The Big Bang Theory has just begun its eleventh season, continuing its run as one of the most successful comedies on the air. The show has been through quite a few ups and downs, and the characters have showed major development over the past ten years.
Sheldon is now engaged to Amy and doing pretty well at maintaining the relationship. Leonard and Penny are married, and Howard and Bernadette are expecting their second baby. Additionally, Raj can now talk to women without alcohol. It’s been quite a long journey for the characters, but it’s also been a journey for the cast and crew behind the scenes.
The showrunners, writers, and cast have had their share of troubles keeping the show going. The Big Bang Theory had some issues even getting on the air at the outset, and it was fortunate to survive its first season.
Over the past decade, the show has weathered lawsuits, plagiarism, cast injuries, and tense contract renegotiations. The cast and crew have worked around many issues that cropped up behind the scenes and managed to keep the show going despite significant obstacles, even while keeping these roadblocks out of the sight of viewers.
Here are the 15 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets About The Big Bang Theory.
15. A Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Was Filed Over “Soft Kitty”
“Soft Kitty” is one of the most famous running jokes of the series. When Sheldon needs comforting, he calls upon someone (usually Penny) to sing “Soft Kitty” to him. Penny, in turn, came to find the song comforting too. Despite the comfort of “Soft Kitty”, the song caused the show a lot of stress when a family filed a copyright infringement lawsuit over it.
Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry claimed the famous lyrics were written by their mother Edith Newlin, who contributed them to a book of nursery school songs.
When Newlin died, her daughters became the owners of the copyright. The sister claim that the producers negotiated only with Willis Music, the company that registered the entire song collection, and not with the songwriter’s family.
14. Is Sheldon A Mockery Of Patients With Asperger Syndrome?
Sheldon Cooper’s eccentric characterization has been the focal point of several theories. One prominent theory is the Sheldon has Asperger Syndrome, a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.
Asperger Syndrome is often associated with inappropriate social interaction, difficulties with nonverbal communication, inability to understand social and emotional issues, and several other behaviors. Some fans have suggested that this description fits Sheldon Cooper very well, and this has been met with mixed reactions about whether it is good representation or a mockery of the condition.
Producer Chuck Lorre has denied that Sheldon was meant to be on the autism spectrum. The producers say they just wrote behaviors that felt right for the character. Jim Parsons has asked the writers is Sheldon had Asperger Syndrome, and the writers denied it. However, after some research, Parsons does admit that Sheldon has a lot of the traits.
13. It Had A Very Dark Unaired Pilot
The Big Bang Theory did not start as the show that fans love today. Chuck Lorre made a pilot for the 2006 TV season that had very different takes on the characters. The unaired pilot was darker in tone and had only cast the permanent parts of Sheldon and Leonard. Sheldon was portrayed as far more girl-crazy that his later first-season counterpart.
Instead of Penny, the female lead was Katie, a more cynical, hard-drinking woman who had nowhere to live after being kicked out by her married boyfriend and decided to crash at the boys’ apartment. Instead of Howard and Raj, Sheldon and Leonard had one female friend named Gilda, who had a crush on Leonard and a romantic history with Sheldon.
CBS decided to pass on the show for that season, but liked the premise and ordered another version of the pilot. Show creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady made changes to the characters and cast and reshot the pilot, setting up the chemistry for the successful show seen today.
12. Jim Parsons Has Never Seen An Episode Of Star Trek Or Doctor Who
Sheldon Cooper is a devoted fan of Star Trek, and the show features prominently in Sheldon’s plotlines. The gang has gotten stranded on their way to a Star Trek convention, Sheldon has had a complicated relationship with his childhood icon Wil Wheaton, and Sheldon has even wondered about trying to grow his own Leonard Nimoy. Big Bang Theory has brought in a number of Star Trek alumni, including George Takei, Leonard Nimoy, and Brent Spiner.
With all of this background, it is surprising that Jim Parsons has never seen a single episode of Star Trek, which would definitely be shocking to his character Sheldon. Parsons has also never watched Doctor Who, another one of Sheldon’s favorites. Instead, Parsons enjoys watching American Idol, Lost, Three’s Company, and Grey’s Anatomy.
