Kaley Cuoco and Jim Parsons in “The Big Bang Theory”
Following the success of “The Office” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” studios and show developers moved fast to exploit a rising tide of geek chic — witness the arrival of both NBC’s nerdcore spy dramedy “Chuck” and CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” a four-camera laugh-tracker about hyper-intellectual superdork roommates who suddenly have a hottie of exceedingly ordinary intelligence move in across the hall.
While I admire series creator Chuck Lorre’s pugnaciousness and willingness to blow up bridges in the industry, I’m less a fan of his aggressive sit-com style, and “The Big Bang Theory” is a zero-subtlety enterprise. Lead characters Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki of “Roseanne,” an Ur-Lorre production) are so off-the-charts in their geekdom that it goes well beyond believability.
Cuoco works mainly as the generic object of desire/fear, but the dynamic between Sheldon and Leonard is more like an old married couple than two straight male university researchers. Lorre gets the feelings of inadequacy, but these guys seem to love polynomial equations far more than girls. Leonard’s lust for Cuoco’s Penny just seems to happen because Lorre deemed it so — not because of any real impulse or attraction.
Also, at the risk of sounding like my mother, “The Big Bang Theory” has the loudest laugh track I have heard in ages. I’m not emphatically opposed to four-camera laugh-track comedies when they are done properly — “How I Met Your Mother” is a prime example of a traditional sit-com that works, mainly because its characters have layers and subtlety and also appear to be communicating with one another. “The Big Bang Theory” could develop into that, but right now it’s just people detonating one-liners at 120 decibels.