BURBANK, Calif. – Reality would eventually hit Johnny Galecki that the comedy experiment that brought together a group of nerds and a street-smart waitress and became the longest-running multi-camera series in television history with 279 episodes was coming to an end. But, over the next few months of filming "The Big Bang Theory," the idea the program was about to wrap after 12 years still seemed "surreal and hypothetical" to the series star.
Galecki and his cast mates gathered in February on the Warner Bros. Studio Stage 25, the home for the series, to talk with members of the press about the series and saying goodbye. Trying to explain why the show has been such a hit was difficult for the actors.
The first hypothesis Galecki offers is it was the writers who deserve a massive amount of credit. The team blended pop culture references, complicated science and close relationships each week.
"If there was a recipe for the kind of chemistry that's on this stage and in the writer's room, every show would last 279 episodes," Galecki says.
The end result for "The Big Bang Theory" was a winner, but the show struggled at the start with the original pilot being rejected and CBS agreeing to a second being shot in hopes of finding the right mix of actors. Traditionally a network will say yes or no to a new program based on the pilot. Galecki knows it's rare for a network to have enough faith to allow for a second pilot to be filmed.
What was found with the second try was the strong mix of talents that initially included Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar. Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik would be added in later seasons.
Even with the confidence CBS showed with the second pilot, Gelecki wasn't certain the show would last more than one season. The show's so-so ratings put it on the fence at the same time the writers' strike hit.
"We were extremely happy to have survived that," Galecki says. "I think during those 100 days of the strike we returned with a newfound excitement and drive. Not that we didn't have that initially. But, when something is taken away from you like that, you don't know what you have until it's gone.
"I don't think we have stopped running since then."
Another theory for its success has been that it gave a cool quality to being a nerd. Galecki's heard that mentioned over the years, but he doesn't think his series can take credit for the rise in nerd power.
"I think it was a world we were reflecting," Galecki says. "I think it was time for people to understand that these are the types of people who are molding our culture. I am glad that we were able to shine a light on those folks as they do deserve the attention."
The spotlight was often cast on guest stars, who ranged from Bob Newhart to William Shatner. But the show also featured many whose fame came in the scientific community. Galecki is almost speechless when he talks about British theoretical physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking being part of the program. Other guest starts included former NASA astronaut Michael J. Massimino, Nobel Prize winner Dr. George Smoot and astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.
At the same time, "Big Bang" was cultivating love interests, especially Leonard (Galecki) and Penny (Cuoco). Often a TV show will lose steam once a romantic chase ends, but Galecki was never worried because he knew so many of the writers were married, they would be able to create equally as interesting personal stories once the two got together.
Cuoco knew the cast and crew would never let the show hit a lull no matter what was going on romantically or in the office.
"What I love about the people on this show is that none of us ever thought that we would last 12 years," Cucoco says. "Even when the show was doing great, this cast never took it for granted. We never thought it was a shoe-in.
"We are all still in love with this show, and that's what kept us going for so long. There was never an ounce of arrogance or settling."
As for the one-hour series finale that will air Thursday, all the cast members were allowed to have a say in how they would like to see their characters put to bed. That input didn't come as a surprise, as all of the cast members have been able to talk with the writers and series creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. The only difference is the talks were the final notes on an experiment that by all calculations was a major success.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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