The fall of 2007 saw the premiere of what has become one of TV’s biggest comedies, The Big Bang Theory. When we were invited to visit and watch a taping of TBBT (The Big Bang Theory), we couldn’t say yes fast enough.
We have been fans of TBBT since day one and we are happy to share our experience with you. TBBT normally tapes from August through April and getting tickets to a live taping are tougher than getting tickets to the Super Bowl. TBBT has gotten so popular that people with standby tickets lineup hours in advance for the chance to attend.
Filming normally starts 6:30pm and can last three hours or longer. Once we arrived at Warner Bros. studios we were issued a parking pass and instructed to park and check in. Since we were invited, we were able to check in closer to the start time. Upon check in we went through two security checkpoints which included checking in our phones and cameras. As soon as you walk into stage 25 you see a few classic props in a shadowbox frame.
As we enter the seating area, we see it almost full from the guaranteed seat holders. An attendant checks our name off the list. We are given a program and shown to our seats. To our surprise and enjoyment we had seats labeled for us on the front row. They had partitions blocking our view of the actual sets but we could see over the partitions to the lighting, rigs, and sound gear and we could look up at the rafters and other cabling and equipment over head. As time got closer, Co-creator Bill Prady came by to say hi and said later in the taping we could come down on the set and watch with the crew.
The episode filming that night was, The Skywalker Incursion. Here is a synopsis of the episode from IMDB- When Leonard and Sheldon are invited to speak at UC Berkeley, they take a detour to try and meet one of their idols. Meanwhile, while cleaning out Mrs. Wolowitz’s house, a ping pong battle … As some of you may know, we are fans of Star Wars and since this episode featured Skywalker Ranch, it was the icing on the cake.
Around 6pm they told us they were going to show us an episode of the show that hadn’t aired yet. To get the audience warmed up, Mark Sweet explained to the audience what to expect and had some contests too. Mark Sweet has been warming up the audiences for TBBT since day one. We were told that certain scenes were filmed in advance for this episode but we would be seeing them and our reactions would be recorded. Above our heads were microphones to record audiences reactions for the entire taping. What you hear when watching TBBT is how the audience reacts.
After the cast was introduced, we finally saw the sets being used for this episode. From left to right- Amy Farrah Fowler’s bedroom, holding area of Skywalker Ranch, the elevator, Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment and the garage of Mrs. Walowitz holding the Tardis. We were seated directly in front of the elevator.
Each scene is shot multiple times for the best shot and occasionally the dialog is different to make the most of the scene. With each scene the audience is asked to react as if it was our first time seeing it. Considering how well the show is written it was easy to react to the scene. Between takes the cast was looking at the script preparing for the next scene to be shot. Midway through the episode we were given pizza and water as cameras were being set up for upcoming shots.
Around halfway through the taping we were brought on the set and sat with the crew, director and creators to watch them work their magic. It was fascinating watching them shoot the episode looking at four different angles. This may be the hardest working crew in the business today. As the taping concluded, everyone was treated to TBBT flash mob that was filmed in December 2014 (you can find it on YouTube). Then the cast takes their final bows.
As the audience left, we were given free reign to explore the sets. We started with the Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. There were a lot of guests lining up to sit in Sheldon’s spot (it is comfortable too). We took pictures of items you normally may not see on TV as well as some favorites.
At this point Bill Prady gave us the official tour. The prop room was my favorite and next time we will take pictures in there. I told Bill that because of TBBT we have added items to our own collection. We discussed our favorite items, love for Star Trek and the show in general. We asked Bill if he had a favorite guest star and he talked about how Stephen Hawking was his favorite and how his appearance on TBBT came to be. Talking everything geek with Bill Prady was not only fun it was an experience like no other. We could have stayed all night but our time was winding down. We can’t thank Bill, Ansley and the cast and crew enough for their time and generosity with us during our visit.