The second season picks up right where the first one left off, which means there's no need for character introductions. I will however introduce them for those of you who haven't watched the show. Johnny Galecki plays Leonard Hofstadter a scientist who at the moment is studying dark matter. In a normal show, he'd be considered the geek and the brain yet on this show, he's more of the romantic lead if you can believe that. He is roommates with theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper, played by Emmy nominee Jim Parsons. Now Sheldon is by far the geek and the brain on this show, and the one closest to being crazy. More on him later. Kaley Cuoco plays Penny, the hot blond across the hall who is trying to become an actress while working at The Cheesecake Factory. She and Leonard have a thing for each other but it never quite seems to work out. Simon Helberg plays Howard Wolowitz, the only non-PhD amongst the group. But he is an engineer who has worked on the Mars Rover and the International Space Station projects. Wolowitz is the geekiest looking of the group, but also the most perverted. He's 27 and lives at home with his overbearing mother. Rounding out the cast is Kunal Nayyar who plays Rajesh Koothrappali, an astrophysicist who can't speak in front of beautiful women, unless he's got a drink in him.
Earlier this year I bought Season One and got so hooked I watched every episode over the course of a weekend. I had never watched an episode before and was immediately taken in by the characters. With Season Two I didn't watch an episode during the TV season, but when I got the DVD, I sat and watched the entire season in a day. The best thing about the show is how the characters all get along. While the four guys are all braniacs with their own bizarre notions of life, they're all very likeable people and you can see why they'd all be friends. And while Penny would seem to be an outsider into their group, as season two opens, they've accepted her as one of their own. She might not be as smart as the rest, but she brings some legitamacy to the group when they go out in public. When they all go to the comic book store together for the first time (episode 20) and all the other comic geeks stare at her, the guys puff up in pride that a hottie like her would hang out with them.
I like what the producers of the show did, not making the Penny/Leonard relationship the focus of the show. It allows them to showcase the other characters more and not make it a love story with 3 other people floating around. Arguably, Sheldon is the center of the show since every character has to react to his idiosyncrasies, whether it's not whistling in the house or staying off his spot on the couch or touching his food. He's got so many hangups it would be annoying for most people to deal with, yet these guys do in a very loving, albeit sometimes pissed off, way.
There are some typical sitcom plot lines that happen during season 2. When a date goes bad, Penny confides why to Sheldon who now has to keep the secret from Leonard. Needless to say, for someone who lives a structured life such as his, that becomes nearly impossible. And when Leonard then confronts Penny, it ends badly. But then there are some episodes that couldn't possibly happen on another show. In episode 8, Wolowitz brings a girl to the lab where they control the Mars Rover, and he accidentally gets the Rover stuck in a ditch. So while Leonard brings the girl home (and eventually starts dating her) the rest of the guys have to try and fix the Rover. In episode 13, Sheldon needs to make a new friend in order to get some lab time from a former competitor. Since Sheldon has no idea how to make friends, he gets his current friends to fill out a 200+ questionairre to get an idea of why they like him, and then based on that and a children's book, he devises a flowchart to make a new friend. With this group of characters, you have the ability to go with standard sitcom plots, but also go to places no other show can touch.
What I found interesting while watching the entire season over the course of 12 hours (including a nap - it was Saturday after all) was that I liked the show more when they didn't bring another character into the mix. Whether the guest star was famous (Summer Glau) or not, adding another character took away from the people I liked. I understand that the show can't constantly focus on these 5 people or else it'll get stale, but for the most part the guests didn't add much. The Summer Glau cameo was a disaster as that entire episode (episode 17) was probably the worst of the season. The entire show took place on a train and Summer can't really do comedy. Sara Rue plays Leonard's girlfriend for a couple of episodes but her character didn't really do much and was quickly dispatched of. I think the best guest spot went to Christine Baranski who played Leonard's mom. She and Sheldon were almost exactly alike and her cold demeanor was hysterical. When she called out Wolowitz and Raj at the lunch table I spit out my water.
My favorite episode by far, and the one the actors even mention on one of the DVD extras, was episode 11. There, Penny announces that she has gotten Leonard and Sheldon Christmas gifts, which to normal people is a good thing. But Sheldon now goes off into a panic trying to figure out what to get her in return. It has to be something that is equal in value and friendship. So he buys 6-7 gift baskets of different sizes so that when he sees her gift, he can give her the gift basket that he believes is equal. But when she gives him the gift (spoiler alert) he nearly passes out. It is an autographed napkin from Leonard Nimoy, along with his DNA (since he wiped his mouth with it). Jim Parsons's reactions are so hysterical and then touching it was the highlight of the season. When he gives Penny an awkward hug in appreciation, the look on her face is priceless. Easily the best moment of a season that had a lot of great scenes.
The 4-disc, 23 episode DVD has 3 extras on the last disc. There is a gag reel, a behind-the-scenes look at the science used on the show, then a more generic behind-the-scenes documentary. They're all entertaining to watch, once you've seen the season. It is funny to see these actors out of character because you think that they are their characters.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I'm a big fan of The Big Bang Theory. If you've never seen it before, I suggest you start with Season One and then move on to Season Two. The hallmark of a great show is having characters you care about, and with this show, you have five of them.