next door to Penny (Kaley Cuoco), an aspiring actress. Penny's the ying to Leonard and Sheldon's yang, and she's also the one who'll give the quizzical look we all have on our faces when Sheldon spouts off in exhausting detail about the history of giving toasts or the superhuman strength of the army ant.

All four of the friends embody every nerdy, geeky, sci-fi stereotype you can think of and then some, but Leonard and especially Sheldon are sometimes so adorably clueless you just want to reach through the set and hug them. And unlike the stereotypes, these guys don't live in basements and for the most part, have had sex.  Though they may only refer to it as coitus.

In addition to the characters' quirky traits, the show's got some marvelous signature humor. Like the fact that the elevator in the building where Leonard, Sheldon and Penny live is always out of order so there are a lot of scenes played out as they go up and down the stairs. We've never seen Howard's mother but we know she's an overbearing shrew because we always hear her yelling at him.  

"Howarrrrrrrrrrrd!  Come get me, I'm stuck in the bathhhh-tub!"

Then there's my favorite:  Whenever Sheldon goes to see Penny, he knocks on her door in exactly the same annoying way:


Knock, knock, knock..."Penny?"  

Knock, knock, knock..."Penny?"  

Knock, knock, knock..."Penny?"

 

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

And before you think this is only a boy geek-fest, there are girl geeks as well. Joining the show this season is the fabulous Mayim Bialik (pictured above right) as nerdy, neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler. She's Sheldon's girlfriend, but he would protest that, saying instead that "She's a girl...and she's a friend.  She's not my girlfriend."

By the way, Mayim Bialik has a Ph.D. in neurobiology, so what better casting could you ask for?

Then there's Howard's girlfriend Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) who's a graduate biology student, and Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert, formerly of Roseanne), a co-worker of Leonard's who took him for a coital ride one night and then dumped him the next morning.

In fact, TBBT often plays like a Roseanne reunion show.  Executive producer Chuck Lorre used to work on Roseanne, Johnny Galecki played Darlene's (Sara Gilbert) boyfriend, and then there's Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne's sister, who pops in now and then playing Sheldon's mother.  

If you're thinking like I sometimes do, I can't possibly start watching a new show because the minute I do, they're going to cancel it, well don't worry, TBBT was recently picked up for three more seasons.  

So with all the craziness going on about Charlie Sheen's tiger blood and goddesses, just remember CBS has another Chuck Lorre show that's funnier than Two and a Half Men, and that has a cast that, so far, hasn't run amok.

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Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online Video. Her other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock and Meg's Rad Reviews.

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