When “The Big Bang Theory” aired its Season 7 premiere in late September, the long-running hit scored its highest premiere ratings ever, with the second episode of the hour-long opener hitting over 20 million viewers. In today’s TV landscape, that sort of number is largely unheard of, making the achievement something that star Johnny Galecki considers “mind-boggling.”
Zap2it had the change to speak with Galecki at the press day for the actor’s upcoming film “CBGB” (in theaters Oct. 11), and he told us that there’s no simple formula that’s been followed to turn his CBS series into such a big hit. “I mean, you know, if there was a recipe for it, then it would be really easy for everybody,” he says. “It’s just so hard to make a project like a television show or a film or an album come to fruition and then to share it with people who have a reaction to it, it’s just really mind-boggling and inspiring and exciting and heartwarming. Thank God that it hasn’t been boiled down. It’s like a freak science project, really.”
Galecki admits that in the beginning, all involved instantly felt proud of their work, but didn’t know how anyone else would receive it. “We started doing it knowing, ‘Well, I like this,’ but that doesn’t mean…there’s a lot of other people on the planet with televisions, that doesn’t guarantee anything,” he says, laughing. “And you’d have to be a real ego-maniacal a**hole to trust that your own sensibilities are going to be ones that [are] going to have an effect on anyone else, never mind millions of other people. So we just keep working harder. And that’s what we did.”
“It’s a group that doesn’t rest on any laurels,” he adds, saying that with all the accolades and ratings wins, “it just raises the bar for us to go, ‘Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing and do it harder and do it longer and do it better.’ It’s not a group that will ever go, ‘Okay, now we can relax.’ And I love that.”
While it tends to be a hard-fast rule in the world of sitcoms that characters mustn’t learn or change too much, “The Big Bang Theory” has allowed its characters to evolve in realistic fashion, giving the viewer something to invest in beyond the jokes. This evolution seemed to have sped up a bit when current showrunner Steven Molaro took over at the start Season 6, something Galecki agrees with.
“I have to give credit where it’s due. It has a lot to do with Steve,” he admits. “We talked a lot initially about how slowly these characters were going to evolve and a lot of the shorelines were hilarious and wonderful, but a lot of the moral of some of the stories that we told earlier was two steps forward, nine steps forward for these poor guys. But then just in exploring them and the relationships and the different directions that you must go if you’re fortunate enough to be on for years, there are certain things that would be — for example, when Penny (Kaley Cuoco) broke Leonard’s heart. You know, that’s something that changes you and it would be really unprofessional and irresponsible of me if I didn’t then mature the character. I mean, for good or ill, when you have your heart shattered, it becomes a ‘before that happened’ and an ‘after that happened,’ and to not represent that would just be terribly unrealistic.”
In the second episode of the season premiere, Galecki’s Leonard and roommate Sheldon (Jim Parsons) found themselves in a bit of a row that, while resolved by episode’s end, seemed to signal to some fans that there was some deeper damage in the pair’s relationship. When asked if the internet chatter might be correct, Galecki says, “I think that really actually very intuitive. I think we are going to address exactly why these guys are friends. I’m asked it a lot on the street. I ask it myself sometimes when I read certain scenes, and I think especially as they grow and as they now have their own respective relationships with Penny and Amy (Mayim Bialik), those questions need to be answered and I’m really looking forward to it. I know there’s an episode coming up where we really address it.”
“The Big Bang Theory” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.