It’s episode 2 of The Big Bang Theory, we’ve met the main cast, gotten the opening exposition out of the way and hopefully now we can start getting down to more serious funny. And with this show, I rather mean that literally, since the funny seems to center around subjects like particle physics. Sadly, that will also probably where the show loses most of it’s audience.
The show starts off strong for me, with all the geeks gathering with their take-out Thai and Sheldon lecturing them on the history of the culture. Leonard invites Penny in for some Thai food and a Superman movie marathon. She asks "Marathon? How many Superman movies are there?" and Sheldon asks if she is kidding while I simultaneously answer 5, not counting the extra edits (like The Donner Cut of Superman II) or Hollywoodland – which, while not technically a Superman movie, is a movie about a Man of Steel. Penny brings up her favorite scene from any Superman movie, being when Superman catches Lois Lane after she falls from the helicopter – from the first film. Sheldon tells her it is a scene rife with scientific improbability and she sheepishly nods agreeing that men can’t fly.
But, oh no, that’s not where Sheldon has the problem. He says "Let’s assume he can fly" and launches into a detailed explanation of how, given the speed ratios of each character and the fact that he is the Man of Steel, he would kill Lois, not catch her. And soon all the geeks are debating his logic, assuming Kal-El could compensate for such matters, before they all turn to question how he manages to fly at night if he is powered by our yellow sun. Not since Kevin Smith’s Mallrats has such comic fan-boy debate gotten this much screen time. Given how much time I spend in a comic book store each week, these are debates I have heard before and watching them played out here has me giggling just as much as it makes me laugh in real life.
And I just totally admitted to hanging out in comic book stores, didn’t I? Well, since I have already embarrassed myself, when Leonard mentions none of his 2600 comic books depict the energy storing Kryptonian skin cells that Sheldon hypothesized, I am reminded that I need to get back to my own comic collection organizational project, so I can get a handle on how many books I actually own. I am afraid the number comes dangerously close to Leonard’s collection.
The main crux of this weeks show is started by Penny asking the boys to keep watch for a delivery of furniture to her apartment and giving them a spare key. Of course, when the delivery arrives, it is left in the lobby and the boys try to figure out how to get it up the 4 flights of stairs to Penny’s apartment. Leonard starts enthusiastically, declaring Sheldon and himself as the intellectual offspring of Archimedes and that with a fulcrum and lever they could move the planet. This is just before he nearly upends the box onto himself completely. Sheldon more pragmatically deadpans that he can’t think of a way to get it up the stairs that doesn’t involve a green lantern and a power ring. Making me realize that the writers of this show are loyal to DC Comics.
Eventually, Leonard and Sheldon get the box up stairs and into Penny’s apartment. Which is a mess. And I take issue with this. Not because it is a mess, but the kind of mess it is. If there were boxes and packing materials strewn about it would make sense – the girl just moved in last week, after all. But this is lived in clutter – clothes draped over furniture, bath towels dropped to the floor, and the general jumble that arrives a couple of months into living somewhere new. It’s clutter that has come too soon for me. For Sheldon, it is clutter that is too close to his own home because he immediately starts to clean, unable to stand the fact that "the coffee table looks like it’s having a tiny garage sale" and calling her apartment a swirling vortex of entropy. His efforts are halted when Penny arrives, however, and Leonard drags him away.
But in the middle of the night, Leonard hears a noise and goes to check it out with his Star Wars light saber – which I recognize as being from the Force FX line by Master Replicas, the Yoda version. Sheldon’s compulsion is in full force and he has returned to Penny’s apartment to clean it completely. Someone needs to have his medication upped is all I’m saying. Leonard tries to talk him into returning home, but in the end joins him for the cleaning binge. The next morning they hear a scream and Penny yelling "You sick, geeky bastards!" Which about sums it up.
She demands her key back and spends a short segment mad at the boys, but she soon talks herself out of her ire by proposing that she may expect the worse of men because she’s often gotten their worst, but that Leonard and Sheldon might be different. This is actually worked out as a conversation with Rajesh, who is still terrified of talking to her, so we intermittently cut away to hear his inner monologue as she babbles on. Sadly, this should have been funnier than it was, but all they did was harp on how he isn’t able to talk to girls. We get it. Can we add another dimension to him now?
In the end, both of the boys apologize and Penny has already forgiven them. There is a gag of her giving Leonard a kiss on the cheek and him being so dazzled he walks into a closed door, which is a tired bit that is only saved by Johnny’s ability to pull off the physical comedy of it. Our final segment has all the geeks over at Penny’s house in order to help her put together her new entertainment center. She tells them that she put together tractors on a farm in her past and that she can handle Swedish modular furniture, but the boys are pouring over the diagrams and noting all the design flaws. They immediately start planning improvements, tossing ideas out the require infrared relay points, liquid coolant and aircraft grade aluminum. The interplay between the characters is quick and funny, but it is ground to a halt when Penny calls out "I’m getting naked" in an effort to distract them and goes ignored. Another tired bit. The show closes with the boys running off to get parts and reconvene in an hour, leaving Penny alone to admire her newly clean apartment. And leaving me hoping the next week continues with the genius stuff and has less of the cliched stuff.
What say you, fellow geek watchers? Do you think this show can rid itself of the stereotypes and evolve into the fresh nerd-humor we all hunger for? Or are we doomed to another handful of episodes that impress us with their obscure dork knowledge while simultaneously disappointing us with seen-it-before gags before an early departure?