‘The Big Bang Theory’: 5 lessons from TV’s biggest comedy

How a sitcom hit with its own physics consultant proved smart comedy can still work on network TV.

The Big Bang Theory did not start off with a bang 12 seasons ago.

Its first season abbreviates by a 100-day writers strike. It ends with the CBS comedy ranked 68th in the Nielsens for 2007-08.

As the show about Caltech scientists and their friends and families; wraps up its 279-episode run with a two-episode finale on Thursday, May 16, it’s television’s most-watched comedy.

Therefore, deservedly so.

1. It can take time to grow a hit.

“I’ve been really fortunate”; to get that time; Lorre said . Set with a group of reporters in February. “We got to learn about what the show was by doing the show, by making the show. The show taught us what it was. The audience taught us what it was.”

2. There’s a lot to be said for an expanding universe.

Lorre said he never considered Penny dumb; just more socially and emotionally adept than her male neighbors, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki). Their friends Raj Koothrappali (Temple grad Kunal Nayyar) and Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg). She did seem to get smarter, and adding more women to the mix — particularly Mayim Bialik as neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler and Melissa Rauch as microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski. Both added to the comedy and made Penny’s differences seem less about gender. “We saw where we’d fallen short,” Lorre said. “We saw where we hadn’t really done our jobs, and we tried to broaden the show. Legitimately, not pandering. The female scientists — of course. You know, duh.”

3. Smart humor and bathroom humor can coexist.

The same show that brought on Nobel laureates Kip Thorne, George Smoot, and Frances Arnold to play themselves in an episode in April has never been above the kind of jokes about bodily functions that speak to a lot of people’s inner 8-year-olds.

4. We like to watch families.

The casting of, and writing for, the main characters’ parents — starting with Laurie Metcalf and Christine Baranski’s guest shots as Sheldon and Leonard’s mothers — has done a lot to explain how they came to be who they are. But even before the show started pairing off its characters, they’d formed a family. “The lesson I’ve learned over and over again, going back to when I was a writer on Roseanne [is that] all these shows that work seem to have an underlying theme of family and affection … whether or not it’s biological relations or friendships,” Lorre said. “Even Seinfeld, where the characters were constructed, I think, to be abrasive, they were there for each other.”

Cast members and producers of CBS's "The Big Bang Theory" took a selfie on the show's Warner Bros. set in February, when the stage that's been home to the record-breaking comedy was renamed in its honor. From left: star Kaley Cuoco, executive producers Steven Molaro and Chuck Lorre; stars Melissa Rauch, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik, Simon Helberg, Johnny Galecki, and Jim Parsons; executive producer Bill Prady;  star Kevin Sussman.

5. There’s a place on television for brilliant people who don’t solve crimes or cure the sick.

With all due respect to Sherlock Holmes (both the CBS and PBS versions) and ABC’s The Good Doctor, it’s nice to see people with high IQs having a few other options.

Physicist Stephen Hawking with actor Jim Parsons on the set of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” in  2012, when Hawking first appeared on the show

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