'Big Bang Theory' Bosses on That Jaw-Dropping Series Finale Guest Star and More
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Series Finale of The Big Bang Theory, "The Stockholm Syndrome."]
And with that we have the series finale of CBS's long-running The Big Bang Theory, which ended Thursday night after 12 years (and 279 episodes) on the air. It's fitting that the series about a group of comic book and science nerds living their lives, which became one of the most popular television series of all time, would go out with a lovely tribute to the show itself.
Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, and more share their feelings from the set of the series finale taping.
The finale was filled with surprises (Penny is pregnant! Sheldon and Amy win the Nobel Prize! Sarah Michelle Gellar guesting as herself!) and did what the show has always done so well — show us just how much this group of friends were really and truly also a family that we cared about.
Since we still have some questions after attending the live taping on April 30 (we saw everything but the final tag, which the producers wanted to keep private until the final episode aired), executive producers Steve Molaro and Steve Holland jumped on the phone with TV Insider to talk about shaping this nerd-tastic series finale.
Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, and more talk the series' beginnings, fandom, catchphrases, guest stars, and more.
Having talked to you guys over the years for the show, I know you typically don't plan too far out with your seasons. How was that different this time around?
Steve Molaro: We knew once we learned this was the last season — which I think was Episode 2 of this year. Then, we really did sit down and have discussions about where we wanted to land the show and where we wanted to land with these characters. This show certainly had a little bit more of a structure, it was not like we knew episode-to-episode what was going to happen, but we certainly knew a shape and we knew a landing place that we wanted to get to. Luckily, we knew early enough along that we really got to build to that moment.
With the Nobel Prize story line, was that created knowing that it would take us through to the finale and be part of that episode?
Steve Holland: Yeah, that was probably the first piece that we knew when we talked about what that finale would be. We knew the Nobel Prize ceremony and Sheldon's (Jim Parsons) speech at the end were the two earliest pieces of the finale that we landed on.
I love that the elevator moment happened in the penultimate episode, since I wasn't expecting it. Why'd you make that decision that would happen that episode instead of the final one?
Molaro: I think we were happy that it happened a little earlier than expected so there were still some element of surprise to it. It's not just gratuitous, it does play into the story line nicely with Sheldon's freaking out about all the change that’s happening and can't take anymore. And then the door opens.
We couldn't let the show go out without one final bazinga!
Sheldon's self-centeredness in the finale was a really great homage to the whole series because it's something that's been consistent. Was that a hard story point to land on for the final episode?
Holland: It was important to us and it built to that last moment [of the episode]. Sheldon took this moment that he's been wanting for his whole childhood and instead of taking the spotlight on himself for one of the few times — or for the first time —he turned that moment and he made it about his friends.
Penny's (Kaley Cuoco) pregnancy was a nice surprise, especially since Penny's made a point of saying she doesn't want kids and it seemed to be an end to that story. Was that something that you guys knew would come for awhile?
Molaro: No, we had talked for a long time about really wanting to honor the Penny and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) relationship in the finale and that seemed like such a nice way to do it and sort of tie it back to the pilot episode, where Leonard said, "Our babies would be smart and beautiful." The fact that they have had these stories about Penny not being sure, not wanting kids, made it land a bigger surprise in the finale.
In preparation for the finale or the final episodes, did you guys go back and watch the pilot or any of the early episodes?
Molaro: We watched parts of [the pilot]. I know we went back to make sure we got the exact wording of what Leonard said about Penny and the babies being smart and beautiful and if it was "babies" or "children." I was like, "Well, we need to get this right."
Things were a lot more subtle for Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and you didn’t force Raj (Kunal Nayyar) into a relationship for the last episode. Can you talk about those story decisions?
Molaro: We were looking maybe to not try to tie a perfect bow around every little story or make some commentary that you must be in a relationship, or you won't be happy, or anything like that. I think some day he will find love with the right person, whoever that is.
The co-stars and on-screen spouses had fun ahead of the show's big farewell.
Sarah Michelle Gellar was a really nice surprise, as well, and fitting with guest stars over the run of the series. How did you guys keep that a secret?
Holland: Luckily, we shot it the morning before the finale taping so we didn't have to keep it a secret for very long.
Was she somebody you had been trying to get in the past, or did she just come up for the finale?
Holland: She just came up for the finale, I'm a huge Buffy [the Vampire Slayer] fan, as is Steve and a lot of the writers here. We were talking about the finale and we knew they were going to be on a plane to the Nobel Prize ceremony and that Raj didn't have anyone to sit next to. Chuck [Lorre, executive producer] said, "Maybe this is a great opportunity to have him sit next to someone fun."
We just started talking about who that could be and Buffy just seemed like a fun pull that we were excited about, that I think the characters would be excited about and would be unexpected.
I probably would've thought that maybe you would try to do a huge episode where you bring back everybody, like you’ve done with the wedding episodes in the past. Was that ever on the docket?
Holland: Certainly this last season we wanted to make sure we got to see a lot of these people one more time. But going into the finale, like you said, we feel like we had done that at [Amy and Sheldon’s] wedding episode. And this being our chance to say goodbye to these characters, we really wanted to keep the focus on them, and not just make it a parade of guest stars.
How much did you think about the fans and what they might expect and making sure that they're satisfied? Or did you have to keep that out of your head?
Holland: We're certainly aware of it, but at some point, we had to put it out of our head because it just becomes too daunting to try to figure out what everyone's expectations are. At some point, we had to really sit down and write the finale that we wanted to write and we like to think of ourselves as sort of the first line of fans of these characters. We've lived with them for a long time, we've poured our stories into them, we loved them, and so had to feel like if we wrote a finale that we were happy with, and that we felt satisfied with it, hopefully the fans would as well.
I'm sure at this point, everyone has written their own finale in their head, and not everyone is going to get that story. But, I'm really proud of the one that we wrote.
Now that The Big Bang Theory is over, will it affect [prequel] Young Sheldon at all? Just in the fact that maybe there's more story you can put into that without thinking of the original show. Has that been on your mind at all?
Molaro: I don't think The Big Bang Theory ending would affect our thinking on Sheldon too much. We do our best to honor the canon from Big Bang Theory as much as we can, while still making the best episodes of Sheldon that we can. So the fact that it's officially over, I think we'll continue to do our best to honor it as we move forward.