The darkest secrets behind the “Big Bang Theory” revealed in wake of final season
Over the past decade, The Big Bang Theory has secured its place as one of the most successful sitcoms of its era. Throughout those years, the show’s cast and crew have faced drama, complaints, and lawsuits. How many of these scandalous facts do you know?
1. Strike one
At the very beginning of the show, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers following a labor dispute. The protest lasted for four months, halting production of the show. The Big Bang Theory had only aired eight episodes when the strike started.
From November 2007 to February 2008, while the Writer’s Guild of America was on strike, those eight episodes were reaired three times. In spite of four months of reruns, the show’s ratings held steady. When the strike ended, the writers released nine more episodes over the next two months in an effort to catch up to the required creative output.
2. Holding steady
In spite of the labor strike that cast a shadow over roughly half of the show’s first season, The Big Bang Theory held strong. The fact that people stayed interested through four months of reruns proved to the producers that their show could stand on its own from the start.
Some even speculated that the show’s potentially-dooming rerun stint helped them out in the long run. CBS saw that The Big Bang Theory‘s success wasn’t a fluke. The strike did cause the first season to be cut short, airing a few episodes shy of the initial plan, but the promise of future success ultimately drove the funding for more content.
3. An unsavory theme
A type of issue that The Big Bang Theory faced on multiple occasions was lawsuits. Over the past decade, the show’s representatives have seen their fair share of time in the courtroom, and not just for the on-stage activities. One of those legal misadventures was fought in the name of royalties from the show’s theme song.
The intro to the show is a rapid-fire rundown of the history of evolution from the beginning of the universe to where we are now. The song that plays was initially performed by the Barenaked Ladies, whose frontman originally performed the song as a freestyle rap skit during one of their concerts.
Ed Robertson, the Barenaked Ladies frontman, met with The Big Bang Theory producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. They asked him to come up with an intro for their show, and Robertson supposedly created the demo for the song in a single morning. The band recorded the final product and handed it over.
In 2009, one of the members of the Barenaked Ladies, Stephen Page, left the group. In spite of having been part of the band when the show’s theme tune was recorded, he claims to have never received royalties, and he filed a lawsuit in 2015 to dispute it. The case remains unresolved.
5. Soft kitty
The Big Bang Theory‘s theme song isn’t the only musical element in the hit TV show to cause a legal fuss. Audiences loved certain scenes where Penny must comfort an ailing Sheldon by singing a calming song. The tune itself, Soft Kitty, created its own uproar after a family stepped forward to claim rights to the favorite song in the wake of its monumental success.
Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry filed the lawsuit, claiming that the song had been written by their mother, Edith Newlin, as part of a compilation of children’s songs. Based on their relation to the creator of the song, the sisters claimed they deserved royalties for the song by default.
6. No luck
Although their mother had, in fact, held the copyright for the song Soft Kitty, she had registered the collection of songs with Willis Music. When the producers sought permission to use the song in The Big Bang Theory, they negotiated solely with Willis Music and not with Newlin’s daughters.
Following Newlin’s death, her copyright passed on to her daughters, leading to their accusation that they were owed an amount in royalties. However, when the company renewed the copyright on the song collection, it did not renew the daughters’ copyright, leaving Willis Music as the only legal owner of the songs.
7. What a rip-off
Fortunately, not all of the lawsuits surrounding The Big Bang Theory have been aimed at them. They say imitation is the best form of flattery, but in one instance, the producers of the show accused another set of producers of making trouble when they discovered a nearly direct rip-off of the show airing overseas under the title The Theorists.
The imposter show, which was discovered in 2010, featured a main cast of characters named Sheldon, Leo, Hovard, Raj, and Natasha. The first four made up a group of nerdy scientists trying to get by in the real world alongside their attractive across-the-hall neighbor who worked as a waitress. It would seem blatantly obvious that other stations were trying to cash in on the coattails of TBBT.
