September 23, 2007

TV: The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Monday 8:30/7:30)

Sheldon and Leonard (Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki) are not merely nerds, they are über-nerds. They have reached the state of perfect nerdhood to which other nerds can only aspire. They are, therefore, utterly at a loss when pretty young Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves into the apartment across the hall.

That's pretty much the entire plot. The show will succeed or fall entirely on the strength of its writing and on the chemistry among the three principal actors. Based on the pilot episode, I like its chances.

Parsons and Galecki are terrific in roles that provide unusual challenges; Sheldon and Leonard (I can't help wondering if those names are an homage to the TV producer of the 1960s) have larger vocabularies and more complex sentence structures than the average guy, and both actors deliver the tricky dialogue with great panache. They're a fine comic duo with a sharp rhythm, and they're instantly credible as long time friends. Parsons, in particular, has a distinctive, oddball way with a line, and I suspect he's going to be given most of the physical comedy on the show.

Their nerdiness and awkwardness could be offputting, and I think one of the principal goals of the pilot was to win us over to those characters. For that reason, Cuoco's Penny doesn't get to make so strong an impression in the first episode, but she comes across as very likable and does a good enough job with what she is asked to do.

The show is produced by Chuck Lorre, creator of Two and a Half Men; like that show, there's nothing edgy going on here. It's another fairly conventional sitcom. But it also shares the strengths of Two and a Half Men -- it's well-written, and has a solid cast playing interesting characters. I'm optimistic.

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