Greg Gayne, Warner Bros.
Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki

THE BIG BANG Theory" isn't exactly an original idea — nerdy guys meet a beautiful woman.

And it's a traditional sitcom — performed on a soundstage in front of a live studio audience — a format that the television industry has all but declared dead and buried.

But "Big Bang" is funny. Really funny. And that's something most of the trendy half-hour "comedies" aren't these days.

As is so often the case, it's not the concept, it's not the format, it's the execution. And "Big Bang Theory," premiering Monday at 7:30 p.m. on Ch. 2, is so well-executed it's one of the funniest new shows on any network this fall.

Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) are the textbook definition of geeks. They're brilliant astrophysicists who apparently buy their clothes at thrift stores, can only interact with other people online and can't interact with women at all.

They hang out with a couple of other Cal Tech geniuses, Howard (Simon Helberg) and Rashesh (Kunal Nayyar). They can all speak Klingon, but they can't talk to girls.

But then the gorgeous-but-not-too-bright Penny (Kelly Cuoco) moves into the apartment across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard. Leonard falls in love, but Sheldon is more than skeptical about his chances with Penny.

"What makes you think she wouldn't have sex with me? I'm a male and she's a female," Leonard says.

"Yes, but not of the same species," Sheldon replies.

And when Leonard imagines a future with Penny, he says, "Our babies will be smart and beautiful."

"Not to mention imaginary," Sheldon deadpans. (Keep an eye on Parsons — he may well be one of the breakout stars of the season.)

"The comedy is in their inability to deal with everything that we take for granted," said co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre. It's something his partner on this show, Bill Prady, saw when he worked as a computer programmer. There were "people that can figure pi to 80 decimals like that, but can't figure a tip on the check because the quality of service has too many intangibles."

"Chuck, who's known me for 11 years, has gently tried to tell me," Prady said, "that when we go up a flight of stairs, it's not important that I always teach him the thing about the difference in tread height and how a difference of only 2 millimeters ... will cause most people to trip." (That's in the pilot.)

Not that "The Big Bang Theory" is trying to say something deep and meaningful. It's just trying to be funny.

"People still want to laugh," Lorre said. "This is really what it's about. People want to laugh. That's kind of the human thing."

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