Honor for ‘Big Bang’ brings cast to tears

Beloved show will end its run on its own memorial stage

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Bill Keveney USA TO­DAY

BURBANK, Calif. – Last week, the peo­ple who make TV’s top com­edy “The Big Bang The­ory” of­fered the press its first glimpse of an episode run-through as ac­tors read the script on the show’s sets.

But this time, the weekly ex­er­cise came with a bronze plaque and the ded­i­ca­tion of Warner Bros.’ Stage 25, the home of Shel­don, Leonard, Penny and their friends, as The Big Bang The­ory Stage. It’s only the fifth show in stu­dio his­tory to get such an honor on the sprawl­ing lot, join­ing “Friends,” E.R.,” “Two and a Half Men,” and the talk show “Ellen.”

The plaque un­veil­ing, held in the liv­ing room of the apart­ment once shared by Shel­don (Jim Par­sons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), was just one of many mo­ments those in­volved with the CBS com­edy will re­mem­ber as they near the se­ries’ 279th and fi­nal

episode, mov­ing it past “Cheers” to set a record for TV’s long­est-run­ning com­edy taped in front of a stu­dio au­di­ence.

“You come to work every day to make a good show,” co-cre­ator Chuck Lorre said. “We don’t think about get­ting a plaque, but the plaque is ex­tremely re­ward­ing. It makes the show part of the his­tory of the lot.”

Nearby, Ka­ley Cuoco, who has played Penny since the se­ries pre­miered in 2007, was feel­ing the emo­tions of the day and the clos­ing weeks on a show that made her and fel­low cast mem­bers rich and fa­mous.

“I am, like, al­ready los­ing it. These last few episodes have been re­ally heart­break­ing,” said Cuoco, stand­ing next to the for­ever-bro­ken apart­ment el­e­va­tor as a tear streamed down her cheek. “This sounds cheesy, but I’ve passed the ‘Friends’ stage for 20 years as an ac­tor, and I al­ways wanted our stage to be that way. I al­ways thought that was so cool. This is re­ally spe­cial.”

Cuoco sported a neck­lace with a “12” pen­dant, one of five she had made for her­self and the sup­port team that helps her with hair/makeup, wardrobe and other prepa­ra­tion. But there’s a much larger group of peo­ple, many be­hind the scenes, re­spon­si­ble for the suc­cess of “Big Bang,” Cuoco and oth­ers noted.

“If there was a recipe for the kind of chem­istry that’s here on the stage and in the writ­ers room, every show would last 280-some episodes,” Galecki said. (Par­sons left im­me­di­ately af­ter the ded­i­ca­tion and was not avail­able for in­ter­views.)

Al­though Thurs­day marked a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, the run-through of “The Con­fer­ence Val­u­a­tion,” to air in March, went much like the many be­fore it as part of the five-day pro­duc­tion process, from a “ta­ble read” to the fi­nal tap­ing with an au­di­ence.

The episode, which finds Ber­nadette (Melissa Rauch) and Penny butting heads at a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal con­ven­tion and Amy (Mayim Bia­lik) try­ing to ma­nip­u­late Shel­don (Jim Par­sons) into want­ing kids, was spread across sev­eral sets on the vast sound­stage.

For each scene, more than five dozen peo­ple gath­ered at the Wolowitz home, the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal con­ven­tion, a ho­tel and the iconic liv­ing-room set, as long­time di­rec­tor Mark Cendrowski of­fered stage di­rec­tions and cast mem­bers dressed in street clothes and of­f­cam­era hair­dos – a more stylish cut for Si­mon Hel­berg (Wolowitz) and straight locks for Rauch – re­cited lines, some­times con­sult­ing scripts.

Be­fore a scene in Leonard and Penny’s apart­ment, Par­sons stood in the hall, prac­tic­ing di­a­logue. Galecki, read­ing at the kitchen ta­ble, bor­rowed a pen from a desk on set to mark his script with notes.

The scenes moved quickly as writ­ers and crew punc­tu­ated each joke with ag­gres­sive laugh­ter to sim­u­late an au­di­ence re­sponse be­fore ev­ery­one shuf­fled to the next set on the stage.

Af­ter the run-through, the writ­ers start rewrit­ing as part of a process that con­tin­ues through Tues­day’s tap­ing.

“We’ll make things bet­ter or make them go away,” said Lorre, who also over­sees “Big Bang” pre­quel “Young Shel­don,” CBS com­edy “Mom” and Net­flix’s “The Komin­sky Method.” “If it’s not work­ing in front of a live au­di­ence, in all like­li­hood it will not work at home. So, fix it or for­get it, but don’t put it on tele­vi­sion, be­cause then you can’t ever fix it again.”

With the stage ded­i­ca­tion, the cast and crew paused to take in the mo­ment, as just seven episodes re­main.

And while CBS and Warner Bros. would wel­come a spinoff, Lorre says there are no plans “that I’m aware of. … This feels like a won­der­ful way to take a bow and go be­fore they start throw­ing fruit.”

Ku­nal Nay­yar called the mood “bit­ter­sweet,” a com­mon re­ac­tion when a suc­cess­ful se­ries comes to a close.

But he’s en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, feel­ing the pres­sure is off with the end in sight.

“If there was a recipe for the kind of chem­istry that’s here on the stage and in the writ­ers room, every show would last 280-some episodes.”

Johnny Galecki

WARNER BROS.

Ka­ley Cuoco, left, takes a group photo of “The Big Bang The­ory” cast and pro­duc­ers just af­ter Warner Bros. ded­i­cated the Burbank sound­stage to the top-rated CBS com­edy, which fin­ishes its 12-sea­son run in May.

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