Big Bang Theory Taping
Because of a friend we know rather high up in Warner Bros., we were able to obtain VIP tickets to see a live taping of one of our favorite shows, The Big Bang Theory since the show is taped at Warner Bros. even though it is aired on CBS. We were delighted and this past Tuesday, October we sat in a studio audience watching them film an episode called “The Extract Obliteration.” It was a fun, but tiring evening. We – along with the other VIPs – were ushered to our seats that had been taped off with our name written across them as guests of production. The excitement was there and the emcee – Mark Sweet – began to gently work the crowd to explain how the evening would go and to ensure that our energy remained high throughout the evening.
There was a good amount of down time between takes and that kept Mark busy working the crowd with magic tricks, handing out treats, and the like. As for me, I was far more interested in what was happening on the sets. As someone who has done some acting, it is always enjoyable for me to watch the process as it unfolds. There is really nothing about the filming process that I find boring.
Watching them film “Big Bang” was very enjoyable. Each scene was filmed at least twice – one in case they needed a backup – and more if someone messed up their lines or something technically unexpected occurred. A few of the actors messed up, but that’s the way it is at times. A number of times, new dialogue was inserted after one take, or other dialogue removed with the scene shot again. Much of it seemed to depend on the reaction of the audience. In some cases, laughter went on for some time, necessitating another delivery, or camera angle to fill the space so that it did not seem awkward to viewers.
On one occasion, they had to record “live dialogue.” This is where – in this case, Simon as Howard – stood under the boom mic and simply said his line. The reason for this was that we – the audience – had laughed over his line because what he had started to say was really funny and the end of the line was inaudible. He was doing an impersonation of Dr. Stephen Hawking’s robotic voice and he does a very good job at impersonations. Simon Helberg reminds me of a live cartoon character and I mean that as a compliment. He’s very talented.
They filmed the episode in scripted order to make it easier for the audience to follow along. A few scenes had been already recorded and they played them for us “live” in order to add our reaction to them for the live track.
We actually had very good seats for this particular episode, which were directly in front of Penny’s apartment and could still see the hallway and Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment as well. Most of the action took place in those areas for this episode. One scene was filmed in Amy’s lab, which was around the corner from us and the only way to see it was to view it on the monitors. Another scene took place in Penny’s bedroom and that was way down at the end and we could not see that either, so we relied on the monitors.
Watching the in-between action was great. It was interesting to see how certain actors – Jim Parsons (Sheldon), Jonny Galecki (Leonard), and Simon Helberg (Howard) would constantly pace as they mouthed the dialogue to themselves. I remember those days when I would do the same thing in theater or in some independent movie. The object of course, is to make the dialogue your own and every actor has his/her method.
Parsons uses his 3 x 5 cards with his dialogue, while Galecki carried a script. Helberg simply repeated his lines as he walked. I noticed that Kaley Cuoco – Penny – simply stood around and good-naturedly chatted with the crew, no script in hand. She seemed very relaxed, waiting for the next scene to shoot. Each actor has their own method of getting the job done and staying out of their head, which is the worst thing that can happen to an actor, because then you’re simply saying words and can become easily sidetracked, messing up your lines.
There was a good amount of energy on the set and a lot of what seemed to be milling around. To the untrained eye, it probably looked like a whole bunch of people standing around or chatting, but work was getting done. Everyone knew what they were doing. Make-up people walked in and out fixing hair, eliminating reflective spots on skin, or adjusting clothing. Directors, and the rest of the crew took the time to measure distances, adjust lighting or sound, while cameras were being moved into place.
Before the live taping occurred, they played an as yet unaired episode and it was funny. This is one of the things we like about this show. The humor is intelligent. It doesn’t necessarily go for the easy laugh or low-brow humor. There is intelligent writing that translates into a funny and realistic show, providing a look into the lives of scientific geeks and comic book nerds on a daily basis.
I have recently learned that there are people who hate the show and want it taken off the air. It’s called everything from “racist” to “unscientific.” To each their own. One guy has started a petition to have the show removed. He needs one million signatures I guess, and currently has five.
