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Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: The Big Bang Theory Season One

I first heard about The Big Bang Theory on Fresh Air, and while the interview sounded funny, I was concerned: can a mainstream TV show really depict scientists in a manner that really respects what such people do?

The first episode of the show had me thinking that this was going to be another "let's make fun of the geeks" show (and to some extent a sitcom has to make fun of its main characters). The redeeming feature of the show, though, is that it actually does respect the kind of things you might actually hear when geeks talk. For instance, from Episode 2:
Leonard: Do you wanna join us for Thai food and a Superman movie marathon?
Penny: Wow, a marathon, how many Superman movies are there?
Sheldon: You're kidding, right?
Penny: You know, I do like the one where Lois Lane falls from the helicopter and Superman swooshes down and catches her. Which one was that?
Leonard, Sheldon, Wolowitz: *One.*
[Raj holds up one finger]
Sheldon: You know that scene was rife with scientific inaccuracy?
Penny: Yes, I know men can't fly...
Sheldon: No, no, let's assume that they can... Lois Lane is falling, accelerating at an initial rate of 32 feet per second per second... Superman swoops down to save her by reaching out two arms of steel... Miss Lane, who is now traveling at approximately 120 miles an hour, hits them and is immediately sliced into three equal pieces.
Leonard: Unless Superman matches her speed and decelerates.
Sheldon: In what space, sir, in what space? She's two feet above the ground. Frankly, if he really loved her, he'd let her hit the pavement. It'd be a more merciful death.
(See: IMBD for an extended quote, or you can watch the segment on YouTube)

Yes, as a geek I can critique that dialog: no self-respecting scientist would ever use imperial measurements instead of metric: Sheldon should have said 10 meters per second squared. Superman's arms are also too broad to neatly slice Miss Lane's body into parts. But I can't make even that critique and not add to the humor the show espouses about geeks. My big non-geek complaint about the show is that it has a laugh track. I don't like shows with laugh tracks, and to be honest, I didn't think this show needed one.

Yes, these men are all stereotypes, but the dialog is well-written and interesting. In fact, the dialog is perhaps a bit too well-written. One friend of mine said he couldn't watch the show because it made him uncomfortable, and some of the jokes hit very close to home.

In any case, the show has many laugh out loud moments, and in 22 minute segments is perfectly suited for a portable video device (I watched a lot of it while waiting at airports). The show probably wouldn't get anything out of high def. I enjoyed every episode, even the ones that made me (very very slightly) uncomfortable. If you can't stand the first episode, skip it and go right to the second one. Highly recommended, and I've already checked out Season Twofrom the library.


md said...

Yeah, I admit, it makes me laugh too. But it's still not on a par with the best years of Seinfeld, so I don't watch it on a regular basis. Some of the episodes are just lame (in particular when they focus on "romance").

BTW that issue about catching falling people has bothered me for a long time - I recall a Star Trek movie where someone's (Kirk's?) plunging decent was abruptly stopped by a lucky ankle grab, and it just annoyed me no end. (Ah it was STV, the power of the internet!)

Piaw Na said...

I guess I've spent too much time in Silicon Valley. I've seen all the subtle (and unsubtle) put downs as one alpha geek or another tries to assert his position over the lab. It's all familiar to me and entertaining.

bawa said...

One of the better time-passes, and yes, having had some "geeky" friends and relatives, inc hubby, some of the jokes are really spot-on and intelligent, for a change.

The "oompas loompas of science!" lines were pure genius (with all due respect to my engineering friends).