Direct from the Paley Fest ’09 in Hollywood comes the TV Addict’s report from the hilarious and heartwarming panel featuring the cast (Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar) and creators (Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady) of hit CBS show THE BIG BANG THEORY.
What’s in a name: Producer, co-creator Chuck Lorre revealed that the character names of Sheldon and Leonard were a “goofy homage… just a little fan thing of our own… a tip of the hat,” to pioneering film and television producer, actor and writer Sheldon Leonard.
It all started with: Sheldon, Leonard and a very hard partying dangerous girl who moved next door. [The original [working] title for THE BIG BANG THEORY was “Lenny, Penny and Kenny”] “We learned very quickly that the audience hated this girl [who would eventually evolve into Penny] because they were protective of these two guys. They were innocent with big open hearts and you simply couldn’t put a toxic girl next to them,” explained Chuck Lorre with regards to the initial pilot that didn’t make the cut. “But CBS did a nice thing and gave us another chance. The network recognized that even though we hadn’t got the writing right, that they had two stars in these two guys [Sheldon’s Jim Parsons and Leonard’s Johnny Galecki] and said, do it again.”
Simon and Kunal’s theory on the show’s success: “The cast is really good looking,” joked Kunal Nayyar who plays Rajesh Koothrappali on the show. “Me!” added Simon Helberg who plays Wolowitz before transitioning to a more serious note, “I don’t think there are that many cool people in the world, really. So I think everybody’s got this inner kind of nerd that sort of feels inept in certain ways.”
What’s in a name (Part II): Just to clarify for all the fansites out there, “Shenny,” is what Kaley calls Sheldon and Penny scenes, because “Peldon,” according to Jim [Parsons] sounds like a garment.
Guest Star [Red] Alert: “When somebody comes on the show as a guest star they have to really step it up,” revealed Lorre. Added co-creator Bill Prady, “We’ve seen people come in and not be able to stay with us. You’re playing in the big leagues with these guys.”
K.I.S.S: Who knew this TV Addict’s high school english teacher had what it took to work for Chuck Lorre, whose entire philosophy when it comes to writing THE BIG BANG THEORY is K.I.S.S. [Keep It Simple Stupid] “There probably hasn’t been, of the 40 some odd episodes that we’ve done where Chuck hasn’t said, ‘Could this story be smaller? Simpler?’ Because when you get down to, the characters look at the world differently you don’t have to do elaborate storytelling around them. It is just let’s go sit in a train or Sheldon’s inability to figure out how to buy a Christmas present. Because the characters are different then you need the most ordinary of situations to put them in… which sometimes makes stories hard to come up with. Because at first it doesn’t look like it’s going to be anything until you listen to the voices of the characters.”
Aspiring TV Writers Tip #1: “Befriend Chuck Lorre,” said Pardy when talking about how to get a show on the air. “The show came from fundamentally hating what I was doing [for a living] and calling up Chuck and asking if he wanted to do a pilot. We then made the decision to figure it out on our own and just started writing it.” Now here’s the part where being friends with Chuck Lorre pays off. Because Lorre, thanks to a string of hit sitcoms including DHARMA & GREG and TWO AND A HALF MEN is one of the few men in Hollywood who has the power to put CBS head honcho Les Moonves in a room, get a few actors together and essentially act out what would become THE BIG BANG THEORY.
The origins of Sheldon: “Before I was a writer I was a computer programmer and was working with guys who were amazingly bright and had a little trouble fitting into the world, me among them. I would tell Chuck [Lorre] about a guy I knew who was a human calculator. If you programmed in Z80 assembly you had to convert from decimal to hexadecimal and you could either grab the calculator or you could shout it to this guy and he would be faster. But he couldn’t calculate a tip at a restaurant. And the reason is because the formula for a tip is 15-20% depending upon the quality of the service and he couldn’t put a numeric value on the service. It was human.”
The origins of Jim Parsons: “The first time Jim read for Sheldon I thought he must have gotten lucky, that can’t be real, it can’t happen again. I said, ‘Bring him back [into the audition room] and he’ll break your heart.'” Recalls Prady, “I said that’s the guy, and not only did he not break our hearts he did it better. His performance on the second audition, when he locked into it, has never changed. It’s weird.” Added Jim Parsons, “I have problems…”
The origins of Wolowitz: Revealed Prady, “There was a guy named Dave and Dave had a series of women, all kinds of women. And said he had two rules and the rules were: proposition every woman, have no standards.”
A Promise From Penny: Expect Kaley to make hordes of “sweaty men” [as Simon so affectionally referred to them] sweat even more with her plans for Comic Con 2009, “I want to dress up this year!”
If the CERN Large Hadron Collider Explodes…: Blame the scientists who love the show, have visited the set, and probably are spending a little too much time watching the show when they really should be watching that Super Collider!
The Mystery that is Penny’s Last Name: “It’s a very strange thing and has now become somewhat superstitious,” admits Prady. “Characters get names as you need them. Leonard and Sheldon didn’t have last names for a long time and ultimately someone called them by their last names. Wolowitz and Koothrappali started out with last names and then got first names.”
The Koothrappali that almost was: Dave Koothrappali was almost a reality, with Kunal recounting that, “Originally, my first name was ‘Dave'” Recalls Prady, “The original idea for Koothrappali was that he was going to be American born to Indian parents. But when Kunal came in….” Interjects Simon, “He was just so Indian!”
The Rules: In case you’re wondering, the rules to rock, paper scissors, lizard spock can be found here
THE BIG BANG THEORY ‘The College Years’: Don’t hold your breath. For as much fun as it might be to pull a LOST and flashback, which Chuck
promises jokes we’ll see in “season 7” he’s not so sure it would work, considering the gang basically all attended college when they were 14!
Putting to rest Ausiello’s scoop from earlier in the week: Lorre quickly shut down the audience who yelled “Penny!” when moderator Cynthia Littleton asked about a love interest for Sheldon. “We’re pretty clear that Sheldon’s passion lies elsewhere. Sheldon is in love with science. He’s opted out and it’s really interesting because i don’t know that I’ve ever seen a character on television that’s opted out. ‘No this is not what I want out of life. i want this over here.’ That makes Sheldon very special very interesting to me. All that energy is devoted to the things he loves. I think it’s great.”
Tonight’s reason why audience Q&A rocks: Comes from a 16 year old aspiring actress who told Kaley, “I just wanted to say without the intent of making you cry, thank you so much for being a positive role model. When most girls look up to the people on THE HILLS it’s nice to have someone so real and so genuine to look up to.”
We solve the mystery of how Simon fits into his wardrobe: “It requires pulling and I’ve actually had to have assistants help. I wish I was joking.”