Big Bang Theory: The Complete First Season (The)
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Gregor Cameron & Noor Razzak (22nd June 2009).
The Show

There isn’t much in this world that tops the well-made situation comedy. Moving along with his success with "Two and a Half Men" (2003-Present), a comedy which reveals/reviles men beautifully, Chuck Lorre brings us "The Big Bang Theory". This first season DVD set brings us the first seventeen of the so far produced nearly 40 episodes. Sitcom is a genre that American television has perfected in the last fifty or so years and "The Big Bang Theory" does not disappoint in managing to follow the well made formula but also to engage us with these characters so that we forget the fact of the formula and instead get carried away with the adventures of Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki).

Lorre is not solely responsible for this show but it is his musings that end off each episode sliding across the screen too fast for most of us to enjoy their humour- thus they become a hidden extra of the DVD. It is clear that Lorre and his collaborators care for their characters as they have for the almost 150 episodes of "Two and a Half Men". Having written for shows as disparate as "Muppet Babies" (1984-1991), "Roseanne" (1988-1997) and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (2000-Present) Lorre has certainly earned his chops.

The central conceit is simple and quite direct- two central characters live an entrapped invariable life and into this stasis steps a third character, the other, who disturbs the stasis the other characters inhabit. In step with the time honoured formula each week the disruption must be repaired and the characters return to the status quo they held at the beginning of the episode. It is important to note that other characters also inhabit this world that act as both disrupters and as supports of the status quo. The techniques used for production are also classically sitcom with it being produced in a studio with a live audience and multi-cameras.

Johnny Galecki, best known as David in "Roseanne", plays Leonard who is just about self reflexive enough to be all too aware of how he and his fellow genius scientists do not fit into the world. Jim Parsons is Sheldon, not as well known but has worked on television in such shows as "Judging Amy" (1999-2005). He plays the stereotypical borderline autistic intellectual that we all love… to laugh at. It is to Parsons' credit that his performance is so committed and, within the genre, nuanced that we cannot but love him for each and every one of his foibles. Leonard and Sheldon live in a lovely apartment so it is unclear whether they are still in a sense studying or in fact working- a little of both one suspects. Their life in the apartment is shared at times by their workmates Howard and Rajesh (Simon Halberg and Kunal Nayyar) and taken as a whole these characters clearly demonstrate all for the worst fears we have about university over-educated intellectuals. Of course their saving grace is the fact that these brainy over-achievers share a passion for all things pop culture, especially those of a sci-fi or comic book nature.

Into this steps Penny who moves in next door. She is the pretty mid west girl come to California to find her fortune but at the moment working at the Cheesecake Factory. Kaley Cuocco, late of "8 Simple Rules" (2002-2005), plays Penny. Her picture perfect blonde curls capture Leonard’s heart immediately and clearly things for the four friends will never be the same. Leonard would like romance, Howard just wants to get into her panties, Rajesh pathologically cannot talk to her and Sheldon just doesn’t see the point. Penny, of course, simply wants to be friends with her new neighbours.

Watching this took me back to a similar sitcom but this time from the 1970's. "Rising Damp" (1974-1978) also featured two mature students, a femme fatale and a disruptive influence –this time a landlord called Rigsby (Leonard Rossiter). How things have changed. Philip (Don Warrington) and Alan (Richard Beckinsale) live in what seems to be a shoebox at the top of the house and each episode while remaining humorous managed to make commentary on the social condition of society at the time. Of course this was Britain and their sitcoms always reflected the sense of what was so common in quality British cinema and television. But this forms the centre of my greatest criticism of "The Big Bang Theory" - it is designed simply to entertain, something it does admirably but wouldn’t it be nice if America were more open to use its clowns for what they are designed as- social commentators.

Any serious reflection upon the world doesn’t really occur in the world of American sitcoms so it must rely on the charisma of the characters to bring the viewers back time after time. "Friends" (1994-2004) managed it for ten years until the status quo was sufficiently disrupted to mean that the series had to end. Leonard and Sheldon like their “cousins” Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and Alan (Jon Cryer) in "Two and a Half Men" seem to have it. So if you re happy to spend half an hour with these charming nerds then this sitcom is a wonderful investment. Just looking at an episode such as "The Hamburger Postulate" in which Leonard gets laid (not Penny) and Sheldon becomes thoroughly confused as to the meaning of a tie on his roommates doorknob should convince most that this is very clever and endearing comedy.

This set includes all 17 first season episodes, they are:

- "Pilot" (22:54)
- "The Big Bran Hypothesis" (21:06)
- "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary" (22:02)
- "The Luminous Fish Effect" (20:40)
- "The Hamburger Postulate" (20:11)
- "The Middle Earth Paradigm" (21:01)
- "The Dumpling Paradox" (21:12)
- "The Grasshopper Experiment" (20:12)
- "The Cooper-Hofstader Polarization" (19:30)
- "The Loobenfeld Decay" (20:40)
- "The Pancake Batter Anomaly" (22:02)
- "The Jerusalem Duality" (20:07)
- "The Bat Jar Conjecture" (21:40)
- "The Nerdvana Annihilation" (20:06)
- "The Pork Chop Indeterminancy" (21:51)
- "The Peanut Reaction" (19:48)
- "The Tangerine Factor" (20:07)

Video

This series is presented in its original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner Brothers is usually consistent in terms of quality with its transfers, however they have dropped the ball here. The image features compression noise, jagged edges, motion smearing at times and some edge-enhancement, which is very distracting and below expectations for such a recent series. Warners crammed the episodes onto these discs without taking much into account as to how it would effect these episodes. It's not all bad however, the colours are bold and vibrant, skin tones appear natural and the images are clean. Which is enough to keep the grade from dipping into the "D" territory but it's close...

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track is included which appears to be the show's original broadcast audio, I wasn't expecting a 5.1 track, so no surprises here. While the track lacks depth and range the audio does a serviceable job. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, music cues and crowd laughter are mixed well throughout the mix. Otherwise it's a basic 2.0 surround track.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, Dutch, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish.

Extras

Warner Brothers has released this series is a small collection of extras that include a bonus trailer and a single featurette, below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

The only thing we've got on this disc is a bonus trailer for "Warner Brothers Blu-ray" spot which runs for 1 minute 9 seconds.

DISC TWO:

There are no extras on this disc.

DISC THREE:

The only substantial supplement in this set is the "Quantum Mechanics Of The Big Bang Theory" featurette which runs for 17 minutes 12 seconds. This clip is a behind-the-scenes look at why it's cool to be a geek. The executive producers and cast are interviewed and talk about the title of the show, the chemistry of the cast, the character's level of genius, ideas about the show and on working with a physicist to get the technical elements and jargon down among other things. The clip features a lot of clips from the show that reinforces what the participants are saying. Overall it's a decent clip despite it's short length.

Packaging

This season set is packaged in a 3-disc amaray case.

Overall

The Show: A Video: C- Audio: B Extras: C- Overall: B-