Synopsis: An attractive girl moves in across the hall from two geeks.
Review: The majority of any pilot is going to be concerned with introducing the main characters. This takes one of three forms: (1) All the characters already know each other. This one is probably the hardest because since the characters already know each other's names and backgrounds, they aren't going to be sharing that information. (2) The characters are meeting for the first time. In this scenario, a character can believable say, "my nickname is Pooh, and my father died when I was twelve" because the other characters don't know this either. (3) Hybrid Approach: A new character meets an established group for the first time. This is probably the most used. Although most of the characters already know each other, the audience associates with the new character and is introduced to the other members of the group along with that character. The Big Bang Theory pilot follows this last form.
The main characters are Penny, Sheldon, Leonard, Wolowitz, and Raj. The latter four are already friends, but Penny is meeting the group for the first time. Every precious second of the twenty-two minute running time should have been dedicated to Penny getting to know the guys. Both the sperm bank and ex-boyfriend's apartment were irrelevant with artificial conflict. The episode would have been improved by excising those two scenes. There is a long-standing axiom called the Law of Conservation of Characters, which states use as few characters as you can to accomplish the action. Both these scenes break that rule. The scenes of just the guys with Penny are good. It's too bad they wasted time that could have been spent with them.
Sheldon and Leonard are thankfully spared a generic geek archetype. They are two distinct characters. Their portrayal should not offend geeks. Sheldon has a hard time relating with society. He sees nothing inappropriate about telling Penny they masturbated for money while Leonard has a much keener understanding of interpersonal relationships and tries to mask Sheldon's improper comment. Actually Leonard's awkwardness around Penny seems somewhat out of character. Penny is unfortunately portrayed as a dumb blond in this episode. She doesn't realize Sheldon is putting her down when it is obvious from his comment on her mention of astrological signs. If any segment of the population should be offended, it would be blonds (that is, if they're realize they're being made fun of.) We learn very little about Wolowitz and Raj at this point other than Wolowitz fancies himself a lady's man and Raj can't talk to women. The Big Bang Theory has interesting and nuanced characters but because this episode doesn't spend enough time with them, if I was to assign a rating right now, it would be a 4...
...but I realize not everyone reading this review is a geek. As a self-professed geek, I want to present a scorecard of how well this episode did at being geeky:
Klingon Boggle and Stephen Hawking are simply not enough. When it comes to the Geek Score, the pilot comes up lacking falling to a 3 out of 10. When it comes down to it, The Big Bang Theory is just not very geeky.
Objectionable Content: A scene occurs in the lobby of a sperm bank and includes masturbation and pornography jokes. On top of that, the scene was pointless (see my critical review above.)
Penny comes out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel. The context for this is completely innocent though: Sheldon and Leonard are being a good neighbor by allowing Penny to shower at their apartment because her shower is not working. Penny is not being immodest by coming out but needs help operating the shower.
My last point is one many non-religious (and maybe some Christians) wouldn't even flinch at. Leonard admits to Sheldon that he was hoping to establish a relationship with Penny that would lead to sex. Many Christians believe in staying abstinent until marriage, and some Christian parents don't like it when television glamorizes sex before marriage. Plus a character opportunity was missed. While being extremely book smart, geeks are commonly naive when it comes to social interaction. While the "cool kids" are dating to get laid, the geeks wants a girlfriend to play miniature golf with them.
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)