‘Big Bang’s’ odd fusion
J.J. Abrams may have muscled up his version of “Star Trek,” but the franchise will always be the domain of pencil-thin, graph-paper-pale geeks like the Caltech prodigies on CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.”
Exhibit A: The popular YouTube video of Sheldon, played with spazzy flair by Jim Parsons, explaining the rules of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock.
“It’s very simple: Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock and, as it always has, rock crushes scissors.”
That kind of giddy celebration of the nerd mind has given the program, created by Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre, a steadily growing audience, with promise for more: The show, which netted 9.76 million viewers for its second season finale on May 11, was picked up in March for two more years in a multimillion-dollar deal.
On a sunny afternoon in Hollywood, Parsons, along with the show’s other lead geek, seasoned sitcomer Johnny Galecki, met in a fancy diner to ponder their luck.
“It’s security I never dreamed I’d be able to say I have,” Parsons says. The Houston-native actor, who was a regular on “Judging Amy,” is wittily verbose like his character, but he doesn’t pretend to have the scientific aptitude.
When asked if he’s learned any new concepts from the show -- Schrodinger’s cat, anyone? -- he blinks his blue eyes and says, “Learned? More like memorized in less than a week and then promptly forgotten.”
Galecki, who’s still fondly remembered as Darlene’s slouchy boyfriend on “Roseanne,” plays Leonard, the straight nerd to Sheldon’s fussy one. For him, two more years means “so many more lines. It’s not like we get to just sit back now.”
Well, maybe some of them do. Listen to Galecki and Parsons talk about costar Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, the sweet but dippy waitress next door, and you might believe she has super-powers.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Parsons says conspiratorially, “but she always has every single word memorized.”
“She never makes a mistake,” Galecki adds.
Even a moment that takes on a life of its own, like Lizard, Spock, can come with a cost. “That scene was my nightmare,” Parsons says. “I kept mixing it all up and making the wrong hand signal.”
Despite the intricate monologues and Vulcan salutes that will surely come with two more years, the stars, in some ways, can put up their feet a bit. Galecki, for instance, has learned to play Leonard with a little more cool than in the first season.
“I’d watch the show and see moments where I worked some gesture too much or overemphasized my walk. But I realize now that I can just relax into it. It’s all muscle memory now.”
But muscle memory doesn’t make up for a grueling schedule of rehearsal, memorization and rewrites. “We’re pretty serious about silly,” Galecki says. “We don’t really do pranks on set.”
Is that mood due to pressure from the famously spirited Chuck Lorre? The reigning maestro of the sitcom, with hits including “Dharma & Greg” and “Grace Under Fire” under his belt, has been known to clash with TV critics and his leading ladies of yore, such as Brett Butler.
“I’d heard those stories about Chuck too,” Galecki says. “But it’s never been the case for me. He’s working too hard for any of that.”
Lorre, a one-time guitarist for hire, has “this incredible ear,” Galecki says. “He can just hear the beats and inflections of dialogue. I’ll step into his office and he’ll be playing the guitar between writing bits.”
By all accounts, “The Big Bang Theory” is a harmonious set. In addition to group trips to Comic-Con and the like, the actors will sometimes get together or go to see a movie.
But Galecki points out that since they got the two-year thumbs up, they’re not hanging out with the same frequency.
“We’ve been through the honeymoon period,” he says. “We’ll be riding this wave together for a while.”