Considering that it’s from the Chuck Lorre stable (along with Two and Half Men – a show that could outlast time itself), maybe this isn’t too much of a surprise.
However, TBBT obviously has an enduring appeal that hasn’t required incomprehensible off-screen rantings from an intoxicated Charlie Sheen to provide extra publicity for it. So, what’s the scientific explanation?
Johnny Galecki stars as Leonard, a physicist who works at the California Institute of Technology and lives in one of those Friends-style apartments that you wouldn’t be able to find for love nor money if you lived in the US. Being the lead, and because Galecki is a rather handsome chap who has barely aged since he appeared in Roseanne over 15 years ago, Leonard is less ‘geeked up’ than his fellow male co-stars.
Basically, all he’s required to do is to put on a pair of glasses and talk in a whiny voice (nice work if you can get it).
What Leonard lacks in full on geeky authenticity, the supporting cast more than compensate for. Firstly, there’s Howard, a self-deluded ‘ladies’ man’ who still lives with his mother and dresses like those 70s pastiche ‘comedy’ greeting cards you can buy in Clinton’s.
Then there’s Raj, a shy and emotional scientist from India who can only talk to women when drunk and seems to tick all the boxes on the ‘cultural stereotype’ card. Finishing off our quartet is Sheldon, played by the Emmy award-winning Jim Parsons. Sheldon is Leonard’s roommate, a former child prodigy with an astoundingly high IQ but absolutely no sense of humour, empathy, humility or irony. He clearly has Asperger’s syndrome but, this being a sitcom, his condition is only used for comedic effect.
The fifth main cast member is Penny, Leonard and Sheldon’s neighbour, a blonde waitress who may not be a physicist, but has the social skills that the men sorely lack. Despite their outward differences, and in true sitcom tradition, she and Leonard have an on-off relationship that has lasted for most of the series. Plus she’s hot, have I mentioned that?
The sixth season opens with Howard up in a Russian space station, doing absolutely no scientific research but instead spending all his time receiving calls from both his overbearing Jewish mother (who only ever ‘appears’ as a shrill voice) and his new wife, Bernadette. Howard’s mother wants him to remain living with her whilst Bernadette understandably wants to be free from all the shrieking so that she and Howard can engage in some, ahem, ‘shrieking’ of their own.
Raj, meanwhile, is missing his space-stationed friend and resorts to being a third wheel alongside Sheldon and his ‘contractual’ girlfriend Amy, who was hoping that the couple’s restaurant date would be more romantic than it turned out. The best laughs came from this set-up, with Sheldon admittedly quoting from the first Spiderman film when Amy asked him to say “something from the heart” and also delivering a great outsourcing gag when explaining Raj’s presence – a gag that I’ve completely spoiled if you were planning to watch this episode later. Sorry.
Realising he was unwelcome, Raj ended up seeking solace at the comic-book store with newly-promoted series regular Simon, the owner of the store. Although if I were Raj, I would run a mile as Simon has the sort of vacant stare that only comes from keeping human body parts in your fridge.
So that was pretty much the season opener. It wasn’t particularly eventful but the writing and jokes were surprisingly good, the storylines were delivered well and a lot of work has clearly gone on behind the scenes in order to ensure that the show’s scientific elements are correct.
There were also numerous references and guest stars that appeal to fans of comic books, sci-fi films and TV shows, reflecting the interests of the main characters. This careful research adds to the charm and depth of the show and goes some way to explaining its longevity over some comedies that are merely formulaic.
Admittedly, the over-enthusiastic studio audience can grate (especially when Sheldon is on screen) and detract from the clever writing, but overall this is a well-made, enjoyable way to spend 30 minutes. The geek in me approves.