The Big Bang Theory is no longer the kid brother to Two and a Half Men. Going into its fourth year, Big Bang has become its own show and has developed its own audience to become one of TV's most-watched sitcoms.
We talked to long-time comedy producer Bill Prady about the upcoming season, specifically everything Sheldon.
TV.com: The big revelation last season was Leonard and Penny getting together and breaking up. What's the big story this season?
Bill Prady: Well, we have a couple things going on. A lot of movement in people's personal lives. Leonard and Penny have to learn to coexist as friends who live across the hall, and it's going to seem easy at first. But the fact that they're going to be dating other people is going to make things complicated for them. At the same time, at the end of last season, Raj and Wolowitz put Sheldon's information online into a dating site and it brought forth Amy Farrah Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik, who is, as Sheldon will say, a girl who is a friend, not a girlfriend. They have a very peculiar relationship. At the same time, there are other relationships. [Raj] has been working with Sheldon, so some problems in that professional relationship are going to come to a head.
Going into the fourth season is tough for some shows, a lot of them run out of steam. You sound pretty excited about this season, what's different about Season 4?
Bill Prady: One of the amazing things about these characters is we keep discovering depth to them. The more you discover about characters, the more stories you can tell. And our world has gotten larger, we see Amy, we see Bernadette, we see Stuart at the comic-book store, the occasional return of Wil Wheaton—as Evil Wil Wheaton. The paint's on the palette to paint pictures, we just keep getting more paint.
Are we going to see Sheldon out on a date in the premiere?
Bill Prady: He and Amy over the summer have apparently had a relationship that consists primarily of texting. Penny says if you are going to be in a relationship with someone you should go out on a date, so Penny winds up out on the date with them.
Oh boy. To be a fly on the wall...
Bill Prady: Well, we all get to be a fly on the wall!
Who is the right kind of girl for Sheldon?
Bill Prady: Sheldon's first love is and always will be science. I don't know if there's anybody who can ever come into his life that would rival his devotion. And after that he has a very strong relationship with his mother, so you wind up at best being third.
The show is moving to Thursdays, does that change anything in your approach?
Bill Prady: It doesn't. We make the same show we've always made. We hope people get the message that we've moved, but here's what we're doing. If you move with us, you will particularly enjoy this season, especially the way we are starting out.
The trend right now is to do stunt casting. What's your take on it, and how does it fit into The Big Bang Theory?
Bill Prady: Our take on stunt casting is always very weird, because we don't want to do any casting that takes you out of the story where you're saying, "Hey look at that famous person who is playing the receptionist. Isn't that weird?" When we do stunt casting we reach into the world of these characters for people they find amazing. So whether it's Katee Sackhoff or George Takei or Steve Wozniack, the co-creator of Apple who is in the second episode, or someone like Wil Wheaton... he's a bizarre casting choice. [We think] "Let's have Sheldon, who is a Star Trek fan, and the one person affiliated with Star Trek he knows will be someone he hates." So we stunt cast like that, and we never set out to stunt cast. It's just things that naturally arise. We loved having Nobel laureate George Smoot on the show. That's what kind of stunt casting we find cool.
You don't have "stunt casting," you have honest-to-goodness guest stars.
Bill Prady: That's a good way to put it. I'm going to start using that from now on.
Season 4 of The Big Bang Theory premieres Thursday, September 23 at 8:00 pm on CBS.