The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season DVD review - these physicists have chemistry

Although the main characters in The Big Bang Theory are physicists, the sitcom proves just how valuable chemistry is; specifically the importance of chemistry between the actors in a successful and enjoyable comedy.  Season Four of the hit series is buoyed by its enjoyable cast even when the writing undergoes an ever-so-slight dip along the way, and proves that the addition of new elements, when handled properly, can yield a prosperous reaction.

                              the big bang theory

The already great cast grows in Season Four by adding two new main cast members, Melissa Rauch and Blossom's Mayim Bialik.  Season Three's unanswered question of whatever happened between Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Rauch) to cause them to break up gets answered, and Rauch's character is welcomed back into the show on a permanent basis. 

Season Three (which I reviewed previously here, alongside Seasons One and Two) ended with Sheldon (Jim Parsons) being set up with Amy Farrah Fowler (Bialik) by his friends, though their experiment to get Sheldon to begin dating backfires on them when Amy turns out to be just like him.  Bialik is a fantastic new addition to the show.  Along the course of Season Four, Amy goes from merely being a female version of Sheldon to her own flushed-out character, creating new dynamics in terms of her relationships with Sheldon and Penny (Kaley Cuoco).  For Sheldon, Amy is the only character he honestly enjoys spending time with and the two become a fun duo to observe, while Amy declares Penny her best friend (or "bestie") and together with Bernadette they form their own girl group who go out doing girly things like shoe shopping or staying in for a slumber party.

Also notably in Season Four, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) begins dating Raj's (Kunal Nayyar) sister Priya (Aarti Mann), much to the dismay of protective and single Raj, Howard (with whom Leonard had formerly made an agreement neither would pursue her romantically), Penny (who realizes she shouldn't have broken up with Leonard) and Sheldon (who takes umbrage to how Priya, as a lawyer, is able to find loopholes in the Roommate Agreement).  Condemnation of Priya becomes a rallying point for Penny, Bernadette and Amy's girl group in episodes like "The Wildebeest Implementation" where Bernadette is coerced into becoming a "double agent" who can seek to undermine Priya's relationship with Leonard on Penny's behalf.

Other memorable moments from Season Four include Howard becoming entwined with a robotic arm in an embarrassing manner; Leonard meeting Penny's dad who doesn't know they've broken up; the group creating an iPhone app; Sheldon creating a robotic surrogate for himself; Raj and Howard accidentally kissing; Amy becoming aroused for the first time at the sight of Penny's date; Sheldon feeling guilt for the first time after inadvertently revealing to an FBI agent (Eliza Dushku) that Howard was responsible for getting the Mars Rover stuck; the group dressing up like the Justice League for a New Year's Eve costume contest; Howard stumping Sheldon with a card trick; Sheldon attempting to develop a new group of friends that includes LeVar Burton; Raj having a Bollywood-style fantasy about him and Bernadette; the group driving to Carlsbad to confront a hacker; and Sheldon stealing a print of Raiders of the Lost Ark in order to prevent Wil Wheaton from seeing the new 21 seconds of footage added to it. 

Despite the breath of fresh air that Bialik's character provides to the show, it's inevitable that any sitcom that runs long enough to near syndication status will have some non-peak moments in terms of the writing.  The fourth season of The Big Bang Theory has a few dips which are perceptible, though slight, in terms of writing quality.  In the episode "The Hot Troll Deviation," the writing becomes too cartoony for a show about science when Raj and Sheldon keep trying to one-up each other after Raj gets his own desk for his and Sheldon's office after Sheldon forbids it.  In the end, Sheldon attempts to "smoke" Raj out with flammable hydrogen sulfite gas and Raj counters with aromatherapy candles, causing an explosion that smudges Raj's face and messes up his hair as if he were Yosemite Sam.  In the episode "The Benefactor Factor," Sheldon compares participating in fundraisers to being lured into a windowless van.  When he extends the metaphor to include "a tear-stained air mattress" inside, it stops being funny and instead heads into some surprisingly dark territory, something woefully out-of-place in the consistently light and funny show.

Despite those little bumps along the way, in its fourth season The Big Bang Theory remains an honest-to-goodness laugh-out-loud-funny sitcom, a true rarity.  While introducing a new cast member or two often means a show is past its prime, The Big Bang Theory appears to still be in the midst of a successful stride.  Its dynamite cast plays off of one another extremely well, even with new players added to the mix, and proves that chemistry is indeed a vital part of this Big Bang.

Extras on the season four DVD set include a gag reel and featurette with the Barenaked Ladies talking about writing the show's theme song and then recording its music video.  Also, a featurette titled "The Big Bang Theory of Relativity: Actor on Actor" is spread across the three discs.  In it, the main cast members "interview" each other, offering up little insight into the production of the show, but the installment on the third disc is worth a viewing merely to see Helberg doing a spot-on impression of Nayyar as well as getting to hear Rauch speaking with her natural voice.

By Sombrero Grande

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1 Comment
On: Monday, September 19, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Great to see you back in action Sombrero! 

And I agree that there's a mix in a successful comedy between great characters and great writing, and it's the chemistry of the actors/characters that really synches the deal and keeps you watching even if a particular moment isn't especially funny or dramatic. 

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