A pilot that could have changed the very face of the show!
When CBS launched Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady’s brainchild ‘The Big Bang Theory’, it opened to a moderate response. However, by the third season, its opening ratings had almost doubled and, eventually, the show went on to become one of the most successful shows American television had ever seen. The 2007 series dethroned almost all of the big shows it competed with and created a niche for itself.
- ‘The Big Bang Theory’ – The version we have all watched
- The pilot that never saw the light of day
- The unaired pilot: What went wrong?
The sitcom’s ever-increasing popularity could soon be witnessed in other countries as well, and it became one of the most widely distributed shows around the world. Hailed as one of the best TV shows of all time, it also saw extensive critical acclaim winning most of the major awards in the comedy category throughout its span of 12 seasons. Its unique and authentic plot, unparalleled star-cast, and a cleverly written script became the rationale behind its massive fandom.
But do you know that the celebrated sitcom TBBT was almost too close to having an entirely different premise? Here’s the story of ‘The Big Bang Theory’s’ unaired pilot.
The Big Bang Theory – The version we all know
The situational comedy revolved around 4 friends: Child prodigy and physicist, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons); his roommate and experimental physicist, Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki); an Indian astrophysicist, Rajesh Koothrapalli (Kunal Nayyar); and the only one who didn’t hold a Ph.D., engineer, Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg). These 4 friends were living a socially unfulfilling life until a pretty, happy-go-lucky struggling actress, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), moved into the flat next to Sheldon’s. The humour rose out of their interactions, the social awkwardness of these grown men, and their fascination with ‘Star Trek’ and comic books.
As the seasons progressed, these characters evolved into more mature individuals who were by each other’s sides through thick and thin. The eventual addition of Sheldon’s love interest Amy (Mayim Bialik), as well as Howard’s partner, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), completed the show as a whole. This was Lorre’s second crackling success after ‘Two and a Half Men’ and earned him the title of the ‘King of Sitcoms’.
The series created superstars out of relatively unknown actors and gave the audiences an unforgettable show. So, doesn’t it make you uneasy just thinking about the show having an entirely different premise?
The pilot that never saw the light of day
The original pilot that remains unaired till date was never picked up by any network. It only included Sheldon and Leonard from the final cast and also saw two female characters, the beautiful, feisty and street-smart, Katie (played by Amanda Walsh) along with the nerdy, Gilda (Iris Bahr), a fellow scientist. The unaired pilot saw Sheldon and Leonard run into Katie, who was crying as she had nowhere to go since she found out that her boyfriend was married. Much to Sheldon’s displeasure, Leonard offered her a helping hand and let her move in with them. The cancelled pilot developed on the sexual tension between the two male characters and Katie.
However, the darker shades in Katie’s character that had her use her sexuality to take advantage of the men did not get the approval of networks. Hence, on getting another shot, Lorre decided to create the super-nice, Penny and brought on board the characters of Raj and Howard. The character of Sheldon was tweaked as well and lacked any sexual interests in the new version. The opening song too was changed from the hit song “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby to the current theme.
Lorre himself, in an interview, said that the original pilot lacked a creative direction. He reminisced, “[It] was just a mess. Not because of the actors, but because we didn’t really understand the characters yet. We had to go through that failure to understand that if a woman was going to be in [Leonard and Sheldon’s] ecosystem, she had to be gentle with them because they were really vulnerable”.
While talking about the pilot that received the network’s nod, Lorre, in a 2008 interview, reflected, “We did the ‘Big Bang Pilot’ about two and a half years ago, and it sucked, but there were two remarkable things that worked perfectly, and that was Johnny and Jim. We rewrote the thing entirely and then we were blessed with Kaley and Simon and Kunal”.
As they always say – all’s well that ends well. The show’s current plot made it a household name, all thanks to the network for scrapping the original pilot that didn’t see the light of day.
Would you have watched the show had the original story-line been retained or do you think that the telecasted plot was better than the pilot episode of The Big Bang Theory? Write to us in the comment section below.