The second season of 'The Big Bang Theory' picks up where the first run of episodes left off, both figuratively and literally, and expands upon the show's early goings with episodes tailored to get us more involved and in tune with its small assortment of characters. Like many shows, the longer a series runs, the more entire episodes can be devoted to side characters and random time wasting, and while we do get said expansion here, it ends up working wonders for the way the show flows, both episode to episode and from scene to scene. It's not hard to say the show starts to really hit its stride here.
Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Gallecki)'s date didn't quite go exactly to plan, and the love-struck nerd next door finds himself back in the friend zone, leading to jealousy and a delicate, sometimes complicated dance, seeing as the pair are neighbors for the foreseeable future. With Leonard over-thinking scenarios, creating a rift where there wasn't even an issue, we're back in familiar territory: four guys who just don't understand the real world or the opposite sex. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) has his turn with an obsessive admirer who comes to dominate his every waking moment, while Raj (Kunal Nayyar) has his chance at a famous American actress (Summer Glau as herself), with Howard (Simon Helberg) coming up short time and time again. The more the characters grow together and have their petty squabbles, the more two of them realize how much they do need each other...only in time for one of them to fly off to the North Pole for research...
Season two doesn't quite have an eye towards continuity, seeing as Sheldon goes from stating he never forgets anything to admitting numerous things slipped his mind in the same episode, and Penny spends days not going to work due to a newfound obsession with MMORPG's, then doesn't realize her shortcomings when she's low on cash and in dire need of money a few episodes later. What this season does have an eye for, though, is comedy. Cliche as that may sound, this run of 'The Big Bang Theory' episodes has more than its fair share of "laugh out loud" moments, even if they're not quite "side splitting" or "uproarious" show redefiners. There is hardly a bad episode in this entire batch, and the vast array of situations we see unfold leads to a very fulfilling experience, particularly in a marathon viewing session, as it isn't the same damn jokes or scenarios episode in and episode out.
It isn't the very sitcom-y scenarios that make this season a winner, as a number of plots revolve around tired and worn through genre tropes, but the writing behind the characters, fleshing them out to the nth degree, which helps us recognize that we know people just like these hapless and hopeless geeks in real life. It's small things, like Sheldon Cooper wondering aloud about the vast number of super-villains who have the word "doctor" in their name, a clear sign that more delicate screening needs take place at particular universities, showing us his complete inability to separate fiction from reality, despite his enormous intellect. It's the way even a random one episode appearance can steal a show, like when a Las Vegas prostitute pretends to be Jewish so as to further the "girlfriend experience" for Howard after a devastating split, that reminds us that normal people plugged into this universe and its high-strung characters can be hilarious solely due to their reactions to the inanity we have become accustomed to.
The heavy TV focus on characters in relationships (so as to show happy shiny people or something like that) isn't too egregious this time around, as there's only one really meaningful relationship in this batch of episodes, and even it is a little bit...peculiar. When Leonard steals a girl Howard was interested in (though it cannot be said she was interested in him...), we see a real adult to adult situation, where Leonard has to come to grips with real, mature relationships, in what may be his first go-round. However, this character, who appears for three episodes and is never conclusively dumped, disappears, never to be mentioned again. There's no moping for a character who would dwell on said failure for episodes on end, just a clean slate so as to open the door for more interactions with Penny next door. It's quite odd, honestly.
The second season of 'The Big Bang Theory' has its share of hilariously intricate, vastly intelligent gags, as the bar was clearly raised from season one, with little fear of alienating audiences with jokes they may not get (even if there is some silly humor, such as rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock games that never go according to plan). There's very little in the way of pandering, a problem the show would become rife with in years to come. There's little to no ugliness or embarrassment that will make viewers upset with any episode. In fact, there's little to nothing to complain about except random little oddities. This season is a definite must-have for fans, as it definitely elevated the potential of the show to a new level that has yet to wane.
The Disc: Vital Stats
This season of 'The Big Bang Theory' is packaged in the same fat-case that the first season was found in, though this time around we're looking at a six disc set: two BD50 Blu-rays (one hidden behind the episode guide) and four DVD discs in the spindles that follow. There is no pre-menu garbage, and WB's newer menu navigation is simplistic and enjoyable. There is a resume feature, though it doesn't function as seamlessly as other season sets from different studios. This set is packaged in a five-sided slip-sleeve replicating the art beneath it, and includes three ways to watch the show at one great price.
The video on the first season of 'The Big Bang Theory' was all over the place, with episodes that didn't match the rest in terms of visual/filming aesthetics and a handful of minor issues that would pile up and beat the good scenes into submission. The second season is a marked improvement on the series debut, with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode bringing the show right up to the par of later seasons in terms of visual quality.
The grain levels are kept at a reasonable and consistent level, with no detail obscuring spikes in any situation, and while skin tones can be a little splotchy and varied scene to scene, for the most part the picture remains true episode to episode. Detail levels are improved ever so slightly, with better, clearer facial features and clothing textures (the renaissance costumes? Wow!), and picture depth remains really damn good for a show of this type, even if it has its ups and downs. Hair has great distinction, and while a few 'do's blur together, there is far less blurry, undefined blobs atop heads. There are some minor edge concerns, popping up noticeably in a few moments (particularly the straw in the sixth episode) where outlines seem a bit pronounced, and while there are also some minor noise concerns, there is no banding or aliasing to draw your eye negatively.
The audio on the second season of 'The Big Bang Theory' is a slight improvement on the first, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on each and every episode providing a much cleaner, crisper presentation. While the bass levels are a little underwhelming as a whole, there are more than a few moments this season that pack some real surprising punch out of the blue, keeping you on your toes. Rear use is also increased, with real minor spread of the (horrendously dominant) laugh track and a few little bits of ambience, though not enough to put you in any scene. Heck, the crowded bar scene has absolutely nothing in the rears, yet random other scenes or entire sequences (see: Las Vegas) do. Dialogue is a bit less brunt, and therefore sounds much more natural, and dynamics are appropriate. With no mic bumping and thumping, there's no way to say this isn't a better experience, though the prolonged laugh tracks do get in the way of discernibility in the openings of line readings.
Four DVD discs is an obvious blessing!
'The Big Bang Theory' steps up its game this second season, providing a thoroughly enjoyable experience, one superior in almost every single way to the first season. As this program hits its stride so early, the door is opened to a variety of episodes that seem ageless in the show's canon, which is borderline astounding when you compare it to other popular programs. This Blu-ray/DVD/UVDC set is one hell of a bargain, as the price gets you a ton of ways to watch the show, and a superior viewing experience to the first season, as well as a couple nifty features. Fans, get this. Get this now!