Geeks Meet Beauty in 'Big Bang'

Media Reviews for Media People

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With a crop of shows making their debuts on cable and the fall season upon us, Ad Age TV Editor Brian Steinberg casts a critical eye on some of TV's new and continuing series to help marketers determine which may prove to be the best showcases for their ads and products. On Monday, CBS adds a geeks-meets-beauty show to its comedy lineup, "The Big Bang Theory."
Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Penny (Kaley Cuoco), and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) get to know each other on CBS's 'Big Bang Theory.'
Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Penny (Kaley Cuoco), and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) get to know each other on CBS's 'Big Bang Theory.' Credit: CBS

"The Big Bang Theory"

When you'll see it: CBS, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. EST

What you'll see: Now that Fox is airing "Back to You," a relatively staid newsroom sitcom that seems a better fit with CBS, it's interesting to see the Tiffany Network running "The Big Bang Theory," a sitcom about nerds living next to a hot blonde waitress that would probably be more in keeping with offerings from Fox.

Try to follow us here: Two brilliant-but-socially-awkward buddies, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), return home to their run-down apartment building -- several doors are blocked with yellow tape -- to find a beautiful new neighbor. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) has arrived, and geeky Leonard is already doing calculations in his head about whether he and she might mix as well as hydrogen and oxygen do when they combine to make water. Sheldon is standoffish, but the group appears to be on their way toward becoming friends. Two more hapless braniacs join the fun (Simon Helberg is a comedic standout as Howard Wolowitz, a nerd who thinks intelligence is a substitute for being suave), and all four find their universe spiraling out of control when Penny takes a shower in the boys' apartment.

Like Penny in that shower, this program is really all wet. Ostensibly, "Big Bang Theory" hopes to show that nerds are people too. But this is a sentiment we've seen expressed for decades in films such as "Revenge of the Nerds," "Freaks and Geeks" and so on.

What "Big Bang" has going for it is Chuck Lorre, the writer/producer whose "Two And A Half Men" has been a successful Monday-night comedy for CBS. Working against it: Sheldon and Leonard are too smart for the room; their banter is filled with scientific concepts, big vocabulary words and oddball sentiments. Was it my imagination, or does the laugh track late in the show seem peppered with half-hearted chuckles, as if the audience doesn't get the jokes?

Penny becomes one of the gang, a cute rose on a stem full of thorns, but fish-out-of-water scenarios will only take this program so far. This sitcom needs to broaden these characters and make them more relatable to a wider audience. Otherwise, look for "Big Bang" to explode early in the season.

What's at stake? CBS has established a very solid Monday night filled with comedy, from "Two And A Half Men" to "How I Met Your Mother" and "The New Adventures of Old Christine." Still, one much buzzed-about entry from last year, "The Class," was dismissed after only one season, and CBS must contend with "Dancing With The Stars" on ABC and "Prison Break" on Fox. The comedies also serve to build audience for "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

Who's on board? CBS is the place for big advertisers who want to reach the masses. Among the network's biggest advertisers are Procter & Gamble and General Motors. As 25% of two hours' worth of yuks, "Big Bang" ought to attract a similar crowd.

Your ad here? There could be an opportunity here for marketers to associate themselves with the nerdy characters in the hope that one or more of them catches on as a sort of antihero. Sheldon is spotted in the first episode wearing a T-shirt sporting the superhero known as "The Flash." There's an opportunity for products aimed at niche audiences looking for quirky cool to introduce their wares to a wider group of consumers.

Media buyer's verdict: Carat notes in its programming guide it assembles for marketers that "Big Bang" is "out there" for CBS, which has been trying to "swing for the fences" after being tagged as "conservative" for running so many procedural crime dramas.

"A decent concept that needs to be better executed," RPA's guide said.
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