According to The Globe and Mail, The Big Bang Theory is averaging more than three million weekly viewers on CTV; among comedy programs in Canadian TV history, only the series finale of Friends garnered a larger audience.
Need more evidence that the lovable nerds are Canada’s biggest hit? Their appearance on the popular Canadian entertainment newsmagazine ETalk was the most watched episode in the show’s history. 1.9 million viewers tuned in.
The Globe and Mail talked to Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar while they were in Toronto for a public appearance – where thousands of their biggest fans turned out to see them. That interview can be read below. Additionally, they were honored (along with the show’s creators) by the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advance of Science for creating a show that “seamlessly melds science and everyday life.”
Why is Big Bang peaking in popularity now?
Helberg: We kind of snuck up on people. It’s big, it’s bright and we’re all extreme characters.
Parsons: The other really smart thing was having the first few seasons on airplanes. One of the smartest things they’ve ever done. People have nothing to do on airplanes, so a lot of people discovered us that way.
Big Bang seems to be evolving into more of an ensemble. Viewers know a lot about Raj and Howard now.
Nayyar: The writers have done a good job of writing a show about five characters. As opposed to two main characters and then three or four people who just come in to say some funny lines. They’ve developed our backgrounds. The show didn’t start that way, but the writers really believed in our talent.
Helberg: When I read the pilot, I really liked it, but I remember not being able to differentiate between the characters. It all started to come together after the table read. The best thing you can do in a sitcom or movies is to have the characters so developed that you can just watch them do anything. You don’t even have to hear them speak, you already know their reaction.
Nayyar: Sometimes during taping we have to redo the take because the live audience will start laughing at any of these characters’ jokes before they finish it.
Is Big Bang a throwback to the simple-minded sitcom?
Helberg: The people who love the show don’t like complicated stories. All our stories are really simple, even if it involves formulas or robot arms or whatever these guys are dealing with. Our writers like small stories with big characters.
Does it bother you when people refer to them as nerds or geeks?
Parsons: If they mean it in a derogatory way. When we were first picked up as a series, we got a lot of good press, but there were several reviews that were pretty dismissive. I thought, ‘˜Go ahead and pooh-pooh it.’… There’s much more going on here than that. There’s a genuine depth of work on our show.
Is the keen adherence to scientific detail really necessary?
Parsons: We could probably get by with less specificity or less honesty in the science, but it’s real. We employ a physicist on set to make sure the science is real. We put in inside science jokes for the .0001 per cent of our audience that’s going to catch it. That kind of effort elevates everything.
Nayyar: The producers have often said they don’t want to dumb this language down, because we presume our audience is smart enough to understand it. We have trust in our audience.
Is there a subtle ‘˜nerds-rule’ message to the show?
Nayyar: The message is that it’s okay to be passionate about something. These guys don’t judge themselves or each other for what they do. For them, working in science is the coolest thing in the world.
You all started in the theatre world. Is that a plus on a sitcom?
Parsons: It’s a fun marriage of the two mediums. The bottom line is we work all week toward that one night of taping before a live audience. To deny they help dictate the rhythms of the show would be a lie. The difference being, of course, is that there are cameras between you and the audience. You don’t have to be big enough to sell to the back of the house.
Right from the first season, you chaps have drawn the biggest crowds at the annual Comic-Con in San Diego. Last summer’s show?
Nayyar: It was bigger than ever. The timing of Comic-Con is perfect for us, because it takes place right at the start of our shooting season. We feel that wave of support and it feels great to hear comments from kids like, ‘˜Thank you for making us look cool’ and ‘˜Thank you for making our community acceptable.’
Helberg: Even if the message is, ‘˜Thank God, there are people nerdier than me.’
Finally, I must ask Jim: Your catchphrase, ‘˜Bazinga!’ — blessing or curse?
Parsons: I could see how a catchphrase could be a curse. This one has not worked out to be a curse for a couple of reasons. First, it’s blessedly short. Bazinga is just Bazinga. And also it’s a little peculiar, so it hasn’t become like the ‘˜now’ phrase you hear everyone saying. Best of all, it’s very easy to write when you’re asked to sign something.