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Comic-Con 2010:
The Big Bang Theory Panel

Comic-Con 2010’s panel for the immensely popular series The Big Bang Theory was all about spreading the nerd love. Geek bonding and appreciation became a sort of theme during the hour-long panel. The creators and writers were congratulated for their Emmy-nominated excellence, the cast praised their fellow actors and guest actors, the fans cheered for everyone, and moderator Wil Wheaton especially gushed with fanboy love for all things Big Bang Theory.

“I thought that before we got started, we could all do something really nerdy together. Seeing as The Big Bang Theory is a show about geeks who do geeky things. I thought it would be really fun if we started today in some sort of shared nerd experience. And I don’t think there is a lot in the world that is nerdier than a sing-along with strangers.”

Wheaton proposed that the 4,000-plus audience all sing the theme song together—and the excitement didn’t stop there. Determined to live up to the Big Bang in its name, the show decided the only way to make the sing-along rock harder was to give its fans a special surprise appearance by the theme song’s creators, The Barenaked Ladies.

And so, the panel got off to a rollicking start and the incredibly loud roar of the audience left no doubt about the show’s huge popularity. Wheaton began the discussion by talking about how the show charms its fans. “One of the reasons that we love this show is seeing how your characters are all geeky for the same things that we are geeky for. And it’s not just that you enjoy these things — your characters enjoy them in the same way we enjoy them.”

What may come as a surprise to many fans is that the cast are not as geeky as their television counterparts. But that didn’t stop Wheaton from wondering what things they really are geeky for.

Kunal Nayyar (Raj Koothrappali) said badminton makes him geeky, while Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz) worried if crying during the Barenaked Ladies’ accordion solo was too geeky. Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper) explained his love for talk radio, “I like to hear people talking and answering and asking questions and things, and I find it comforting. And that’s probably not geeky. That’s probably a cry for therapy.”

Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter) lamented about having the most boring answer -- “I geek out over work" -- until writer Bill Prady reminded him of his excitement for the G.I Joe movie. “Yes, the epic stories that I would come up with my G.I. Joe figurines on the kitchen floor up until… a month or so ago.”

In a surprising move, Wheaton actually outed Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny “the least geekiest character on the show,” as the geekiest actor on the set. “Watch yourself, Wil Wheaton,” she warned, jokingly of course.

Wheaton revealed Cuoco to be a big Harry Potter fan, and the two of them had visited the Harry Potter exhibit on the Warner Brothers Studios lot. “I just remember how you went to wear the Sorting Hat and didn’t get into the house you wanted, and how upsetting that was to you,” teased Wheaton, and the others recalled that she was sorted into Slytherin. “I was not a Slytherin!” Cuoco protested adamantly.

When asked how being a part of The Big Bang Theory has helped her get in touch with her inner geek, Cuoco talked about her real love for nerdy stuff, especially gadgets like the smart phones and her Kindle -- and of course, Harry Potter. “I’m obsessed with him. I can’t wait ‘til the next movie!” she fangirled. “It’s gonna be great!”

When discussing the relationships among everyone who works on the show, Wheaton shared a few anecdotes from his days on the set: “My first day on the set of The Big Bang Theory, I was absolutely blown away by how much you guys all really, really like each other. I’ve noticed there is an incredible camaraderie among everybody, among the writers, among the crew, and among the cast.”

However, those strong feelings of friendship did not stop anyone from being ruthless competitors in the Big Bang Theory ping-pong tournament. The guys accused Cuoco of cheating during a game (a very Slytherin move), and the whole discussion ended with Wheaton being blamed for breaking up the cast.

Unsure of what else he should ask, Wheaton turned to the followers of his blog for suggestions. One asked, “Who were some of your dream guests for guest stars?” Writer Prady joked that very low down on the list was Wil Wheaton. He then shared how fortunate the show has been in getting such popular names as Stan Lee, Katie Sackoff, Summer Glau, and yes, Wil Wheaton, too.

“The only thing geekier than the characters of The Big Bang Theory are the writers of The Big Bang Theory.” The writers teased the audience and the cast with names of possible guests for future episodes, but explained that they don’t cast popular names for the sake of having popular names on the show. “They are people we think are cool and we’re fans of, so that’s who we go for,” said Prady.

Another of Wheaton followers asked how challenging it was to sell the idea of a show about geeks doing geeky things to a network that may have been a little bit nervous about finding the right audience for it. Wheaton himself recalled discussing with one of the show’s writers about the “wonderful creative tension in the writers’ room between the nerds and the normals,” and was astonished by how well-received the show has been by “people like [himself] and people like [his] wife, who are just nerd-adjacent.”