Initially, when it first began airing, I didn’t really get into Big Bang because of the evolutionary stance of the show. I figured I would be hearing constant put downs of Creationism and religion in general, but they are simply not there.
I have also come to appreciate that even though Sheldon’s mom (played by Laurie Metcalf) presents herself as a Christian, the writers have opted not to portray her as a loon, or hyper-fundamental. They don’t go for the cheap laugh at the Christian’s expense. Even some of the moral issues of the show are presented realistically, such as when Penny wants to just find a guy for the night. She admits that it creates feelings of guilt, self-loathing, and emotional pain (my words). I’d say that was right on the nose for most people.
Sheldon’s mom believes that it was Creation that began the whole thing and God is the Creator, while of course, the show does present the big bang theory of the origins of life. It is clear that Sheldon and she disagree over many things and, according to certain episodes, Sheldon had a rough life with two parents that did not get along. Such is life. It happens. In spite of this, it is clear that Sheldon loves his mother and she him. It would be interesting to see Sheldon’s reaction to someone other than his mother who had faith in God. This could be done on occasion.
I say that because for Sheldon, faith is unscientific. It’s grounded in nothing, as far as Sheldon is concerned. Yet for the Christian, faith is the foundation for what we believe. It would be interesting to see the type of interaction that could occur between Sheldon and someone else who is not his mother, yet believes in God and Creationism. If done well, the dialogue would be insightful.
Sheldon is an individual who has Asperger’s. He sees white and black. There are no gray areas. He has a difficult time empathizing with others and relates heavily to Mr. Spock because of Spock’s propensity to use logic, as opposed to feelings or emotions. Sheldon is always right. I actually know people like Sheldon, yet they lack his charm. In truth, Sheldon truly is adorable while being insufferable.
Sheldon’s roommate Leonard, is also a scientist, yet Leonard suffers from what most of us suffer from: being too human. We are all prone to be too hard on ourselves, doubt our God-given abilities, or second guess the actions of others. We often second guess why we do the things we do as well.
Though very intelligent, Leonard is also very sensitive and he and Penny have had an on-again, off-again relationship for some time. She – a waitress and aspiring actress – never feels she comes up to Leonard’s difficult-to-attain standards, while he is always trying to make her feel as though she is smart and special, in spite of her lack of a not only a PhD, but a basic college education. He usually goes about it the wrong way though, which causes problems. Penny’s own insecurities about herself cause problems as well.
To me, Big Bang is a show about human beings, their foibles, their dreams, their hopes, and aspirations. Everyone wants to be successful. Everyone wants to be loved and to give love. Everyone wants to be understood for who they are and for what they bring to the table of life. We all want acceptance and harmony with our fellow human beings.
The episode began taping at 6:30pm and finished up by about 10:00pm. I was able to obtain Kaley’s autograph on my program brochure and then we headed out for the night. There are people in Hollywood and Los Angeles who come to tapings like this all the time. It’s a fun thing to do but not as a steady diet. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes stuff, but it is much more fun to actually be part of something like this, rather than simply watch it live week after week. For me, the greatest thing would be to be on the set for an entire week off in a corner, watching an episode take place starting as a table read, on through to blocking, to filming. That process is absolutely amazing to me! I love that.
There is so much that goes into a production like this. There are approximately 150 people who make this show happen and they do a very good job. It’s entertaining. Without great writing, the wonderful actors would have nothing to say and the crew would have nothing to film. Without great actors, it doesn’t matter how well something is written because it would fall flat. Without a quality crew, no matter how good the acting and writing is, nothing would be filmed and no one would see it.
The Big Bang Theory will have at least seven seasons and they are currently on their sixth. More power to them. I’m glad there are people who are working and putting out a product that is entertaining and fun to watch. While I don’t of course, agree with all the humor, the one thing that makes this show fun is the fact that the characters are all so lovable. They are real people, whose foibles and faults are numerous and real, just like yours and mine.