8. We’re out
The copycat show was based out of Belarus, and each episode was a direct translation of that episode’s Big Bang Theory script into Russian. The original show’s producers weren’t certain how they were going to tackle the issue given that it was airing in a foreign country. Legal discrepancies get tricky across national borders.
Normally, they would have sued for copyright infringement, but the production company behind The Theorists was owned and run by the Belarusan government, putting the American showrunners in a bit of a predicament. Fortunately, once the actors in the imposter show heard they were acting in a rip-off, they quit.
9. Drawing heat
Lawsuits aren’t the only burden that has plagued the show and its creators. An ongoing source upset surrounds the main character’s portrayal. Many people have complained that Sheldon’s eccentric personality seems less like a funny character trait and more like a thinly-veiled jab at individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome.
For those who might not be familiar, Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects an individual’s social skills. It is part of the autism spectrum and is typically characterized by obsessive compulsion, social awkwardness, and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics. As with any disorder, it’s not something you poke fun at.
10. Not us
When you look at Sheldon, a surprising number of his personality traits match up with those of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. In particular, his tendencies toward inappropriate social interaction, difficulties with nonverbal communication, and his inability to understand social and emotional issues stick out. As a result, the writers have drawn some fire.
Complaining viewers say that they can’t tell if his character is meant to be a mockery or a representation of someone on the autism spectrum. The show’s producers and writers have denied the existence of an intentional link, though after some research, they have admitted that the similarities are there.
11. Salary wars
Over the past ten years, several disputes have turned up over actors’ salaries, and The Big Bang Theory was no exception to that circuit. More than once, the lead actors in the show confronted their producers about the cast’s wages. In 2013, the first negotiation arose among the main cast.
Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Johnny Galecki all banded together to negotiate salary increases for each of them in light of the show’s success and ever-increasing popularity. Their negotiations halted production for a short time until the actors received a raise. That wouldn’t nearly be the end of wage discussions, as each actor felt their valuation should be substantially higher.
12. We want more
After the show’s three leads negotiated a raise in their salary from $350,000 an episode to a whopping $1 million a pop, the other two stars of the show, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, finalized their salary hikes from $100,000 to $750,000 per episode. They had initially tried for $1 million price tags, but to no avail.
The studio told Helberg and Nayyar that they could have $750,000, take it or leave it, and the actors were forced to settle. Four years later in 2017, the five stars agreed to a $100,000 pay cut off of their one million each so that their costars, Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, could each make $425,000 per episode.
13. Dark origins
Going back to the very beginning of the show, The Big Bang Theory started out on a very different note. Initially, the show pitched itself to CBS with a very dark pilot that never made its way to the public side of the network. The 2006 version of the show was turned down.
The network asked the producers to try again and come back the following year with a different pitch for the show. The 2007 version of their pilot was what ultimately made the cut and established the cast and chemistry of the show as we know it. Its predecessor was far more depressing.
14. A messy situation
In the original pilot, Leonard and Sheldon were the only two recognizable characters, though they deviated drastically from their final iterations. Sheldon was noticeably different, appearing as a girl-crazed fiend caught in the middle of a weird love triangle. The supporting cast also saw a lot of changes between versions.
Penny’s predecessor was named Katie. Katie lived with Sheldon and Leonard because her married boyfriend had kicked her out. She had a taste for hard liquor and was far more cynical than Penny. In place of Howard and Raj, the two guys had a single female friend, Gilda, who liked Leonard and had a romantic history with Sheldon.
15. Same coin
Just like many authors create characters based off of themselves, some actors and actresses play roles that are reflective of their personalities. A good example is Aubrey Plaza in her role as April Ludgate in Parks And Recreation. However, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes, it can be quite the opposite.
Jim Parsons, the actor who plays Sheldon Cooper, couldn’t be more different from the character he portrays on screen. From their interests to their study habits, Sheldon and Jim not only disagree, but they likely wouldn’t get along well if they were to meet as people in real life.
