A successful show entering its fourth season has a lot to feel great about but there’s a lot to live up to as well. For The Big Bang Theory there’s a different challenge. They are not only under pressure to satisfy the faithful, but now they have to headline a new comedy block on a new night for their network. For executive producers Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre, a time change is nothing compared to pushing the creative direction. There are bigger fish to fry.
“You really can’t think so much about that,” said Chuck Lorre at a press roundtable at Comic-Con in July. “[It’s] a really wonderful story that we want to tell. Are we laughing? Who watches it and when it’s on is kind of out of our control. I’d be happy to give my advice to CBS but they’re just as happy to ignore me.”
“One of the things we like the show to be is friendly to new viewers and familiar to old viewers,” added Bill Prady. “And I think that’s why we don’t tell a serialized story. We hope people find it and like it.”
People do like it. The Big Bang Theory has been a bona fide hit for CBS and is their number one rated show in the 18-49 demographic. Not only do they have the adoration of their fans, but even the Emmys took notice this year, awarding lead actor Jim Parsons (Sheldon) Best Actor in a Comedy Series in a very competitive category.
The character of Sheldon has certainly in three seasons taken on a life of his own. Was there anyone who’s been the inspiration behind Sheldon? “I think initially there was and a lot of these guys were based on people that I knew when I was a computer programmer before I was a writer,” explained Prady. “I have to say that he’s become his own thing very much. I think at this point Sheldon is the inspiration for Sheldon.”
“That’s the magic trick of a show is to grow the characters without changing them so much that you lose them,” said Lorre about how he approaches any character. Despite the notion that Sheldon never changes, Lorre thinks his changes are incremental. “If you saw the flashback episode, where we saw how Sheldon and Leonard meet, you can tell how vastly he’s changed having these guys in his life. I love that. He was far more isolated and dysfunctional before they came into his life.”
Bill Prady thinks that through the characters is how the show has changed in general. “The characters have naturally become more three dimensional. The more things you learn about them the more parts you layer onto their life, the more real they become. As writers we’re in a place now where we can let the characters pull stories forward. For us that’s been the biggest change.”
Now that the show is carrying on strong into season four, are there going to be any big arcs or story lines? Do they plan by episode or season? “Oh, we think first scene. As Chuck will say, we’re not doing Lost here,” joked Prady. “There’s no complex or over-arching season arc that we do because we’re character driven not thought driven. We try to follow the characters through.”
How about some spoilers? What is planned for the season four premiere? Both Prady and Lorre were actually perplexed by that question. “Do you remember the first script?” Lorre asked Prady, who didn’t. Prady said that remembering scripts has even turned into some behind the scenes fun. “You should know there’s a great game that you can play on the set which is while you’re shooting an episode you can walk up to another writer and say ‘I’ll give you ten dollars if you can tell me what we shot last week.’”