An unusual amount of deliberation is going into making a dork sound much dorkier on the set of The Big Bang Theory. During a break from taping inside Warner Bros.’ Stage 25 — which sits directly across from the building that housed TV’s last great ensemble comedy, Friends — a stand-up comedian distracts the studio audience with magic tricks while the Big Bang writers convene an unscheduled powwow. At issue: the incongruity of Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) boasting to Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) about meeting chicks in a bar when he’s about to revert to his normal, lockjawed self at the sight of Sheldon Cooper’s (Jim Parsons) attractive new assistant. After a good 20 minutes, the writers break from their huddle and present a new plan: Nayyar needs to lose the quip about the bar and walk into Sheldon’s office stuttering, ”I hope they’re serving macaroni and chee-eeee-se” when he first lays eyes on the fox. On take 5, Nayyar nails the moment, and the audience convulses with laughter. ”Smooooooth,” replies Galecki. The cast and crew finally move to the night’s next scene.
Later, co-creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre admits that things don’t always go as planned during the Tuesday-night tapings of the CBS comedy. ”We try to get it right before we get to the stage, but it’s not a science,” he says. ”It’s an art — and it’s flawed.”
If this is his idea of imperfection, then TV could use a lot more flawed shows. Buoyed by stellar ratings (with nearly 16 million viewers, the 2011–12 season was its most watched to date), five Emmy nominations (including its second consecutive one for best comedy), and an omnipresent run in syndication (where it’s the most popular show on TBS), CBS’ comedy about four Cal Tech brainiacs and the waitress who tolerates them may be on the verge of its most successful season yet. The possibility isn’t lost on Parsons, who had an unexpected epiphany when he walked back into Apt. 4A for the start of season 6 (which premieres Sept. 27 at 8 p.m.). ”There was something very distinct that I hadn’t felt as acutely before, and not because I was ever ungrateful,” says the 39-year-old actor, who also starred in the Broadway hit Harvey this past summer. ”I don’t know if it’s because I already put in five years on the show and we’re going into year 6, or because of the upward tick in the ratings, or because I just spent the summer doing something entirely different. For the first time I felt an uncontrollable outside eye to the experience in general — this real, real disbelief of, like, ‘Look at how well this has gone!”’
Nearly 14 billion years ago, a massive explosion in outer space resulted in the formation of the universe. On a far more recent Tuesday, Chuck Lorre and his group of Big Bang writers are creating an outburst of their own inside a conference room on the Warner Bros. lot. Flanked by an Avengers mural and a life-size cutout of a Battlestar Galactica Cylon, the ravenous group of scribes (it’s their lunch hour, after all, and gourmet pizza is waiting in the other room) are objecting to a visitor’s request to explain what makes them special.