'Big Bang Theory' Finale: Writers Bid Farewell To Their 'Surrogate Family' It's a bittersweet ending for the team of writers and creators behind the hit CBS show. Writer Dave Goetsch says he simply cannot bring himself to turn off his daily Google alert for physics news.
NPR logo

After 12 Seasons, 'Big Bang' Writers Bid Farewell To Their 'Surrogate Family'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/723358433/723686095" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
After 12 Seasons, 'Big Bang' Writers Bid Farewell To Their 'Surrogate Family'

After 12 Seasons, 'Big Bang' Writers Bid Farewell To Their 'Surrogate Family'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/723358433/723686095" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

One of the biggest hits in TV history signs off tomorrow after a 12-season run.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING")

BARENAKED LADIES: (Singing) Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state. Then nearly 14 billion years ago, expansion started. Wait. The Earth began to cool. The autotrophs began to drool.

CORNISH: "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS wraps up its story about a group of Caltech scientists and their friends. NPR's Mandalit del Barco visited the show's creative team as it prepared to disband.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: TV writers rooms are normally pretty private so that jokes and ideas can fly freely.

UNIDENTIFIED WRITER: Let the record show that Mr. Molaro rolled his eyes.

(LAUGHTER)

DEL BARCO: They're finished with their scripts, but for 12 years, the writers pitched storylines and traded jabs from their creative space at Warner Bros. Studios.

(LAUGHTER)

DEL BARCO: Their long conference table is topped by "Star Wars" toys, email about the structure of DNA, the collected work of physicist Richard Feynman and on the TV monitors a "Star Trek" screen saver. Yes, it's a show for and about geeks and nerds, and that's why it's worked, says executive producer Chuck Lorre.

CHUCK LORRE: I always thought it was because the characters were outliers and felt somewhat disenfranchised from the world and clung to each other. They created a surrogate family, and people generally feel that way. Maybe the prom king doesn't, but screw him, right? I mean, this is for the rest of us who weren't the king and queen of the prom.

DEL BARCO: Lorre co-created the show with Bill Prady, who long ago wrote computer software.

BILL PRADY: And it was sold in your neighborhood RadioShack store.

LORRE: The idea started, really, when he was discussing the brilliance of the computer programmers that you worked with and their stark inability to deal with people, women in particular.

PRADY: I mean, I remember the story that I told you, Chuck, about the guy who could do amazing calculations in his head but couldn't figure a tip in a restaurant. I told you that story, and you said, hang on; I've never seen that guy on television.

DEL BARCO: Their protagonists are physicists Leonard and Sheldon, played by Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, and their Caltech scientist friends Raj and Howard and Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco. She started out as their neighbor. The writers say one of their favorite moments was the episode where Penny gave Sheldon a treasure in the form of an autographed napkin.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BIG BANG THEORY")

JIM PARSONS: (As Sheldon Cooper) To Sheldon, live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy.

(LAUGHTER)

DEL BARCO: Writer Steve Molaro says this scene was key to the evolution of the show.

STEVE MOLARO: That was the first truly electric moment where you could just feel what we were doing vibrating. And I think it really resonated.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BIG BANG THEORY")

KALEY CUOCO: (As Penny) He came into the restaurant. Sorry the napkin's dirty. He wiped his mouth with it.

(LAUGHTER)

PARSONS: (As Sheldon Cooper) I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy.

(LAUGHTER)

DEL BARCO: Steve Holland says he loved writing the show's quieter scenes.

STEVE HOLLAND: There was a wonderful moment. It was Sheldon's birthday, and they had thrown him a big party. And he gets overwhelmed and is in the bathroom. And Penny goes to the bathroom with him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BIG BANG THEORY")

CUOCO: (As Penny) If what you need is to spend your birthday in a bathroom, I'm happy to do it with you.

PARSONS: (As Sheldon Cooper) Well, everyone will think I'm weird.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOCO: (As Penny) Sweetie, you are weird.

(LAUGHTER)

DEL BARCO: For the scripts to be scientifically plausible, Chuck Lorre and Steve Holland say they took their cues from the latest scientific breakthroughs. And they regularly consulted with UCLA physicist David Saltzberg.

LORRE: Sometimes you just send him the script with big blank sections to be filled in with appropriate science so that we're not ridiculed.

HOLLAND: Sometimes we say things to him like, Sheldon and Amy need to have a discovery that could be worthy of a Nobel Prize but can't be something anyone else has already thought of, so go. Go.

LORRE: Come up with a Nobel Prize award-winning idea that we could put in a sitcom.

HOLLAND: Yeah. Super asymmetry was the result of that conversation, where he invented super asymmetry for us.

DEL BARCO: That's fiction. But Bill Prady says scientists did end up winning the 2010 Nobel Prize for graphene, something similar to what Professor Saltzberg suggested for the show.

PRADY: And they cited the episode in their Nobel lecture.

DEL BARCO: Writer David Goetsch says he'll miss being able to use what he learns about science.

DAVID GOETSCH: I have this Google alert for physics, and so I get one every day. And, like, I don't want to turn it off.

DEL BARCO: Like the show's characters, most of the writers in this room have been together for 12 years. Most of them are now executive producers, among them Eric Kaplan and Maria Ferrari, who says she'll miss the team.

MARIA FERRARI: Most jobs you go off and you write your script, and you come back and you punch it up together. Here, we write it all together. That's the only thing I know how to do is write in this room for this show. It is so hard to leave it behind.

ERIC KAPLAN: It's not the only thing you know how to do. Don't you know aikido?

FERRARI: I also know aikido. I know two things.

(LAUGHTER)

DEL BARCO: Then the laughs pause, and Bill Prady chokes up telling us how he connects with the show's fans.

PRADY: All of the people who have said that they see themselves in the show because they were outsiders and people who didn't fit in - that was me.

DEL BARCO: No spoilers for the show's emotional final episode. But unraveling the mystery, it all started, and it will end, with a big bang.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING")

BARENAKED LADIES: (Singing) Big bang - bang.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF AK'S "COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS")

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.