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April 16, 2009

‘The Big Bang Theory’

By Lesley Goldberg

Big Bang Theory The creators and cast of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” discussed the show’s evolution from its “failed first attempt” as “Lenny, Penny and Kenny” to why the sitcom’s geeks resonate with fans during Thursday’s Paley Center for Media PaleyFest panel at the Arclight.

Co-creator Chuck Lorre said that the initial pilot “failed” and that the network knew it had two stars in series leads Johnny Galecki (Leonard) and Jim Parsons (Sheldon) and encouraged him and fellow creator Bill Prady to retool the Penny character from a dark party-girl neighbor.

“The audience hated her because they were protective of them (Leonard and Sheldon),” Lorre said. “CBS gave us another chance, and we reworked Penny and added Raj and Howard.”

Kaley Cuoco said she first auditioned for the party-girl neighbor and didn’t fit the bill but was later called back to play the sweet neighbor who helps the science geeks learn about life outside of the lab.

“The characters are so lovable, and you want these guys to do well,” she said. “It’s a show about brilliant people, not just geeks.”

Simon Helberg (Howard) believes “Big Bang” — which gained viewers during the 100-day writers strike — has become such a breakout hit because he doesn’t “think that there are that many cool people in the world, really, so I think everybody has got this inner nerd that sort of feels inactive in certain ways.

“I think all the cool people from high school sneak home and watch it and say, ‘Wow, this is me!’ and then go back to school and beat up those nerds,” he added. “I think everyone knows what it’s like to try and fit in and not succeed.”

Galecki agreed: “Storywise, it’s an underdog story; it’s been a while where you could relate to characters’ vulnerability. I think the planets just really aligned.”

Galecki, who first worked with Lorre as a teenager on “Roseanne,” said Lorre first approached him about joining the show as Sheldon, the asexual, perfectionist egomaniac.

“Initially we talked about Sheldon, but then I saw a future for the Leonard and Penny dynamic, and I rarely get to play the romantic dynamic,” he said.

Parsons, meanwhile, didn’t realize what he was getting into.

“My agent said it was a Chuck Lorre pilot, and I thought he was Chuck Woolery,” he confessed. “I thought, ‘That’s strange, I didn’t know he wrote.’ I wish I was lying. How shocked was I when the man from ‘(I’ll be back in) 2 and 2’ wasn’t there.”

Prady added that he draws inspiration for Sheldon’s neurotic perfectionist and Howard’s wannabe womanizer from former co-workers he had while he was a computer programmer.

“I worked with guys who were amazingly bright and had trouble fitting in in the world — me included,” he said, adding that Sheldon is loosely based on a “human calculator” friend who could easily solve any mathematical equation but could never figure out how much to leave for a tip at dinner because of the lack of standards for solving the problem.

As for Sheldon’s lack of interest in dating, Lorre said that Sheldon has “opted out.”

“He’s in love with science,” he said. “I’ve never seen a character on TV who has opted out.”

Addressing “Big Bang’s” science elements, Prady added that the scientists who have dropped by the set have offered amazing feedback. “I think we’re the only sitcom to get a review in Science magazine,” he said.

Cuoco added that she knew the science was right on the show when Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist George Smoot came by and asked to take a picture with the cast — and sit in Sheldon’s spot on the couch — a nod to the series’ pilot story line.

Prady joked that despite Lorre’s best efforts, the science component of the sitcom is best left to the pros — like UCLA physics professor David Saltzberg, who serves as an adviser on the show.

“I’ll try and push through, and Bill will say, ‘You’re not going to become a physicist overnight,’ ” Lorre joked.

As for the characters’ love of comics and their regular inclusion in dialogue, Prady said the arguments really do go on in the writers’ room.

The cast, who attended a “Big Bang” panel at last year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, said that the experience was unique.

“It was the warmest embrace,” Parsons said. “ … of sweaty men,” Helberg joked. “There were a thousand Princess Leias,” Cuoco observed. “I want to dress up this year.”

When asked if Parsons will sport his famed Flash costume from the show, he was quick to squash that idea, but Cuoco had other ideas: “I’m taking you down with me!”

Addressing the show’s recent two-season order, Kunal Nayyar (Raj) said the actors are “getting more comfortable in our own roles and the writers are seeing it.”


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Now that NBCU has chosen to change the name of the SCIFI Channel to distance the channel from GEEK people, I have become especially fond of this program because of its playful display of the GEEK lifestyle in the extreme. I look forward to this show every week and never miss an episode. Even my two dogs actually get a good laugh out of watching "The Big Bang Theory.” I also look forward to reading the little note after each episode.

Maybe it's just me but I think the chemistry between Sheldon and Penny is smokin'.

I really hope they find someone else for Leonard because he is so adorable. I don't want it to go too much farther with him and Penny because she is just not right for him. I actually liked him with Leslie but maybe that is because I was a big Roseanne fan and loved the two of them together..

i hate 99% of todays sitcoms. i am old enough to remember the good ones. big bang is a rare treat today. smart, funny, and not condescending. the inside jokes are good too... would like to see more geeky women. liked when Galecki had the roseanne daughter playing the cello. great comedy business.... shows that your writers have gone back and watch old comedy for cues and rhythm.... and yes i am in the biz...... good show....

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