The Blu-ray release of 'The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Third Season' was my introduction to the show, and I'll admit, the brisk runtime, the often hilariously inane sequences and story developments, and the fantastic dialogue had me. Those first episodes showed me the dynamic of the show working at quite possibly its best, where relationships were present, but weren't the dominant factor, where the four main characters, the geeks that we all can find relatable due to those we experience sometime in our lifetime, had a fun charm to them, and plenty of twisted, mixed up, impossibly stupid misadventures and misinterpretations to keep interest levels up, where episode to episode the story continued, and wasn't just throwing developments out of the air for no reason whatsoever, like the worst sitcoms out there do, making continuity a bitch and a half.
The fourth season of the show has a different dynamic. Dramatically so. Sometimes, this is a good thing, and the changes fit perfectly in with the characters that are so easy to get familiar with and laugh with (and at). Other times, it can be a bit monotonous, where entire episodes are one big old unfunny joke that never resolves, where character development is trivial and new situations are thrown in for no rhyme or reason, in an attempt to keep things fresh. As such, I'd say this new batch of episodes is a marked step down, although this does remain a very interesting series and a breezy viewing experience.
Four months have passed since Sheldon (Golden Globe and Emmy winner Jim Parsons) met Amy (show newcomer Mayim Bialik of 'Blossom' past), the person most like him in the world. Yes, apparently, the world is big enough for two of them. This combination of antisocial tendencies, extreme quirk and disassociation, as well as sheer unabashed intellect makes the boy-slash-friend-slash-girl-slash-friend duo a real gauntlet for anyone in their path to endure. Yet, Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Raj (Kunnal Nayar), and Howard (Simon Helberg) all still gather in their own little exclusive clique with their demeaning borderline idiot savant friend. With Leonard's pining for ex-girlfriend Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Howard's pining for ex-girlfriend Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and Raj still incapable of talking to women without alcohol in his system, the more things change for these academic geniuses, the more they stay the same.
The way the third season ended with the introduction of Amy, fans knew to expect something big from the character, and boy are they given a treat. The undisputed best element in this newest batch of episodes has to be the interactions and utterly outrageous dialogue this female Sheldon brings to the table. Completely antisocial and unaware of most social constructs and norms, this bizarre young woman is the perfect fit to the fussy Sheldon, creating two distinctly hilarious outcomes: the moments where her idiosyncrasies line up with her counterparts, creating hell for those around them, or the times where the two super geniuses clash like two alphas fighting over their pack, with little regard for middle ground in their "I'm right, you're wrong" battles that prove no one is a winner. Amy is also a great addition to the Penny dynamic, as she forces her way into being "besties" with the gorgeous neighbor, with far too many moments of sheer hilarity ensuing due to their incompatibility.
As always, Parsons is the show stealer, with the most impossibly odd and puzzlingly hilarious character on television at the moment, who never is part of a dull moment. Whether he's dealing with his World of Warcraft account getting hacked, leading to the loss of his beloved battle ostrich named Glenn, or planning to reproduce with Amy via in vitro fertilization to create what may be the first in a line of human overlords (think 'Metropolis' or 'The Time Machine'), there is never a moment where the character becomes predictable, and the addition of the Amy character is finally the recognition, in my eyes, that this is the character that its success hinges upon, not Leonard and his "Ross and Rachel"-esque relationship with Penny. And it's proven, again and again, that whenever you need a friend, he'll reluctantly be there. Hell, even the stupidest joke in the season, the three player chess game he pontificates, has its payoff with the Prince Joey piece he proposes, that is suicidal and has a 1 in 5 chance of ending its own life. It's just so wrong...so distant...it's impossible to beat this level of inanity.
Sadly, though, this season has its problems, and not due to "creative" filming around Cuoco's broken leg. While the explanation of Howard and Bernadette's breakup is hilarious, their reconnected relationship drags the season down to a crawl at times, with the complete lack of chemistry (even if the odd situation of a total loser getting a girlfriend far outside his league should create awkwardness, there's just nothing selling the pair) on display, with a heavy focus on their progression that feels forced and pretty damn stupid. Raj's obsession with Bernadette leads to some very hilarious scenes, including a Bollywood song and dance number that is a laugh riot, which may be the only positive relationship-themed joke or scenario in this season. The way Raj's sister Priya (Aarti Mann) is thrown into the cast into a relationship with Leonard is too heavy handed, and too unreal, to the point where I wonder when the "we were on a break!" jokes are going to kick in with his longtime obsession Penny. It's just too much this season that everyone has to have a girlfriend (or in Sheldon's case, a girl who is a friend, but is not a girlfriend), a bit too sitcomy, too unrealistic.
