Bill Prady showruns the incredibly highly rated comedy series BIG BANG THEORY. He had some interesting things to say about the genesis of the show at the Banff Worldwide Television Festival.
The show originated out of misery: Prady was unhappy. “Marta Kaufman [FRIENDS] had been blackmailed by the WB into running a 1 hour drama about four sisters called RELATED. I was her third choice for the number two writer. She wasn’t happy. It was awful. We were working a mile north of the WB lot. I started walking south down Hollywood Way, and I wound up in the office of Chuck Lorre.
“Now Chuck has no need for any more money. He’s created TWO AND A HALF MEN. I’ve told him, ‘Has no one explained to you how wealthy you are?’ But he’s passionate about his work.
“We decided to work on a pilot together. We wouldn’t pitch the show, we would just figure it out ourselves. We went through a bunch of ideas. Chuck had read a science fiction novel, and we tried that for a month adapting it until we realized it wasn’t a good idea.
“There was an actress famous for indie films who wanted to do TV. We developed a show for her about a woman who’s tough on the outside but out on her own for the first time. That didn’t work.
“Then we thought, let’s put these two charcters together. The original version of the show was about Leonard and Sheldon and this very tough version of Penny.
“So we wrote the first two scenes, and brought in a couple of actors and had them perform it for the president of CBS, and they commissioned the pilot.”
(Okay, let’s just stop there a moment. Remember how Ian Brennan was a theater actor before his gym buddy took his spec feature of GLEE to Ryan Murphy? Remember how Vince Gilligan created BREAKING BAD because he had no idea how to feed his family? Stories that give you hope that your long dry spell could just be the prelude to earthshattering success? Okay, this is the opposite. Somehow I suspect that if you were buds with Chuck Lorre, and he developed a show with you, and took it to the president of CBS, you could probably get a pilot commitment, too.)
“The original female character was envisioned as tough as nails but with a sweet inside, and it would take a while to break her down. Now I’m not a big fan of focus group testing, but the company that focus grouped BIG BANG had never seen such a gap between a score for a show and a score for a character. They loved the show. They hated Penny.
“Supposedly you never watch the men in a focus group. They’re dull, they don’t say much. Watch the women’s conversation. And all they were talking about was how they could get rid of this woman on the show and keep the guys.
“Generally the decisions on pilot pickups are made on Mother’s Day. This is to ensure that you have an absolutely miserable Mother’s Day. The first half you can’t focus on anything because you’re waiting to hear. And then you hear you didn’t get picked up.
“In this case, though, the network did an almost unheard of thing. They said, ‘we don’t want the show but we’ll do another pilot because we like the guys.’
“They thought it was a casting issue. But we thought it was a writing issue – no actress could play the part we’d written sympathetically.
So we brought in Kaley Cuoco. She’d actually auditioned before, but she was all wrong for the tough version, and it turned out she was perfect for the nice one.”
Labels: Banff, interviews