The conflict between nerds and jocks is an old story standby, it's a natural "lamb versus wolf" scenario and we tend to root for the underdog. In that regard there is little revolutionary about the pilot or base premise of The Big Bang Theory
, with Give Geeks A Chance
in full effect. The only twist is that the two main geeks, Leonard and Sheldon, aren't just computer geeks but have doctorates in physics. The story of the pilot is Leonard and Sheldon returning home to see a new neighbor and after an awkward introduction Leonard mustered up the courage to invite her over for lunch. They get to know each other and Leonard being increasingly helpful to her up to even travelling across town to recover a TV from her muscle-bound jerk ex-boyfriend, with predictable results.
What makes the pilot rise up above the similar stories is a certain honesty about the characters and who they are. Leonard and Sheldon have a brief conversation where Leonard insists he is trying to be a good neighbor and isn't hoping for a relationship to spring up between him and Penny. After the disastrous "retrieve the TV" event Leonard admitted "sex with the pretty girl" was in the back of his mind. Sheldon wasn't all that interested in having a social life outside their apartment, but was clearly appreciative of the interest Penny had in his white board scribbles. Two additional friends who show up mid-way through the story, Howard and Raj, are unflinching in what makes them unique in the ensemble. The only blank slate is Penny herself, where much of the humor is how the characters react to a girl in their presence. She is not all that funny on her own.
What really works is that the performances of all the actors really sold their characters. Many lines aren't really jokes on paper but the personalities and nuances of the character make it interesting. Things like Penny's praise of Sheldon's whiteboard turns into a nice, friendly but uncomfortable bit. "You're like A Beautiful Mind
super-smart kind of guys, huh?" "...Yeah..." Even Penny gets a fun moment dismissing Howard's invite to be friends on a MMORPG game, which is given a good mixture of friendliness and sarcasm.
Again, there is nothing revolutionary with the scenario presented or the portrayal of the geeks. But there is still a charm and friendliness to the whole package that is hard to find elsewhere.