Then there's this season's other problem: repetition. How many times do we have to have the backstabbing cat fight comments due to Priya and Penny? How many mensies jokes does Amy have to say? What about spitting in food? That joke doesn't come up once...oh, wait, the same damn joke is used at least four times in this twenty four episode arc. The recurrence of themes is one thing, but the same payoff? It just gets old fast. We needed more Oedipal comments with Howard and his Maris-like (oft heard of or from, not seen) mother, or Ricky, the monkey Amy teaches to smoke, who seems to want to give everyone second hand smoke exposure and cancer due to being such an ass. The great jokes are abandoned, one note little affairs, while the bad ones, the awkward unfunny ones drag on and on, it's just too imbalanced.
'The Big Bang Theory' may very well be the smartest show on television at the moment, but that doesn't mean its intelligence is always on display. Of course, whenever Sheldon is in a scene, yes, there's going to be some kind of snippy or smarmy pun or witticism, but this entire season lives and dies by whether the character is on screen or not. The adventures of Leonard's penis aren't all that interesting. We need more of Amy and the awkwardness she brings, as she performs experiments with her new group of friends by spreading rumors she took Sheldon's virginity. We need more nasty digs, like the horribly funny jab at 'The Notebook.' We need less damned relationship drama. Nerds oftentimes go lengths of time between relationships that aren't fantasy, fiction, or wild dreams. Here, there's too much fan pandering, too much relationship drama, and not enough of what makes the show work: wit. Sharp, nasty, quick as a whip wit.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season' comes to Blu-ray from Warner Bros. across two BD50 discs housing twelve episodes apiece. This set is Region A/B/C coded, and features no annoying pre-menu content. The annoying menu makes up for that...
Presented in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 encode, 'The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season' looks...about par for the course, not really any better or worse than the release of the third season.
On the bright side, banding isn't an issue, digital tampering isn't there, edges are perfect, and colors are bright and powerful, with solid black levels. Skin tones are mostly solid, though Galecki often is a bit too orange or red, the odd man out. The atom segue sequences have horrible jaggies and macroblocking as the icons approach the screen, but it's not fair to judge the show based off the crappy visuals that have been in place since the beginning. I did have a problem with the noise on this release, which is first visible in Raj's jacket, and then horribly in Penny's arms in the first episode's driving sequence. There's also some light artifacting, which can be most visible in shots with Sheldon's red laptop computer.
This is a fine presentation, nothing drop dead gorgeous, but still most certainly passable and enjoyable!
"You heard me say Blu-ray, right?"
All twenty four episodes of the fourth season of 'The Big Bang Theory' are given the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 treatment. If you don't have a surround system, you won't miss much.
I was astonished at how much bass and movement there was in the little atom symbol segues, as rears got powerful swoops and there was rumble aplenty. Then the actual show happened, and bass popped its head up a total of two times, and rears got less than one of those kids in those hunger commercials.
I'll admit, I am quite happy with the way dialogue presented itself, with fine dynamics, nary a weird distortion, not even in what few yelling sequences are in the show, even if one or two stairwell sequences had a bit of garble. But I'm not so happy with the way the horrible, horrible laugh track to this show would regularly drown out ambient noise and make dialogue fight to be heard. Thank goodness this show is incredibly front heavy, as if I were surrounded with this cackling I probably would have quit this review in protest. The Bollywood sequence hits all channels fantastically, with some good bass to match, while the club sequence in the twenty first episode was much heavier, and more believable.
That's really about all there is to say about the show. It stays in its safe zone, it rarely breaks free, and it's covered in the laughing of buffoons. It's passable. Barely.
In season three, 'The Big Bang Theory' came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me with how well it worked so early in its lifespan. With the fourth season, the changed focus and repetitive jokes make the experience a bit less enjoyable, even if it can still be a real hoot, full of plenty LOL moments. This Blu-ray release is on par with the previous, for better or worse, so fans should know what they're getting into. I'd suggest newcomers jump in with season three before this new set of episodes, as although the show features a sharp learning curve with a big pay off, there's too much from the previous season that plays a role here to ignore. This comes recommended, but damn it, it should have been higher.