Co-creator Chuck Lorre expressed his appreciation of CBS’ very supportive attitude towards the show since its beginning, and explained that he doesn’t really worry about “too geeky” jokes (such as “A homo habilis discovering his opposable thumb says what?”) being lost on the audience. “We presume an intelligent audience and let the chips fall from there.”

The fans weren’t the only ones praised for their intelligence. Parsons expressed a great deal of love for the writers, so much so that Lorre walked across the stage and hugged him. “It’s surprisingly easy [to take on this role] because of the writing, sincerely. A lot of the times you don’t get to do a good job on TV if the writing’s not up to par. [...] You deserve an Emmy nomination.”

Commenting on Helberg’s experience in improv and sketch comedy both in theatre and on television, Wheaton asked if there is any freedom to play around with lines and character choices during filming. Helberg doesn’t miss being able to improvise like he does onstage because the show is a very different medium of entertainment, and he expressed his complete trust in the writers’ ideas. “I’m never left out with my pants down -- I can’t even get my pants off, the ones they put on in the show.”

Galecki discussed his role as Leonard, whom Wheaton described as “the emotional center of the show, the connecting character to the audience.” He related to the frustration in Leonard and understood his character’s angst-filled, “the grass is always greener on the other side” perspective on life. Lorre added, “Leonard is the only character that is actually trying to reach outside himself, so he suffers.” Bill Prady also explained Leonard’s situation as a man torn between two completely different worlds: “He exists between two forces. He exists between Sheldon, who’s trying to pull him back out of the world, saying ‘We don’t need anything out there,’ and Penny, who says ‘There’s a world out there. Come take a look.’”

There’s no better way to find out why a person is who he is than by meeting his mother. Wheaton pointed out that after seeing how Leonard’s mother, played by Christine Baranski, deals with Leonard, “everything about Leonard just made so much sense.” Both the actors and writers praised Ms Baranski’s talents and shared what it was like to work with her on the set. Jim Parsons talked about the masterful way Baranski works with the material, while Simon Helberg described her as a powerhouse of an actor that always knows which direction a scene should take.

Before the Q&A portion of the panel, co-creator Bill Prady thanked the fans for helping make The Big Bang Theory the success that it is today. “You could have loved us, or you could have not loved us. Thank you for the way it went.”

Once the panel opened up to the audience, the questions ranged from “Will the gang ever visit Comic-Con?” to “Sing Soft Kitty!” For the former, Prady explained that although they really want to, any time the show is not filmed on a stage, something looks out of place or unbelievable -- "We’re actually going outside!” Chuck Lorre explained it in fewer words, “We’re an indoor cat.”

The funniest moment of the panel occurred when a little girl asked each actor to name his or her favorite person or best friend in the show. “That is an evil person disguised as a cute little girl!” exclaimed the actors. “It’s Wil Wheaton’s evil daughter!”

Once everyone had recovered from laughing too hard (and once Wheaton told his young protégé to meet him back at his evil lair), Wheaton gave his thoughts on the cast’s relationships from the perspective of an outsider and described working on The Big Bang Theory as a great privilege. “It is rare that you come across a cast that genuinely likes each other, genuinely cares about each other, and is supportive of each other the way that these guys are.”

One fan asked about the origin of “Bazinga!”, Sheldon’s favorite expression and the word printed on the red shirts of more than 80% of the audience. Bill Prady revealed that one of the show’s writers, Stephen Engel, had used it as his personal word for “Gotcha”. Fans also learned that another writer Lee Aronsohn was the brain behind another Sheldon classic: Knock, knock, knock—“Penny!”—Knock, knock, knock—“Penny!”—Knock, knock, knock—“Penny!”

The last question of the panel asked the actors to choose a super power and a superhero name. Johnny Galecki would choose to fly and change his name to Dave Grohl, while Jim Parsons wanted the power to create instant world peace and be called Jimmy Peace.

Although many fans screamed for him to choose Moist from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Simon Helberg also opted for the ability to fly -- “but I wouldn’t tell anybody. So I would join a ballet or a basketball team, and every time I would jump I would be in the air a half second too long, and people would be blown away. […] I’d be Lightfoot.” Kunal Nayyar simply wanted the ability to make things awesome as the superhero Awesome Man.

Much to the dismay of the fans, Wil Wheaton announced that the panel’s time was up. The Big Bang Theory crew thanked the Comic-Con attendees from the bottom of their hearts, and gave the fans a few things to look forward to for the next season: more appearances by the gang’s family members, possibly another face-off between Sheldon and the Evil Wil Wheaton, and definitely more of Mayim Bialik, Sheldon’s potential love interest from the Season 3 finale.

Before they exited, Wil Wheaton once more expressed his joy and gratitude for being given the opportunity to work on The Big Bang Theory: “Thank you for always making me feel, from the minute I walked through the stage door, like I’m part of your family.”


Steph Rodriguez

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