'Big Bang Theory' still booming as cliffhanger closes Season 10

Just as cast, producers and CBS have come together for two more seasons of The Big Bang Theory, a separation poses a major test for Sheldon and Amy in Thursday’s Season 10 finale (8 ET/PT).

Caltech physicist Sheldon (Jim Parsons), who baby-stepped into a live-in arrangement with Amy (Mayim Bialik) at the start of the season, now must adjust to her being across the country, on a fellowship at Princeton.

Co-creator Chuck Lorre says the growth of that relationship and others –  resulting in breakups, marriages and a baby -- is a key to the success of Bang (averaging 18.7 million viewers), which will outlast NBC hits Friends, Cheers and Frasier with its two-season extension. (Its ratings strength as TV's top comedy also has spawned a fall CBS prequel, Young Sheldon.)

“The best way to explore a character is to put that character into a relationship,” says Lorre. "We started with these (brilliant scientists) who were extremely stunted in terms of their ability to connect with other human beings, especially women. And look where we are now. It's kind of mind-boggling."

Parsons  says Sheldon and Amy's move across the hall  has forced him to relearn his footwork.

“I’m still adjusting to living in Penny’s apartment. Every once in a while, we're coming up the stairs and it's a nearly 10-year-old habit of turning toward the door of" the old apartment, where spouses Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) now live.

With Amy temporarily gone, Ramona Nowitzki (Riki Lindhome), an admiring grad student from Season 2, returns to make a romantic overture to Sheldon. Naïve as ever,  he's oblivious, but Penny, Leonard and the gang worry about its effect on his relationship with Amy.
The slow-and-steady development of the characters — Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar), at the start, with Amy and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) arriving in Season 3 — has  added comedy and a little heart, says executive producer Steven Molaro.

"In the very first episode, Leonard decides he loves Penny, and that has played out. Look at Wolowitz and how he's grown. When we met Raj, he couldn't speak if a girl was in the room. And the thought of Sheldon having a girlfriend seemed ridiculous in Season 3," says Molaro.

Although such changes  can be acts of ratings desperation by long-running shows, Parsons sees the situation differently.

"They introduced (Amy and Bernadette) at a time well before anyone felt it was 'needed,'" he says. "It worked out beautifully, It's the same thing with life-changing storylines. I've never felt they were done at a time when we we were starving for something. Instead, it's done early enough that, as a cast, we go, 'Oof! Why?' Time after time, a year later, I'm saying, 'I'm so glad we did that..' "

Bang is spawning an even bigger change withYoung Sheldon, which focuses on the genius's Texas upbringing and features a new cast and no studio audience.

Parsons will narrate the series, set to air this fall right after Big Bang. "It's more of an origins story than a close cousin to Big Bang," he says. "It's more like the beginnings of a superhero, which in this case is a genius nerdy kid."

As that show blazes a new path, Lorre acknowledges the challenge of coming up with plots for Bang's 11th season. But "I've had concerns (whether) there are enough stories since the pilot, and somehow we just finished shooting our 231st episode."

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