Although the strike-interrupted ratings finally yielded a relatively modest bang, last season’s best new comedy returns in fine fashion creatively, having apparently found a way to weather its Sam and Diane moment (a “Cheers” reference, for those of us rooted in the 20th century) and keep exploring new frontiers. Mixing sweetness with silliness, “The Big Bang Theory” boasts a strong core cast — especially the fabulous Jim Parsons — and enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep its audience happily celebrating their inner nerd. The only conundrum now is whether that proven paradigm can help foster replication of the loyal core.
Last season hinged on the intrusion of easygoing waitress Penny (Kaley Cuoco) into the computer-cocooned world of scientists/roommates Sheldon (Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), whose grasp of physics and enthusiasm for science fiction is matched by a compensating lack of social skills. Leonard was instantly smitten, but well aware — as he’s frequently reminded by the sex-crazed Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and girl-phobic Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) — that Penny was way out of his league.
So when the two closed year one with a kiss, well, where to go from there. Fortunately, series creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady have managed to pull back from that precipice in the first two episodes without seriously diminishing the show’s romantic element, while providing plenty of time to explore Sheldon’s genius-driven quirks and eccentricities that border on lunacy — among them being “constitutionally incapable” of keeping a secret and, instead of counting sheep, rattling off members of the X-Men.
Former guest Sara Gilbert also joins the regular cast as another brainiac, which at least initially feeds the writers’ tendency to occasionally become too enamored with having their talented actors spew out extended bursts of tongue-twisting scientific gobbledygook — a feat Parsons in particular manages with a brilliance that mirrors his character.
Perhaps foremost, the series represents that rare youth-oriented show (the word “youth” being a cause for hallelujahs at CBS by itself) that doesn’t pander, while augmenting its big-brain oratory with clever pop-culture references and wanton lust.
Frankly, any show that weaves in multiple jokes about Comic-Con and employs its own science consultant can’t be all bad. And if “Big Bang’s” nerd quartet is invariably uncomfortable in mixed company, as TV hosts go, they remain unfailingly good company.