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Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter; Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper; Kaley Cuoco as Penny; Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz; Kunal Nayyar as Raj Koothrappali; Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler; Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski
Bob Hoose with Paul Asay
The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory

"A woman who moves into an apartment next door to two brilliant but socially awkward physicists shows them how little they know about life outside of the laboratory."

That's the story slugline for the CBS series The Big Bang Theory as posted on And though that summary captures the cute idea behind the show, it doesn't quite fill you in on this sitcom's predominantly sex-obsessed, one-joke nucleus.

Since its inception in 2007, the magnetic polar opposites of sexy vs. geeky have kept the show in a relatively simple and consistent orbit: Leonard, the less nerdy of the two roommates, has been in lust with the abovementioned young neighbor, Penny, and longed for the coital contact that he and his friends feverishly speak of in private. Eventually he came up with the right equation to make that happen, but now he and Penny are back to being just friends. Or at least friends who have casual sex when the mood strikes Penny.

Sheldon, on the other hand, hasn't been as concerned about copulation. As the show's punchline magnet, he's a mixture of clownish geekyness and borderline creepiness. Klingon Boggle, Halo tournaments and Mordor texts written in elvish script are more his true objects of desire. Howard (a would-be Don Juan with a 1960s hairdo straight from The Monkees) and Raj (a whispering sidekick who can't bring himself to actually talk in front of a girl) round out the crew.

"I'm not sure what Chuck Lorre [the show's creator] has against smart people," Chicago Tribune blogger Maureen Ryan wrote early on in the show's run, "but with the foul sitcom The Big Bang Theory, he tries to have his revenge against anyone with an IQ above room temperature. … Even if the jokes on this show weren't tired and mean-spirited, it would be hard to care about any comedy that hates its own lead characters so much."

Over the years, though, some brainiacs have announced that they've heartily embraced the show and its characters. But that doesn't change the fact that everyone keeps on playing pretty much to stereotype, and the characters could have been taken from a middle school slam book. The comedy also dabbles in low-grade swearing and regular misuses of God's name. A few profanities come from Sheldon's mother, who appears from time to time in the unflattering guise of what the show's creators must consider a standard-issue Bible Belt Christian.

Ultimately, the whole thing is about as funny as a chemistry lecture delivered by a guy dressed in high-water pants.

Episode Reviews

"The Speckerman Recurrence"

Leonard agrees to have drinks with a guy who, in high school, bullied him. It seems at first that the bully, Speckerman, has matured, and after he reads a list of all the evil things he did to Leonard back in the day (throwing him into a women's restroom while naked, putting laxatives in his food and claiming to have sex with his mother), he apologizes. Leonard accepts and allows Speckerman to sleep off his drunkenness at his apartment. "It kind of rekindles your faith in the basic goodness of people," he says. But when Speckerman sobers up, he's the same jerk he always was.

Meanwhile, Penny realizes that she was a bully, and she tries to make up for her past misdeeds by giving clothes to charity. She says she feels like "Mother Teresa—except for the virgin part." But she winds up taking clothes from the donation bin instead.

Bullying behavior—much of it referred to in crass, even graphic terms—is played for laughs. We hear about guys having their scrotums stapled, suffering through wedgies that damaged their testicles and getting Hershey's Kisses superglued to their nipples. A female character makes vaguely lesbian remarks to Penny. Someone makes fun of a stutterer. Sheldon contemplates murder. Characters say "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑" and "p‑‑‑"; they misuse God's name a half-dozen times.

"The Cruciferous Vegetables Amplification"

With typical geekmeister outlandishness, Sheldon crunches the numbers of his existence and realizes that his potential life expectancy falls just shy of an important point in the future—namely a singularity where his consciousness can be safely transferred into a robotic body.

And so the panicked physicist does what every health-conscious individual would do in order to extend his life: He decides to go jogging with Penny (which delivers pratfalls and shots of the shapely girl stretching in a formfitting outfit). He starts eating loads of vegetables (which offers up a series of fart gags). And he builds a surrogate robot to represent himself to the outside world while he hides safely in his room (which gives us another over-the-top implausibility and, of all things, a joke about sphincters).

Raj admits to spying on Penny with high-powered binoculars. Penny tries to raise money by selling the guys her underwear. A few profanities—including "h‑‑‑" "d‑‑n" and misuses of God's name—pepper the dialogue.