Awkward young men also form the core of "Big Bang Theory," which begins tonight on CBS -- with "Back to You," one of only two new three-camera comedies this season. Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons play a pair of socially inept Caltech physicists who get a perky blond new neighbor in the person of waitress Kaley Cuoco.
Co-creator Chuck Lorre's previous strange-bedfellows comedies include "2 1/2 Men" and "Dharma & Greg," and that the leads are named Sheldon and Leonard, after the producer of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," is a clue to this one's mainstream ambitions. It's just the same joke endlessly repeated -- the everyday translated into geek-speak, and the obscure and difficult treated as if it were common knowledge ("It's just some quantum mechanics with a little string theory doodling around the edges"). It's not a bad joke -- it's like calling a swimming pool "a cement pond," and "The Beverly Hillbillies" got 274 episodes out of that -- but these are perilous times for sitcoms, and Lorre & Co. may want to think up another.
Meanwhile, there's some good work being done here; I especially liked Simon Helberg as a mop-topped would-be geek Lothario and young old-pro Cuoco ("8 Simple Rules . . . for Dating My Teenage Daughter" and, like, a million other things), who shapes her part into something human, not just a head full of air.