It's Season Two where the series really begins to find its place, and now it's available in HD. This release includes both DVD and Blu-ray versions, as well as an Ultraviolet digital copy.
Season one of the most geek-culture-minded television show in existence was a bit of a conundrum itself: it was a traditional sitcom, featuring all the canned laughter and compartmentalized humor of a typical Full House episode… but the house of John Stamos and Bob Saget this was not. Instead, The Big Bang Theory—created in part by Two and a Half Men’s Chuck Lorre—relied upon uncommonly accurate references to all things science, technology, and gaming to carve its niche among the myriad other shows in its genre. Triumphantly, the show’s unique formula succeeded, lauded by critics as a stimulating permutation of the traditional sitcom, able to take advantage of the rapid-fire, expectedly artificial scripting to provide a steady stream of surprisingly intelligent and hilariously correct gags.
Season two builds on this design with thickened story arcs, increasingly natural character roles, and even more qualified adventuring into the depths of the nerdy lifestyles which many of us Digital Chumps proudly lead. It’s the one television show of which I can confidently say: itreally does approximate the personalities and intricacies of such a group of hyper-intelligent geeks quite accurately. Your humble editor should know… not to say that I’m hyper-intelligent or anything.
Regardless of personal intellectual delusions, let’s dive straight into my list of favorites from the 23 episodes included in this season.
The Barbarian Sublimation
Following a tragic mishap involving the insertion of her car key into her apartment deadbolt, Penny spends an afternoon with Sheldon, who introduces her (unwittingly of course) to “Age of Conan, an online multiplayer game set in the universe of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian”. Shortly thereafter, Penny finds herself shockingly addicted, and Sheldon (formerly “Sheldor” in the MMORPG world) finds himself tutoring her in all things AoC. Somewhere between explaining her need for an Enchanted Sword and chastising her for prematurely considering a journey to The Sanctum of the Burning Souls (and no thanks to the fact that she entered his bedroom—where no one is supposed to go), he realizes that he must find a way to restore her to normalcy. Personally, this is one of my favorite episodes of the show to date.
The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis
Leonard falls into a relationship (heh) with acclaimed physicist and improbable stud David Underhill, winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant, renowned for his work with high-energy positrons, yielding the first conclusive evidence of the existence of dark matter. But the only thing that really matters in this episode is when Leonard is left in the dark—thanks to Penny stealing his newfound companion right out from under him, feigning an openly healthy sexual relationship (and one that involves a motorcycle). This is a fan-favorite—and for good reason—though it’s much more heavily focused on the comedic drama between Leonard and Penny than many of the more traditionally scientifically-rooted episodes. Fortunately, Sheldon provides his usual complement of nerdy flavor as he attempts to materially deconstruct the science of gift-giving so that he can reciprocate appropriately in the face of Penny’s promised “Pagan offering” come Christmastime.
The Maternal Capacitance
The episode opens with Raj shrieking out the vocals to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under the Bridgevia Rock Band, but matters soon transition into something much more uncomfortable than even that: turns out, Leonard’s mother is coming up to visit… and she’s “a remarkable woman” (per Sheldon). Described from a more conventional perspective, she’s an impassive, coldly methodical scientist who never wanders from her role. Seriously affected by her none-too-brief intrusion, Sheldon releases endorphins with her while Leonard soon finds himself swimming with Penny in a pool of digressionary liquor. Perhaps what’s most appealing about this episode is the fact that Mrs. Hofstadter (Christine Baranski) is essentially a Sheldon to the second power—and while she’d make a terribly annoying regular character (by design), for the duration of one episode, she’s an incomparably rigid and candid source of comedy.
The Vegas Renormalization
Wolowitz’s relationship with Leslie has, at least in recent weeks, amounted to a “friends with benefits” arrangement (you know, the traditional definition—not the type that Sheldon refers to where you simply provide your friends with health insurance). That is, until this afternoon, when she calls him and abruptly dumps him. As any true friends would, the rest of the gang subsequently volunteers to take Wolowitz to Vegas to help him forget about his expired booty call. Oh—that’s the rest of the gang, minus Sheldon, of course, who is considerably more elated by the prospects of spending the weekend alone in his apartment. There’s just one problem though; in all his matchless intellect, he’s locked himself out. Thus, he’s instead forced to spend the weekend at Penny’s, an arrangement which most certainly is more painful for her than it is for him. And while we’re on the subject of pain for women, Leonard and Raj eventually discover that it’s going to take more than just gambling in Vegas for Wolowitz to renounce his anguish. This entire episode is an interesting departure from the usual setting for the show… though the classic Sheldon/Penny interaction emphasized here hardly ever grows tiring.
You’ll also find around a half-hour of extras on this Blu-ray/DVD set. Here’s what’s included:
The Big Bang Theory: Physicist to the Stars (10:10) – David Saltzberg, Ph.D. describes his role as the “fact-checking” particle astrophysicist on staff. It’s hilarious to hear some of the examples of the meticulous scientific planning that goes into writing various aspects of the episodes… many of which are simply background gags.
Testing the Infinite Hilarity Hypothesis in Relation to The Big Bang Theory (15:31) – A short interview with the creators of the show and many of the cast members details the evolution of the characters and the focal plot points of the second season. It’s your usual let’s-check-up-with-the-cast feature, and it’s entertaining enough.
Gag Reel (8:52) – A fairly amusing, yet strangely low-resolution compilation of various screw-ups and forgotten lines. It really is ugly, though; it looks like it was originally recorded in 360x240 and then stretched to meet the required aspect and resolution. It’s the same exact gag reel that was present on the DVD version of the release in the same exact quality. Either way, it’s worth watching just to witness Johnny Galecki bomb the same line like ten times in a row.
The best of the three is without a doubt the first feature (Physicist to the Stars). The other two are still worth a viewing, however (and the gag reel is still pretty funny in spite of its inferior resolution).