Jun 23, 2011

[TV] The Big Bang Theory: Season 2

The Big bang Theory: Season 2So here we resume my working through the backlog of the this pretty awesome (and yes geeky) TV series. At first I was worried that it was just gong to be one of those one-shot sort of shows that will make a big splash when they first hit and then fizzle away. After all, the concept behind the show seemed to be doomed to failure given they ended the first season by killing the sexual tension.

At least that's how things appeared on the surface.

Thankfully the writers were a heck of a lot smarter than that and they figured out how to kill the show in the same way that Moonlighting died once the protagonists finally got together. You know what I mean right? And I didn't even watch Moonlighting - it's just one of those patterns of television everyone should know, right?

But I digress.

At its core, the show is funny. It started out funny, it continued being funny and it always tried to challenge itself to find new ways of being funny by exploring various aspects of geek culture with Penny acting as your "average Jane" of sorts to interpret things from the outside. Of course as things progress, we all know that you can't just remain an outsider when exposed to that much geek culture, right?

The Big Bang Theory is the brainchild of Chuck Lorre and Billy Prady along with head writers Lee Aronsohn and Steve Molaro. The series now has four complete seasons under its belt and remains one of the best reasons to be a geek. Just like Anna Wintour said at the Webby Awards - "Geek...somtimes can be chic."

When we last left the geeky crew, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) finally found the courage to ask Penny (Kaley Cuoco), their attractive but not-so-geeky neighbor, out on a date. Now in stereotypical geek terms, this alone would have been considered a home run and everything afterwards would just be gravy. I mean come on, your penultimate nerd manages to get a date with a hot girl? What more does a geek need, right?

But the writers decided to take things further down the logical path of these two adults trying to figure out whether or not there's more to be discovered in this pairing while their friends watch on. Or in the specific case of Howard (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar), it's more like spying using a well-situated webcam. But we know that things can't just end all happily ever after just yet and so Penny and Leonard part ways and remain friends and things return to status quo. Or something like that.

A resolution diagram of the game "Rock, P...Image via WikipediaBut this season explores a few interesting story plot hooks that contribute to the longer-term growth of the characters. We have a lot of cases of Penny starting to absorb geek culture through sheer osmosis like when she gets hooked on the MMORPG Age of Conan. This season also introduces Leonard's mother, Dr. Beverly Hofstadter (Christine Baranski), the revival of Leonard's relationship with Leslie Winker (Sarah Gilbert), cameos from the likes of Summer Glau and Sheldon's (Jim Parsons) popularization of the Rock-Paper-Lizard-Scissors-Spock.

Oh, and we finally get to see more of the comic book store that the geeks visit, including its proprietor Stuart (Kevin Sussman).

The show demonstrates the increased comfort of the writers when it comes to writing stories for the characters and pushing the geek humor as far as it can go. While there remain to be a large number of jokes that I'm sure are lost on the general population, the show still does a good job of balancing obscure references with obvious pop culture homages. And at other times, they just present the geekier stuff in their full glory in a manner that allows people to understand the humor without the need to dumb things down.

But beyond the references and the gimmicks, the true brilliance of the show is the strength of the characters themselves and how they interact with one another. One might argue that we're dealing with stereotypes and caricatures of real people, but in a sitcom that tends to be the point. It is through exaggeration of various traits that we are able to find aspects of the characters that we can relate to, regardless of degree. And thus the humor becomes more accessible and in the end you stop over-analyzing thing and you just laugh.

And beyond the usual bottle-concept stories we often get in sitcoms, this season did do its best to show the evolving lives of the only truly social characters on the show at this point - Leonard and Penny. Even though their relationship explorations involve other people than one another, it all works to paint a realistic story and to keep things moving along. Besides, it's all pretty darned funny.

The Big Bang Theory continues to show how geek life is cool and not too unlike so-called "normal" life. There are few differences between how we all celebrate what we're passionate about - its just the obvious manifestations that change. This second season gets 4 ridiculous things Raj ends up saying or doing while drunk out of 5.

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