11. There Was A Lawsuit Over The Theme Song
The Big Bang Theory‘s theme song runs through a rapid evolutionary history lesson to kick off the show. The song was written and performed by the Barenaked Ladies.
The collaboration began when Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady happened to be at one of their concerts when band frontman Ed Robertson performed a freestyle rap about the origins of the universe. Lorre and Prady sought out Robertson to write the theme song. Robertson says he wrote the original demo for the song in one morning.
Stephen Page was also with the band at the time, but left in 2009. In 2015, he filed a lawsuit against the band, alleging that he had not received any royalties from the song despite being promised 20% of the proceeds. Given how often the show is aired, the royalties would be substantial. Page claimed that Robertson was the only one seeing any money from the song.
10. There Have Been A Lot Of Cast Injuries
Filming can often be unpredictable, especially when things happen off-set that producers and writers have to work with in the show. The Big Bang Theory has had a few problems with cast members getting bad injuries.
In 2010, Kaley Cuoco broke her leg in a horse riding accident, causing her to be in the hospital for two weeks. She was written out of two episodes for her recovery. Afterward, instead of writing in her broken leg, the producers decided to make Penny a bartender to hide her injury from the camera.
The producers had to deal with a similar situation again when Mayim Bialik injured her hand in a car accident in 2012. The producers again decided to write and film around the injury rather than address it, and Amy was filmed in a different way to hide her hand.
9. The Case Of The Belarusian Plagiarist
Many shows have tried to duplicate the massive success of Big Bang Theory, but in the case of one show, the duplication was more literal. In 2010, Chuck Lorre discovered a show produced in Belarus called The Theorists.
The show was about four nerdy scientists living next door to a beautiful waitress. The main characters of the show were Sheldon, Leo, Hovard, Raj, and Natasha. Each episode was a Russian translation of the script of a Big Bang Theory episode. Lorre called out this copycat on his post-show vanity card.
Lorre found it would be extremely difficult to sue for copyright infringement, as the production company was owned and operated by the government of Belarus. Fortunately, the cast of The Theorists quit the show once they found out that the show was plagiarized from the American hit.
8. Kevin Sussman Has A Phobia Of Water
Stuart has found himself in a variety of awkward situations throughout the series, including in “The Hot Tub Contamination”, when Stuart and Raj end up in a hot tub together. Kunal Nayyar did not find it to be a pleasant acting experience, but he still had an easier time than Kevin Sussman.
In the scene, Stuart pops up from underwater in the hot tub, which was a difficult scene for Sussman because he has a deep anxiety about being underwater. The crew talked Sussman through it on the set.
Sussman said, “I don’t like putting my head underwater ever… a bunch of people had to coach me, you know, ‘it’s going to be okay, we have a lot of people around.’” In the end, Sussman was able to complete the scene as intended.
7. Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki Kept Their Relationship A Secret For Almost 2 Years
Leonard and Penny’s developing on-screen relationship has been one of the main focuses of the show, but behind the scenes, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki developed an off-screen romance as well.
Cuoco and Galecki revealed that they dated for almost two years, but kept the relationship a secret. They decided to keep the relationship private so they would not distract from the on-screen relationship.
During the two years that they were dating, they denied the relationship in public. Cuoco said, “It was such a huge part of my life and no one knew about it. It was a wonderful relationship, but we never spoke a word about it and never went anywhere together.” Cuoco believes that the secrecy led to their eventual breakup. They had agreed to remain professional if a breakup happened, and they are still good friends.
6. Belt Buckles Can Be Extremely Painful
Many of the characters on Big Bang are known for their eclectic wardrobe, from Sheldon’s fun t-shirts to Howard’s array of belt buckles, but many of these wardrobe choices caused discomfort for the actors who had to wear them.
Kunal Nayyar found himself jealous of Kaley Cuoco’s wardrobe and wished he could wear shorts and tank tops instead of the long sleeves and heavy sweaters that Raj often adorns. Nayyar also takes 20 minutes every day to straighten his hair since it is naturally curly.
