Sunday, February 01, 2009

TV: Reviewed- The Big Bang Theory

Okay, back to blogging. I'm declaring February "Review Month" (Note, I picked the shortest month of them all to guarantee a blog a day!). I'm going to do 14 TV reviews and 14 book reviews, plus whatever other things strike me as rant-worthy. I'm picking the 14 TV shows from my current list of the 15 best and most entertaining series and adding in 14 book reviews. No, I haven't read 14 books in the last week. I'm going to fudge and include books I forgot to review that I've read in the last year or so. I've even written a few in advance. So, I should be able to keep up the pace.


The Big Bang Theory is the best sitcom on TV right now. And a big favourite to finish atop my own list of the best TV shows during the 2008-09 Season. And it's all due to the writers ... and the incredibly funny Jim Parsons. Sure, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco were the two names that got the pilot made, but it's Parsons, chanelling Tony Randall at his most peculiar, that makes this show magic.

The writers have chosen to write smart and let the viewers catch up. Some of the references are so inside, it takes a BIG TIME GEEK to get them. Sad/Happy to say, I'm one. But they do such a good job of explaining the jokes to the outlier, Kaley's befuddled and sweet neighbour, Penny, that most of the humour seeps through even the densest of intellects. Cuoco's easy on the eyes and seems to have transcended the dumb blonde stereotype in her role as the 'den mother' to the gang of geeks led by Parson's Sheldon and Galecki's Leonard. Even those names are an inside joke, paying homage to the great Sheldon Leonard. He was a good actor and a better producer. The Andy Griffth, Danny Thomas and Dick Van Dyke Shows were his. His memory is honoured well.

Galecki has the Oscar role to Parsons' Felix. In some ways, it's a thankless task. Parsons just dominates any scene he's in, leaving Galecki as barely more than the rest of the geeks, played by Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar. He has an almost-requited crush on Penny that was almost consumated in last year's season-ender. I suspect this year's denouement will repeat the process, with Penny being the initiator.

Enough. It's 'Praise Parsons' time. Think of a extra tall, human praying mantis and you have an accurate image of Parsons in mind. Parsons plays the role dead seriously, as Randall did Felix. He spills out the geek-speak with rapidity and assuredness and makes you believe him completely as the asocial physics genius. Well, asocial is a bit wrong. He's not completely anti-social. The three other geeks are 'permitted' to grace his presence, but they do so on his terms. He doesn't bend, he imperiously orders. And the others are too afraid of him to stand up to him. Leonard's occasional forays into the area of backboned confrontation never end well.

But Parsons' Sheldon manages to convey just the merest hints of humanity breaking through his persona. He's formed an almost friendship with Penny, offering her a sort-of begrudging bit of respect every now and then. That's more than he offers Helberg's Wolowitz and Nayyar's Koothrapalli. When Koothrapalli won an award, Parsons made the mere act of smiling happily for his friend an incredible piece of physical comedic theatre. You actually came to the conclusion Sheldon's incapable of actually smiling honestly.

Nothing else has been that terrifying on TV in years. Positively Nicholsoneque from his role in The Shining. You know the one. The "Here's Johnny!" role.

It's not like geeks haven't been made fun of before. What they are doing right this time is humanizing them (us?) and giving them AND we viewers a common cause to rail against. Such is the power of Parsons' performance.

Try the show. You WILL enjoy it!

No comments: