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Bazinga!

  • Jan 8, 2012
Rating:
+4
Ah, the great ubiquitous television geek. You know what I'm talking about. Suspenders, pocket protectors, button-down shirts, squeaky or nasal voices, very proper English or no concept of contextual usage of slang, uber-smart, interests in computers or some form of high technology, fragile build. They were there usually to provide comic fodder and contrast for the show's cool characters. But as I got older and started to train a more critical eye toward these old shows and stereotypes, I spotted something - the main, "cool" characters, who were supposed to be there for the viewing audience to relate to and learn valuable life lessons from, weren't treating these geeks any better than their lughead jock enemies were. Saved by the Bell provided perhaps the most stark example of this, in which even the most moral main characters thought nothing of using Bayside's geek population for underhanded schemes. I also can't help but feel for poor Screech, who always seemed included with the main characters as long as he was useful. Steve Urkel from Family Matters was a more well-rounded character with real hobbies, a life, a heart, and the Winslow family always did seem to have an undercurrent of genuine affection for him. But with his typical nerd clumsiness, smarts, and knack for whipping up odd gadgets, there was only so much of him the Winslows could take, and Urkel became the poster boy for the 90's-era nerd.

Over the last decade, there was an extremely radical shift in the way people looked at geeks and nerds. With the evolving online scene, former niche interests associated with geekdom exploded and took root as parts of a much larger pop culture scene themselves. Suddenly geek was chic, and us geeks were catapulted into the upper echelons of the mainstream. As I've often said, I never changed one bit when I was suddenly turning cool; society changed to make me that way. The television nerd disappeared as a go-to stereotype for awhile. Then TV producer Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men) brought it back in a blazing fury. But this time, something was a lot different.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Big Bang Theory.

The main characters of The Big Bang Theory fit the mold of the 90's geek prototype in a lot of different ways, but instead of being seen as losers vis-a-vis some steroid-infused moron who's supposed to be the cool guy the audiences is supposed to relate to, the geeks are the guys the audience is supposed to relate to. And they're anything but losers: One of them, Howard (Simon Helberg), has a Master's Degree from MIT with honors to go with it. He works as an engineer; his job is to create moving parts for vehicles which will eventually be blasted into space. And he's the least educated of the four head geeks on the show! The other three main geeks, Raj (Kunal Nayyar), Leonard (Johnny Galecki), and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), all have Doctorates and cushy - thought apparently not very well-paying - jobs at a local university in the Los Angeles area. Sheldon was one of those children of prodigious intelligence - he has an IQ of 187 and earned his first degree when he was 16.

All four of these characters have very typical geek interests, yes. But they also have lives. They have friends with whom they share those interests, good jobs, and romantic success. The contrasting "cool" character on The Big Bang Theory, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), is in contrast a waitress who aspires to be an actress. She has trouble keeping up with Howard, Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj. While Penny has intelligence and interests which mainstream society sees as normal, to her geek friends, she's the odd woman out. Her understanding of social normality assists the other four through difficult situations, but many of her interests set her apart.

The Big Bang Theory is a show clearly designed with a geek audience in mind. Its humor is mainly based in geekiness, but what makes it so great is that it doesn't try to dumb anything down. The four main characters all share their passion for science, science fiction, Star Trek, comic books, video games, and other things of that nature using real, honest terms recognized in those mediums. If they talk about quantum physics, they reference actual terms and ideas used in relation to quantum physics theory. They'll fearlessly talk about characters in X-Men who are obscure and sometimes bring up particular episodes. If they talk about a collectible in mint condition, the audience is expected to already be prepared with at least some idea of how valuable it is.

The breakout character of the show has been Sheldon. Sheldon is the most socially unapproachable character.He lives with Leonard, and the two of them have an official "roommate agreement," a set of absurdly complicated rules. He is originally from Texas, and was raised by a deeply religious mother who believes in intelligent design. He is vocal about his superior intellect, and has a raging ego, although Raj also has a raging ego whenever he accomplishes something. He has a list of eccentricities and is very blunt to the point where he is often at odds with his own friends. He is often theorized to have a severe case of Asperger's Syndrome. Series co-creator claims "we write the character as the character. A lot of people see various things in him and make the connections. Our feeling is that Sheldon's mother never got a diagnosis, so we don't have one." The actor who plays Sheldon, Jim Parsons, noted that comment but said that Sheldon couldn't display more traits of Asperger's.

Although Penny is there mainly to provide a contrasting character, Sara Gilbert played Leslie in a recurring role in the first few seasons. While she was briefly involved with Leonard and Howard, she was also there to provide a foil for Sheldon. In season three, Penny was given a new pair of friends to give the show a male/female dynamic: One is Howard's girlfriend, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), a microbiology major with a bit of a dirty streak. The other is Amy (Mayim Bialik, who in real life has a doctorate in neuroscience), who becomes Sheldon's platonic girlfriend.

Since geeks are often portrayed as losers, the portrayal of the characters' love lives is a refreshing change. Leonard has had probably the most success on the show; he was briefly in a relationship with Penny, was with Leslie for a bit, and was involved with Raj's beautiful sister Priya. Howard is engaged, and even Sheldon has Amy, whom he has far more respect for than any of the other characters on the show. Raj and Penny have had the least amount of success. Since Penny fits the textbook 80's version of a babe, this is more because she makes bad decisions. Raj just can't talk to women.

If How I Met Your Mother is the Friends of the millennium, The Big Bang Theory is Seinfeld - a cast chemistry-carried show with a group of main characters who like each other but are capable of being quite cruel, sometimes without reason. And the theme song by Barenaked Ladies is a winner as well. I almost missed The Big Bang Theory because the first time I saw Sheldon, I wanted to wring his skinny pencil neck. But even he's beginning to grow on me.

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January 08, 2012
This has become one of my fave comedies on TV. The chemistry between the characters are amazing that I could forgive the cartoonish exaggeration behind them. Penny and Raj's sister are great eye candy too. Nice job!
January 10, 2012
Bernadette is pretty easy on the eyes too, though my favorite so far is Priya.
 
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About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston ()
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The Big Bang Theory is a situational comedy that premiered on CBS on September 24, 2007, which is created and executive produced by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. The series takes two male Caltech prodigies in their twenties, an experimental physicist (Leonard) and a theoretical physicist (Sheldon) and places them across the hall from the beautiful blonde intelligent waitress (Penny), who is aspiring to make it in show business. Despite the two physicists' genius, they experience trouble relating and interacting with others, especially women. Penny's personality contrasts with her geeky neighbors, leading to the shows comedic effect. The show is produced by Warner Brothers Television and Chuck Lorre Productions, starring Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayys and Sara Gilbert.

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Tv Shows, Comedy, Sitcoms, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

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