Simon Helberg, however, has had the most problems with his character’s wardrobe. Helberg said of Howard’s clothes, “I’ve learned the smallest pants size I can squeeze into!” His favorite of Howard’s belt buckles are the ones that are not sharp so they wound’t stab him whenever he sat down.
5. The Absence Of Baby Halley?
In season 10, the cast of characters had a new addition: Howard and Bernadette’s baby, Halley Wolowitz. Despite all the drama and lead-up to the birth, viewers never catch a glimpse of baby Halley.
She is never seen, only heard off-screen as screams and cries through several scenes. The decision was partially to eliminate the need for a baby on the set, a presence that is infamously hard to handle, but Halley is relegated to an off-screen role for another deep reason as well.
It is intended as a tribute to Carol Ann Susi, who played Debbie, Howard’s mom, in many seasons of the show. Debbie was also never seen on screen, but her grating shouts were often heard from another room.
4. It’s (Semi-)Based on a True Story
Despite the outlandish nature of most events and conflicts on the show, the writers and cast admit that many events and characters on the show were inspired by people they know.
Howard Wolowitz, for example, is based on an old colleague of Bill Prady’s with the exact same name. Prady admitted that some of Sheldon’s characteristics also came from people who knew from his short career as a computer programmer.
The writers admit that a lot of the marital issues that crop up on the show also come from their own relationships. In “The Platonic Permutation”, Penny cannot remember the date of her husband’s birthday.
Writer Jeremy Howe said that is based on his wife, who cannot remember the date of his birth. The writers also turned Saladin Patterson’s story about getting his wife a FitBit into “The Perspiration Implementation”, after joking that it seemed like Patterson was monitoring every step his wife takes.
3. The Salaries Were Very Divided
The stars of the show have been involved in many heated negotiations over the salary of the cast. In 2013, the main stars Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Johnny Galecki banded together to negotiate a huge salary increase, delaying production on the show.
They had been making $350,000 an episode and ended their negotiations with a deal for $1 million an episode. Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar were the last to finalize their contracts, negotiating their salary up from $100,000 to $750,000 per episode. Helberg and Nayyar had been trying for a salary on par with the other stars, but the studio issued a “take it or leave it” deal, and the actors were advised that they would be written out of the show if a deal was not reached.
However, in 2017, the five stars agreed to take a paycut of $100,000 per episode in order for co-stars Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik to receive a salary increase. They had been making $200,000 per episode, drastically lower than the other stars. Now all five original stars pull in $900,000, while Rauch and Bialik now receive $425,000 per episode.
2. There Were A Lot Of Awkward Explanations
After the show cast the important guest stars Wil Wheaton and George Takei, it fell to executive producer and Star Trek fan Bill Prady to explain their parts in the episode.
Chuck Lorre had come up with the idea for the evil antagonist Wil Wheaton, but Prady had to make the call to Wheaton. Prady explained, “I didn’t know this guy, and I had to call him and say, ‘So you’re playing yourself … but you’re a real d**k!'” Fortunately, Wheaton loved the idea.
On another occasion, when they were writing a scene with Howard’s fantasy of Katie Sackhoff, they had the idea to add George Takei. “We wrote a line of Howard saying, ‘I’m so confused,’ and thought it’d be really funny if George Takei said, ‘Confused? Perhaps I can help.'” Prady said.
1. The Writer’s Strike Strongly Influenced Its First Season
In 2007, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in a labor dispute. The strike began in November 2007 and did not end until February 2008.
At the time the strike began, Big Bang Theory had only been on the air for eight episodes. The strike caused CBS to rerun those eight episodes three times, during which they held steady in the ratings. This may have actually helped the show stay on the air through its first season.
When the strike ended, the writers returned to write and film nine more episodes in the span of about two months, trying to ground the show in its first season with limited time to do so. The first season was a success, but it aired with a shortened first season due to these restraints.
Do you know of any other dark behind-the-scenes secrets about The Big Bang Theory? Let us know in the comment section!
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