16. Two sides
Sheldon is an avid Star Trek fan, and his love for the classic TV series has played an integral part of his character progression. He and his friends have had an episode where they were on their way to a Star Trek convention, and several other episodes have featured cameos from Trekkie cast members.
Despite working on set alongside Wil Wheaton, George Takei, Leonard Nimoy, and Brent Spiner, Jim Parsons has never seen a single episode of any era of Star Trek. In another diversion from his character, Parsons has also never seen an episode of Doctor Who. Based on interviews, we also know Parsons is not nearly the bookish type Sheldon is.
17. Awkward moments
The Big Bang Theory is an undeniably nerdy show, and it’s no stranger to social awkwardness. The cast and crew have had their fair share of awkward moments and explanations. Some of the guest stars to their stage have been cast in somewhat unusual roles, at least when compared to their original characters.
One of those instances surrounded the casting of Wil Wheaton as the antagonist of one episode. The show’s executive producer, Bill Prady, was left in charge of calling Wheaton and pitching the idea: “I had to call him and say, ‘So you’re playing yourself …but you’re a real d**k!'” Fortunately, Wheaton was all for it.
18. Oh myyy
In another episode, Howard experiences a vivid fantasy featuring two of his sci-fi heroes. The showrunners called in Katee Sackhoff and George Takei in for the scene and found themselves faced with an awkward situation. Someone had to explain everything to the guest stars, and the responsibility once again fell to Prady.
He explained the scene as such: “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.'” When it came to explaining the idea to Takei, Prady eventually settled on the line, “So you know you’re gay, right?!” Takei responded, “That’s news I’ll tell my husband!”
19. Rough acting
For many of the actors, what you see on the screen hides a plethora of real-world drama and issues from viewers’ eyes. From injuries to relationships, what reaches us is only a small portion of the truth. To learn more, you have to go behind the scenes to find out what’s up.
Kevin Sussman, the actor who plays Stuart on the show, is a prime example of this phenomenon. Sussman has intense anxiety about being underwater. At one point in the episode “The Hot Tub Contamination,” Stuart emerges from underwater in a hot tub. Getting that shot was a surprising amount of work.
20. Going in deep
Sussman’s phobia of water was specifically surrounding the concept of putting his head beneath the surface. According to the actor, it wasn’t something that he ever did. To work around and with his fear, the production crew made sure he felt safe throughout the entire scene by providing constant support.
In the actor’s own words, he 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.’” Thanks to the support of those around him, he was able to complete the scene.
21. Breaking in
Psychological hurdles weren’t the only setbacks for some cast members. As expected, throughout the decade, there were some injuries sustained by various cast members. Some producers choose to write the injuries in, but the showrunners for The Big Bang Theory took a slightly different approach and shifted the scenes a bit instead.
The first incident occurred in 2010 when Kaley Cuoco sustained a severe leg injury while horseback riding. She spent the two weeks following the event in the hospital, during which time she was written out of the script. When she returned, the directors hid her broken leg behind a bar instead of writing it in.
22. Accidents happen
Cuoco wasn’t the only cast member to sustain an injury during the filming of the show. Two years later, co-actress Mayim Bialik faced a similar issue after breaking her hand in a car accident. While Bialik’s injury didn’t cause her to miss filming as Cuoco’s had, it still posed a problem for the directors.
The showrunners once again opted not to write the injury into the story. Instead, they changed the filming and staging angles ever so slightly so at no point was Bialik’s injured hand facing the camera. Fortunately, camera and lighting trickery can go a long way to hide visible ailments. However, not all on-stage adaptations were quite so successful.
23. Heard but not seen
Intentionally manipulating what the audience can and can’t see of the cast and characters is something that the producers did for more than just injuries, and it’s a common practice with many sitcoms. Throughout the show, we hear characters off-screen that we rarely, if ever, get to see. One of these unseen characters is baby Halley Wolowitz.
