[04/16/09 - 07:00 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: CBS's "The Big Bang Theory"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: As always, due to the Paley Festival's policy of not allowing electronic devices during the panels, I won't be blogging the event "live." Plus, I don't want to be the douche with a laptop clicking away when everyone's trying to enjoy the show. In any case, look for my handwritten blog - how 20th century - to be transcribed and appear around 11:00 PM PT each night. And if I'm feeling adventurous, you might get a few tweets from the after parties.]

7:00 PM - Tonight's clip from the Paley archives comes from what else but a 1993 episode of "Roseanne" featuring Johnny Galecki and Sara Gilbert.

7:08 PM - Paley ringmaster Craig Hitchcock welcomes us to night six of this year's event. He in turn brings out tonight's moderator, Variety's Cynthia Littleton. She's followed by Chuck Lorre, who's brought the show's upcoming April 27 episode, "The Vegas Renormalization."

7:34 PM - Cynthia returns to intro the panel: Kunal Nayyar! Simon Helberg! Kaley Cuoco! Jim Parsons! Johnny Galecki! Bill Prady! And of course, Chuck Lorre!

7:36 PM - Cynthia notes that tonight's episode featured Chuck's daughter Nicole in the writing credits.

7:37 PM - She asks everyone what makes the show so successful. "The cast is really good looking," Kunal quips. He's followed by Simon: "Me. [Laughs.] 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."

7:38 PM - Jim's take: "I think there are hundreds of whatever elements involved in why its working, luck not necessarily being out of that mix. I feel every week one of the major things for us, or for me, has been the writing keeps standing up... anytime anybody says, 'I really loved such and such moment'... I always feel like [saying], 'I wish you knew what the writers looked like so you could tell them because I didn't think of that. I just said it the best way I could.'" He turns to Johnny, who complains "I have nothing left now." Jim quips, "Well, it was a good answer."

7:42 PM - Cynthia asks about Chuck using Sheldon Leonard as the inspiration for the characters' names. "It's a goofy homage, that's all it was," he notes. "It was just a little fan thing of our own to do that. And the names fit. They were good names for these characters. It kind of described the essence of them and at the same time was a tip of the hat to somebody we grew up with." He goes on to note they were a lot better than their original names: Lenny, Penny and Kenny.

7:46 PM - Chuck details the rock origins of the show: "We shot a pilot that was not picked up and Kaley and Simon and Kunal were not in that pilot. Their characters really were not, we hadn't written anything like that. The girl who moves in next door to Leonard and Sheldon was a very hard partying, kind of toxic, crazy, kind of dangerous character. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Jodi Lynn O'Keefe, who coincidentally guest stars in the episode we just saw, was originally cast in said role but was replaced by Amanda Walsh after the initial table read.] And the thing we learned very quickly was the audience hated her because they were protective of these two guys. Because they're innocent, their hearts were wide open. And you couldn't put a toxic individual next door to them. It just didn't work...

7:47 PM - ...but CBS did a nice thing, they gave us another chance and we rewrote it and we rewrote the character of Penny and we added the characters of Wolowitz and Koothrappali and suddenly it looked like a show and they gave us a chance to do it again."

7:48 PM - Kaley follows up about the show's successful formula: "I think that what's cool about this group is any two characters you stick in a room, you can do anything with them. It is going to be funny or awkward. That's a really amazing thing. Do you agree with me, Jim?" "Always," Jim deadpans. They go on to note that their scenes are labeled Shenny or Peldon scenes.

7:51 PM - Kunal on how he views the characters: "These guys don't have much room for personal growth. Not in a negative way but seriously these guys are very set in their ways. I think Leonard, you're finally trying to reach out into the real world or the outside world. The rest of us, we're pretty content in our ways." Johnny follows up with: "I remember when [Chuck and I initially] talked I said, 'These guys have a lot of growing to do.'" Chuck adds, "And they won't."

7:55 PM - Bill reveals Chuck's mantra for writing the show: "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? Could it be simpler?' Because when you get down to, because 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 let's do thing like that, you know, Sheldon's inability to figure out how to buy a Christmas present or something like that. 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."

7:59 PM - Bill and Chuck reveal their initial pitch involved having some actor friends come in and do a scene in front of Les Moonves. "Just a piece of advice to anybody who has an idea about getting a show on the air and wants to do it this way, where you get to perform it for the president of the network: step one is, befriend Chuck. I don't think there's any other path."

8:02 PM - Bill on his inspiration for Sheldon: "Before I was a writer I was a computer programmer in my 20s in New York... but I worked with guys who were amazingly bright and had a little trouble fitting into the world, me among them. I would tell Chuck about a guy I knew who had an incredibly, he 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...

8:03 PM - ...and he couldn't put a numeric value on [it]. It was human. So what we would do is we would get to the end of the meal and we'd say, 'Alright, we're going to go, could you figure out the tip?' And said, 'Well, you know I can't.' And the next thing you know it was the speed with which the food arrived, but that could be the kitchen; we would try... and then we would say well why don't you just leave 17.5%? And he said, 'Well, no statistically that means that half the time I'm undertipping and half the time I'm cheating myself. So 17.5% ensures I'll never get the tip right except that rare occasion when 17.5% would have been correct.'"

8:04 PM - "He told me that story and I go, 'We have a show,'" Chuck adds. Wolowitz likewise has similar origins from Bill: "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."

