“The success lays always in the details” is a famous quote by billionaire Richard Branson – and the US TV show The Big Bang Theory is full of little details, references and easter eggs. Therefore, you can watch every episode several times and always find more hints and enjoyment in the love they put in every detail.
The TV series started in 2007; it won over 28 TV prizes and is still running in the seventh season while season eight has already been announced.
At first, I would like to introduce the characters:
The five main characters are – of course – full of cliches. There is Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), the tallest of the nerd team with a posture of a giant praying mantis. He is the often autistic-like genius with an IQ of 187, an eidetic memory and several Ph.D. titles but with nearly no empathy for others. While many fans think that Sheldon’s role is meant to have a real form of autism, the creators strongly negate it.
Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) is his roommate with a Ph.D. title in physics and is also a super nerd with a big comic and gadget collection at home but with fairly normal human needs and emotional feelings especially towards women.
He is in love with his neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco), the typical blond Nebraska girl cutie who came to L.A. to become an actress but ‘ended up’ as a waitress in the local Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain. She is from Omaha and is the chaotic sexual magnet for Leonard and his best friends Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) – the two other cliche nerds in the group.
Howard is an aerospace engineer and is the shortest in the circle of friends; to be precise: a quarter of an inch shorter than Leonard (5′ 5″), as Leonard once stated.
Howie has no Ph.D. title and he tries to compensate this fact with various colorful, fancy peacock-fashion outfits, like his oversized belt buckles. He tries to be a womanizer and plays the wannabe macho – he has for example only female posters and superhero figurines in his bedroom – with no success until he meets Bernadette in season 3.
One of the most hilarious parts of his life is that the stereotypical Jewish character Howie still lives in his childhood room, in his family house with his single mother. Mrs. Wolowitz is really overweight, has a big wart and a lady beard, and she also treats and pampers his son like a school kid.
The clue here is that we will never see her but only hear her loud and terrifying voice shouting from behind or hear stories about her from Howard.
Some of her best lines to her 26-year-old son are:
“Were you playing with Sheldon?!”
Or when she picks up the phone for him:
“It`s your friend, Leonard! He wants to know why you are not at school today?”
Ph.D. Rajesh Koothrappali is an astro physicist, the son of a super rich gynecologist in India and the cliche of an Indian scientist: He’s dressed in a 70s retro fashion style and he’s so dogged that it hurts sometimes. Raj speaks English with the typical Hindi accent. Furthermore, his character is very ambivalent because sometimes he is super feminine – his parents think he’s gay, but he describes himself as metro-sexual – and sometimes he’s super arrogant. Moreover, he’s not able to talk to beautiful girls without drinking alcohol or taking drugs against shyness – for scientific research only.
One of the early supporting actresses was Dr. Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert), an experimental physicist with a high IQ who hates the arrogance of Sheldon but had an casual affair with his roommate, the sexually insecure Leonard.
Also Sheldon’s evil-like co-worker Barry Kripke (John Ross Bowie) appeared a few times and fooled the naive Shelly with some really funny capers.
In later seasons, more supporting characters, like Raj’s Sister Priya Koothrappali (Aarti Mann), biologist Dr. Bernadette Rostenkoswki (Melissa Rauch) in 2009 and neuroscientist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) in 2010 joined the main cast with more and more screen-time.
Their characters definitely enriched the cast: especially the awkward Amy, who is a science geek too and a great challenge and match for Sheldon whom she met via a scientifically proven online-dating platform. She fell in love with him and tried some geeky tricks to get some ‘body contact and intimacy’ with him while she turns more and more from a wallflower to a self-confident and body-conscious woman with the help of Penny and Bernadette.
Bernadette is the shortest of the girl gang, but a very sweet blonde and intelligent girl. However, sometimes she’s a bit naive scientist who hates kids. This is a critical characteristic of her because Howard loves kids, and therefore both have a few small and funny conflicts. Despite her size and cuteness, she can get very angry and loud as a policeman, like her tall father who can crack walnuts with his hands, and she sounds and behaves later-on more and more like a younger version of Howard’s mother.
In the third row are characters like Stuart Bloom (Kevin Sussman), the comic bookstore owner, Wil Wheaton, the former Star Trek actor who plays himself or Raj’s sister Priya (Aarti Mann) or Leonard’s mother, Beverly (Christine Baranski), the psychologist who wrote a book about Leonard’s miserable childhood and a few others. To introduce some temporary characters was a good choice by the creators Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre because they’ve freshened up the geeky world which takes place mainly in the apartments of Leonard, Sheldon and Penny.
The success of the show lies in the love for its characters and details because nearly every item in the show tells a little story:
Sheldon, who often acts like a non-human dictator, has the Darth Vader – Failure Will Not Be Tolerated poster in his room. In contrast, Leonard represents the compassionate side of the apartment and always fights verbally against Sheldon for his belief in humanity.
Therefore, he has a Rebel Alliance Unite poster hanging over his bed. It shows Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter and the guidance message: “Defend and Protect”.
Sheldon’s T-shirts are not only very geeky and unique, but they also visualize his mood or are commenting the situation he’s facing.
For example, he wears a T-shirt with a print that shows an exploding PC monitor and the word “KABLAAM!” This is a term from the comic universe and describes, according to the Urban Dictionary “a head getting hit by a train or car with explosive goods”. And Sheldon wears it when he sits next to Penny on the couch while she shoots his head away – virtually in the ego shooter Halo.
His superhero T-shirt The Flash also signals that he doesn’t feel comfortable in the situation and that he wants to leave it as fast as Flash can run, like in the opening scene in the High IQ sperm bank in the pilot episode.
Even the character names have a deeper meaning: Penny’s name, for example, derives from her shortage of money as an unemployed wannabe actress and a part-time working waitress. Furthermore, her apartment is full of Ikea furniture which visualizes th at she doesn’t have a lot of cash to spend.
Leonard’s last name is a reference to Robert Hofstadter, the 1961 Nobel Laureate in Physics, and his son, the physicist Douglas Hofstadter.
Furthermore and only for nerds: The episode titles always describe fictitious scientific terms, experiments or theories.
The show is also full of product placement, but the creators still don’t acknowledge it by saying that the cast is just using everyday brands. Therefore, they created some fake brands, like: BIJI, 7un, Unknown, Cola instead of using the real brands: Fiji, 7up, Sprite, Diet Coke
Nevertheless, here are some product placement spots, like the hand disinfection Purell, the game Twister by Brand Milton Bradley, The Donkey Kong Jenga by Usaopoly, the beverage 7up or the energy drink Monster and many more.
However, there are even more subtle geeky media references, like the 3D chess game from the original TV series Star Trek, the original email program PINE used by the NASA, the Dr Who Poster in the Comic Book store, Sheldon’s REDDIT alien Logo T-shirt, Leonard’s Linux KDE Konqueror Browser T-shirt or Wil Wheaton’s World of Warcraft healer sign T-shirt while he tries to befriend Sheldon again.
Hence, the success of a TV show lies in the love for details and the TBBT creators put a lot of this in the characters, stories and setting. These are the reasons why you can watch every episode over and over, and you will always find some new, little detail, which makes you think: Wow, what a great idea. To sum it up, I think that The Big Bang Theory is really one of the best TV comedy series ever created.
The author of this guest post is a strategic marketing consultant and a film geek from Germany, who loves fashion, design & gadgets.
His passion is to spot clothes and brands in movies and TV series and to unveil the little stories, film facts and trivia these items tell about the characters or situation. Therefore he writes about cultural learning in cinema and TV mainly on his PLOTTIFY.tumblr blog.