During season 10, the focal point of the show’s drama surrounds the expectant birth of Howard and Bernadette’s daughter, Halley. In spite of all the excitement that permeated the entire season, we never actually get to see their baby. Instead, we only hear her cries from other rooms off-screen. Again, this isn’t an uncommon technique in the film and TV biz, but the decision was still met with some controversy.
24. A touching tribute
Part of the decision to keep Halley Wolowitz as an off-screen entity was to avoid the complications of having an actual baby on set. The deeper and more touching reason the directors have created Halley as a purely audio role is that her existence pays tribute to a late actor from the show.
Back in 2014, Carol Ann Susi, who played the voice of Howard’s mother, passed away. She was another character who never made an appearance on-screen, but her grating shouts could often be heard in another room. Baby Halley’s audio-only role pays homage to Susi’s role in the show.
25. It’s not all bad
While being an actor may not always be the most pleasant or comfortable job, not every instance of grin-and-bear-it is quite as gruesome as the last. Injuries, personal hurdles, and accidents happen, but most of the discomfort on set stemmed from uncomfortable wardrobe choices made by the showrunners.
Two actors, in particular, seemed to find themselves always at odds with their clothes. Kunal Nayyar envied Kaley Cuoco’s comfy wardrobe of tank tops and shorts. Raj’s dress sense erred on the side of being too hot with sweaters and layered clothes. The actor also spent 20 minutes every day straightening his naturally-curly hair for the show.
26. Sucking it in
Of all the costuming and day-to-day woes on the set, most members of the cast agree that Simon Helberg may have had it the worst. His wardrobe isn’t hot like Nayyar’s, but it is still uncomfortable. Howard’s signature look features a pair of skinny jeans and one of his many wild belt buckles.
Helberg’s regular wardrobe is far less extreme. His commentary on adjusting to his on-screen garb is, “I’ve learned the smallest pants size I can squeeze into!” The actor says that, of Howard’s belt buckles, his favorites are the ones that don’t stab him when he sits down.
27. Scripted love
Ten years is a long time. For many of us, ten years have marked the transition from one stage of life to another. During that time, most of us have experienced significant changes in the love department: Dating, marriage, families, the works. The same can be said about these characters.
The cast of The Big Bang Theory has had their fair share of changes alongside their characters. Most notably, as Leonard and Penny developed an on-screen relationship, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki nurtured a budding romance of their own. However, the love between Cuoco and Galecki ended up being far less sweet than its on-screen counterpart.
28. Bittersweet developments
The real-life romance between Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki lasted about two years and was conducted in secret so as not to detract from the budding relationship between their on-screen personas. The two of them denied their relationship in public and never told anyone about it until after the fact.
When asked about their relationship, 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.” She believes that the secrecy ultimately led to their breakup, though the two remain good friends.
29. Based on a true story
One of the coolest and least-known facts about The Big Bang Theory is that it is mostly based on real-life scenarios, people, and quirks. While no continuous element of the story is based on a real-life event, the producers and the cast explain that there’s a lot of external influence.
Executive producer Bill Prady explained that Howard Wolowitz’s character was inspired by a former colleague of his by the same name. He also stated that some elements of Sheldon’s personality were drawn from his interactions with computer programmers during the short time where that was his field of study. The various traits of other characters are an amalgamation of some of the writer’s personal experiences as well.
30. A labor of love
Even some of the conflicts on the show were inspired by interactions between the actors and their spouses. One example is Penny’s inability to remember Leonard Hofstadter’s birthdate, even after they get married. Writer Jeremy Howe claims he drew inspiration for that conflict from his wife, who can never recall his birthday.
Some of the wildest stories are based at least partially in truth, and The Big Bang Theory is no exception. We can expect to see more goofiness, drama, and character growth for two more seasons. The show is planned to end after its 12th season in 2019, but until then, we can sit back and enjoy.