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'Big Bang' recap: A Festivus of one-liners

December 17, 2010 | 11:22 am

CBS is the “one-liner network” –- my motto, not theirs –- but the folks there would be hard-pressed to dispute that assessment. They’ve ridden it right to first place in the ratings. Thing is, it gets the network no respect. One critic said NBC shows tend to be smart but not funny. CBS, he says, features shows that are funny but not smart. Funny rules.

"The Big Bang Theory" is the network’s smartest sitcom, and when it’s “on,” as on Thursday, it has Seinfeldian overtones: great banter, character-based humor and the sense that you’re watching one long hilarious skit when in fact it’s a carefully crafted little story with a solid beginning/middle/end.

The boys’ goal this time is to win the New Year’s Eve costume contest at the comic book store. Their secret weapon is brainless male bimbo Zack, who is back dating Penny again. Complications ensue when Penny reveals that she’d rather be spending New Year’s Eve with Leonard. But at the stroke of midnight, she kisses Zack instead, leaving Leonard alone and baffled.

This may be my favorite episode of the season -– full of fine writing and acting, over far too soon. Only Jim Parsons could get such a big laugh at the long knock on the door to Penny’s apartment. Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder would’ve been proud of that moment and maybe several others in this rippingly funny episode. It’s a Festivus of world-class one-liners.

 Way to go, Ye Gang of Bang. When you guys are on like this, this little show is a real gift.

 --Chris Erskine

Photo: The cast wins the New Year's costume party -- well, everyone but Leonard. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS