When it premiered a year ago, The Big Bang Theory just felt like a dumb show about smart guys. It made fun of its central duo best friends/roommates Leonard (Roseanne's Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) because they were brilliant but socially inept science nerds. The sitcom also ridiculed the pair's apartment-house neighbor Penny (8 Simple Rules' Kaley Cuoco) because she was your standard TV dumb blonde. The result: Who cares about these people?
But as the first season progressed and as the new season proves, Big Bang evolved into something better. Penny is now smarter; she's the person we identify with, who's watching the geeks with amused skepticism. The other development was the kind of TV alchemy that producers can't predict: Parsons has become the show's quivering, riveting center.
With a thin, bendy-straw body and a round ball of a head, Parsons is like a dandelion without the fuzziness. His Sheldon is grim and chilly; he speaks with impeccable, comically fussy grammar. (Penny: "Can I ask you a question?" Sheldon, in a flushed rush: "I would prefer that you not, but I won't go so far as to forbid it.") His supercilious demeanor is a defense against a world he does not understand, or declines to. You get the feeling that once the writers saw how Parsons could deliver stretches of dialogue with such precision, they started churning out more for him to do.Prickly Sheldon has become a character to love, and Parsons is doing something rare on network TV: making intellectualism admirable, even heroic. B+