How "The Big Bang Theory" Became a Hit

While you were watching Monday night's episode of "The Big Bang Theory," you may not have heard all the obstacles and pitfalls Chuck Lorre went through to get this show on the air, and make it a huge hit for us!  This show is a 2nd season sensation, one of the few to be filmed with three cameras in front of a live audience (like "I Love Lucy" and many others in the 70s were).. and it did NOT begin as a show about the two physics geeks you learn to love.

At first, "Big Bang" centered on Penny, portrayed in the pilot as an emotionally struggling young woman in L.A. living down the hall from the two super-nerds.  The pilot was a bomb.  99% of the time, a show idea that's tossed out is never put back together.  Producer Lorre says "the pilot was all wrong."  You couldn't imagine why the two brainiacs would like this wrecked woman. 

CBS told Lorre to try again.  Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons were kept on the for second effort.  Boy, are we glad they stayed.

Sheldon and Leonard (who for TV buffs, yes you're right, they were named after 1960s super-producer Sheldon Leonard, who was the guiding force behind "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Andy Griffith Show," and "I Spy" to name a few) were the only two characters Lorre kept.  Penny was changed into pretty much the girl she is now.. perky and likeable and sure to fall in love with Leonard.. well, someday.  Sheldon and Leonard's geekiness, with their alter egos Raj and Howard, became the driving physical vortex of the show, with Penny adding some sparkle from her orbit.

And are the guys making this stuff up when they throw out all the scientific lectures that are obviously over most of our heads?  They inded are not making it up.  David Saltzberg of UCLA's Astrophysics Department is the technical advisor on the show, and reviews each script.. by e-mail.  He travels all over the world, you know, and can't be home to see every script on his desk or watch every episode on his computer.  But more than 17-million viewers are tuning in each week for TBBT.  We sure hope you're one of them!

(Thanks to my TV critic idol, Aaron Barnhart, for adding to the research material for my homework on "Big Bang.")  RH

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