The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Third Season 

Here's my theory on "The Big Bang Theory": Despite being a conventional sitcom in an era where unconventional sitcoms rule the critical roost, its success is all due to its conventionality. It's tough to imagine its jokes playing via a multicamera setup; its ensemble cast thrives under the laughter of an appreciative live audience, all the better for a well-oiled machine that's scripted tightly like a Broadway farce.

Its third season is now on DVD — 23 episodes on three discs — and although I missed its sophomore outing, this junior batch is every bit as sharp-witted as its freshman try.

While the series' three core characters have since expanded into five —? Simon Helberg's nebbish Howard and Kunal Nayyar's shy Rajesh were always there, but often on the fringes —? "Big Bang" is now the Jim Parsons show. His gawky physicist Sheldon is the Lou Costello to everyone else's Bud Abbott. Oh, everyone gets their share of laughs, but compared to Parsons, they're relegated to the straight man.

Part of that is due to a nearly season-long sexual relationship between geeky Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and hot girl Penny (Kaley Cuoco). They're the emotion in an otherwise punch line-driven affair. That's not a criticism, as all work well, both individually and bouncing off one another.

This year's highlights include such incidents as Howard finding love with a humorless Cheesecake Factory waitress (Melissa Rauch), Sheldon getting over stage fright by getting drunk for the first time, Sheldon secretly altering annoying elements of Penny's personality via chocolate, and a flashback episode of how Sheldon and Leonard became roomies.

"Big Bang Theory" continues to revel in its own nerddom of comics, sci-fi and other bits of pop culture. Making cameos as themselves are "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star Wil Wheaton, Marvel Comics guru Stan Lee and "Battlestar Galactica" beauty Katee Sackhoff, appearing in a robe and a bubble bath, respectively.

Even if I prefer the discomfort comedy of "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," I cannot deny this show's full of laughs, too. —?Rod Lott

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