8:05 PM - The guys credit costume designer Mary Quigley for Wolowitz's belt buckles, Sheldon's shirts and the overall look of the show. "It really did grow out of our costumer Mary Quigley who's also responsible for the bowling shirt and cargo shorts on Charlie Sheen."

8:06 PM - When asked about his casting, Kunal notes that "people hate me, man" for booking Koothrappali during his first pilot season. "I got really lucky, I was in the right place at the right time. And they were very kind to give me an opportunity."

8:07 PM - Chuck on what sets Kaley apart: "I'm going to say forever there's a goodness there you can't [fake]." This causes Kaley to almost cry. Jim however cuts her down with, "You're not filled with that much goodness Kaley." She notes that saved her from doing so.

8:11 PM - The cast recounts their impromptu boat trip during last year's Comic-Con. "It was awful, I was against it from the moment it was raised," Jim notes. Among the highlights: Simon bought a captain's cap with the assumption it made him qualified to steer the boat; Kunal went swimming because he had to pee; and Jim refused to purchase shorts from the hotel lobby: "I couldn't bear it, I was not going to spend that much money on a pair of shorts that even if they sorta fit I would [never wear again]."

8:15 PM - Kaley on George Smoot's visit to the show: "When he came to work on our show he said he wanted a, he was really cute, he wanted a picture of all of us. And he walked over to the couch in their apartment and he said, 'Can I sit in Sheldon's spot?'" Simon quips, "And Jim said no."

8:17 PM - Bill talks about David Saltzberg of UCLA's Astrophysics Department, who serves as the show's technical advisor: "He's made many discoveries in physics but he made this discovery on an airplane. He said, 'If you have a script, women talk to you.'"

8:19 PM - Jim on his casting: "I got it just in the middle of this, towards the end actually, of the slog of a pilot season. And they called and said, 'There's a Chuck Lorre pilot,' and I'm not great with names, I thought it was... Chuck Woolery. I could tell that when they were sending this to me, this Chuck Lorre pilot, I thought, 'Oh, this is special in some way... I didn't know he wrote... I guess [by the way people are talking about it] he's written something good.' So, I wish I was lying..."

8:20 PM - "Me too," Chuck adds.

8:21 PM - ...how shocked was I when I walked into the room and the man from 'two and two' wasn't there." The look on Chuck's face is priceless.

8:25 PM - Chuck on the show's theme song from Barenaked Ladies: "We gave them the idea that the song is about the history of everything in 15 seconds. Go." Bill cites their song "One Week" as the main influence.

8:29 PM - Cynthia asks about Penny's elusive last name. "It's a very strange thing," Bill notes. "And now it's become superstitious." He goes on to say Sheldon and Leonard didn't have last names for a long time while Wolowitz and Koothrappali took a while to get first names. Kunal notes his character's was originally Dave. "The original idea for Koothrappali was he was going to be American born to Indian parents and then when Kunal came in..." Simon interrupts with, "He was so Indian." Kunal also got to choose Koothrappali's first name as well as his middle name, which is revealed in the tonight's episode. As for Penny, the last name London is used on her mail ("because Scott London is our prop guy and he's narcissistic," Jim notes) while the cast has suggested Blaine and Moonves.

8:32 PM - Time for audience Q&A.

8:33 PM - A fan sings the praises of Kaley - which again almost makes her cry - and asks about her geek cred. Fellow fans shout out "Charmed." "Was that geeky?" Kaley asks. "Yes," the audience responds. Oh Paleyfest, your wonders never cease.

8:37 PM - "We're thinking Ringo Starr as Simon's father," Chuck jokes when asked about future stunt casting.

8:39 PM - Cynthia asks if Sheldon will ever get a love interest. "We're pretty clear on the fact Sheldon's passion lies elsewhere," Chuck says. "Sheldon is in love with science. He's opted out. And it's really interesting because I've never seen a character on television that's opted out... that makes him very specific and very interesting."

8:42 PM - Is there any ad libing? "What would I ad lib?" Jim deadpans. "Maybe Penny could get away with a couple of words but, you know, bless her heart she doesn't try and dare tell one of us off of the science speeches."

8:44 PM - Another fan touts Kaley's talents, citing her as a rare actress who actually performs instead of just trying to be famous. This, again, makes Kaley almost cry. "I do have to ask Kaley," Jim interjects. "Did you think people were going to throw fruit at us or something? It's really taken you off guard that people here like the show."

8:45 PM - The same girl follows up with a question about who is most like their character on the show. "Shut up," Jim says as all the eyes on the panel turn to him. "I am from Texas. Sheldon's from Texas. That's probably about where it stops."

8:49 PM - Chuck on his vanity cards: "They're written a hurry because there's not a lot of time so some of them sadly reflect that. They're written literally the day they're due."

8:52 PM - Simon shares that he sometimes has trouble getting into his skin tight jeans. "It requires pulling and I've actually had to have assistants [help]. I wish I was joking." Jim shares that in the last taping this season, Simon had on a particularly blue set to jeans. "I had a friend there and she went, 'Oh, I just see 'The Little Mermaid.'' And I said, 'Simon, I can see your 'Little Mermaid.''"

8:54 PM - Cynthia ends the panel by reminding everyone the show has been picked up for two more seasons. Amen.

8:55 PM - That's all for tonight! Is it me or are these getting longer? Anyhoo, see you guys tomorrow.

  [april 2009]  


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