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"Amy pointed out that between the two of us, our genetic material has the potential of creating the first in a line of intellectually superior benign overlords to guide humanity to a brighter tomorrow."
-- Sheldon Cooper

In its first three seasons, the popularity of THE BIG BANG THEORY made it one of the most highly rated sitcoms airing on network television. During its fourth season, THE BIG BANG THEORY became television's highest rated comedy series, something which may have spurred CBS to announce that the show had been renewed for an additional three years. THE BIG BANG THEORY remains a personal favorite, and currently the only live action sitcom to be recorded on my DVR. Every so often, a sitcom comes along that captures lightning in a bottle- THE BIG BANG THEORY is definitely one of those magical sitcoms. And for my money, THE BIG BANG THEORY is a laugh-inducing machine, creating jokes not only from the characters and the situations, but also from some of the sharpest and most intelligent dialogue found on any television series.

Even with its success, THE BIG BANG THEORY maintains the innocent charm of characters and their situations, as well as keeping the show an ensemble driven enterprise that isn’t afraid to add a new face or two to keep the comedy fresh and allow for the growth of the characters. The series writing remains very sharp and finds continues to mine the humor in the geekieness of its main characters… a group that makes being "too smart" really funny. While laughing at the antics of THE BIG BANG THEORY, I continue to comment to myself that the main characters are the dumbest smart people I have ever seen.

Set in Pasadena, California, THE BIG BANG THEORY tells the story of a pair of geeky genius roommates, and their genius friends, who don’t always interact well with those of normal intelligence. Our roommates are Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons)… Caltech physicists by day, and über-nerds by night, with the pair spending most of their time in the virtual world of shoot ‘em ups and role playing games, or with their fellow Caltech über-nerds Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh "Raj" Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar). The random element in this control group is a pretty young woman named Penny (Kaley Cuoco) who lives in the apartment next door to Leonard and Sheldon. Despite her attractiveness and decidedly average intelligence, Penny is a down to earth person, who has befriended the geeky smart guys living next door… even if she doesn’t always understand what the heck they are talking about.

During season one, Leonard’s obvious infatuation with Penny leads to a first date. Season two starts with Penny doubting if she can sustain a long term relationship with Leonard, due to the difference in their intelligence, so an official second date doesn’t materialize. Season three of THE BIG BANG THEORY finds Penny unable to deny her attraction Leonard any longer, which results in a hot and heavy relationship. Season four finds Leonard and Penny facing the amicable aftermath of their breakup… with Leonard going on to date Raj’s sister Priya (Aarti Mann), while Penny expresses her regret in breaking up with Leonard on more than one occasion.

Of course, the romantic angle between Leonard and Penny is only a small part of the character-based comedy, with the social ineptitude of the small circle of friends continuing to generate big laughs every week. The cast of THE BIG BANG THEORY remains nothing short of perfect. Galecki is a great straight man and underdog; the kind of guy who you hope gets the girl. Parsons gets even better with every episode as floats innocently through his character’s deluded bubble of self-importance- said performance earned Parsons the 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (plus a 2011 nomination), as well as a 2011 Golden Globe Award. Cuoco is the right combination of pretty, sweet and approachability. Helberg nails the goofy "mama’s boy" wannabe ladies’ man nerd, plus his verbal exchanges with his never seen (but always heard) mother (voiced by Carol Ann Susi) are utterly hilarious. Nayyar is a real scene-stealer, getting big laughs either during his moments of female proximity panic induced silence, or when he is coming on to women in an intoxicated state. Season four of THE BIG BANG THEORY sees two fairly hilarious additions to the ensemble, both of whom appear on a regular basis throughout the year. Mayim Bialik is riotous as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, a female version of Sheldon, a person to whom Sheldon repeatedly refers to as a girl who is his friend, but not his "girlfriend." Melissa Rauch is an utter delight as Bernadette Rostenkowski, Howard’s Shiksa girlfriend, to whom he becomes engaged.

THE BIG BANG THEORY: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON ($55) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a two-disc set that features the following twenty-four episodes that were aired during year four: The Robotic Manipulation, The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification, The Zazzy Substitution, The Hot Troll Deviation, The Desperation Emanation, The Irish Pub Formulation, The Apology Insufficiency, The 21-Second Excitation, The Boyfriend Complexity, The Alien Parasite Hypothesis, The Justice League Recombination, The Bus Pants Utilization, The Love Car Displacement, The Thespian Catalyst, The Benefactor Factor, The Cohabitation Formulation, The Toast Derivation, The Prestidigitation Approximation, The Zarnecki Incursion, The Herb Garden Germination, The Agreement Dissection, The Wildebeest Implementation, The Engagement Reaction and The Roommate Transmogrification.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-three episodes from THE BIG BANG THEORY: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentations for THE BIG BANG THEORY episodes on Blu-ray continue to blow their overly compressed, artifact riddled HD broadcast counterparts out of the H20, and remain a quantum leap beyond the SD DVD versions seen in seasons one and two (which are long overdue for Blu-ray upgrades). Like a typical sitcom, THE BIG BANG THEORY is brightly lit, which allows for very good to excellent overall image quality. Sharpness and detail are very strong across the episodes, as is the overall clarity, depth and levels of fine detail and texturing found in the image. Thanks to the sitcom lighting color reproduction proves excellent this time around as well. The production design for THE BIG BANG THEORY is replete with brightly colored hues that pop off the screen in a near continuous fashion, yet remain perfectly stable. While the colors are sometimes dizzying, flesh tones always fairly natural and always attractive. Blacks are inky, while the whites are crisp. Contrast and shadow detail are very nice throughout, but are never challenging, due largely to the series sitcom lighting scheme. The source materials don’t demonstrate any noticeable flaws. Grain/noise levels are quite modest.

All of the episodes that constitute THE BIG BANG THEORY: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Once again, I am totally delighted that Warner is issuing its television product with lossless sound and am particularly glad they are carrying it to the sitcom level, where the rewards aren’t as readily apparent. THE BIG BANG THEORY has a very conventional sitcom sound design, ergo much of the sound is locked front and center. Like the vast majority of sitcoms, THE BIG BANG THEORY is dialogue driven, so there isn’t much information to extend beyond the center channel, other than the sounds of laughter and other audience reactions, as well as the musical component. Occasional sound effects do spread beyond the center channel, but they are fairly incidental. The animated transition shots that fall between scenes are accompanied by sound effects that do spread into the entire soundstage, but transitions last mere seconds. Thanks to the lossless encode, the series theme song by Barenaked Ladies sounds smoother and more robust, while the series always-intelligible dialogue comes across in a warmer, more natural manner. Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 channel stereo soundtracks are also provided for the episodes. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the extras. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Actor On Actor: The Big Bang Theory Of Relativity (several amusing segments of cast members interviewing each other) and The Big Bang Theory Live (attend the taping of The Wildebeest Implementation). We also get a Barenaked Ladies Music Video for the series theme song, with a making of. A Gag Reel closes out the extras.

Four seasons in, THE BIG BANG THEORY remains one of the funniest shows, if not the funniest show, currently airing on television. The episodes on Blu-ray look wonderful and sound pretty nice. Definitely recommended! Let’s hope seasons one and two also hit Blu-ray very soon.


The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season [Blu-ray] (2010)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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