When The Big Bang Theory (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET on CTV) ends for good on May 16, it will go down as one of the most-watched—not to mention most beloved—series of all-time. But, with 279 episodes and seven full-time cast members to keep track of, even mega fans might not know all there is to know about the show.
From cast members that almost were to secrets from the set, here are 17 things you may not know about your favourite show ahead of the finale. In our best Sheldon Cooper voice now: Did you know…
1. Sheldon and Leonard are named after a famous producer
There are so many meta Easter eggs in this series, but one of them that fans might not have picked up on is the fact that the two main scientists are named after one of TV’s most legendary producers. Sheldon Leonard passed away in 1997, but he worked on series like The Andy Griffith Show, Make Room For Daddy and The Dick Van Dyke Show, among many, many others over his long career.
2. Jim Parsons isn’t such a big geek in real life
Parsons has been known to geek out over theatre, but not so much pop culture. In fact he’s said in interviews that he isn’t really familiar with Doctor Who, and he’s never actually watched Star Trek. Meanwhile when he was in college, the actor failed a meteorology class—can you just imagine how Sheldon Cooper would feel, knowing that his alter ego couldn’t even predict the weather?
One thing he and Sheldon do share—musical talent! In real life Parsons can sing, play the piano and the theremin. He’s not the only cast member who’s musically inclined, either: Bialik plays the harp, Galecki plays the cello and Simon Helberg plays a mean piano.
3. The Bazinga Bee
Sheldon’s catchphrase, “Bazinga!” sells a lot of t-shirts, but it was spawned by co-creator Bill Prady after one of the show’s writers kept saying “Gotcha!” in the writers room in conjunction with a grapefruit gag.
The phrase has since become so popular that when scientists discovered a new strain of bees in 2012 in Brazil, they named the insects the Bazinga bee.
4. “Soft Kitty” is a real song
We all know that singing a rendition of “Soft Kitty” is the best way to calm Sheldon down. But apparently the song has also calmed down hoards of preschoolers IRL. Co-creator Prady worked the song into the show after he heard his daughter’s preschool teacher singing a version of it, and it has swelled in popularity ever since.
All together now: “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur…”
5. Mayim Bialik is the only cast member with any actual science background
We all know Bialik from her time as a child star on Blossom, but after that show ended she went on to obtain a PhD in neuroscience, making her an excellent resource for the writers when they want to include complicated theories. The other person they rely on? UCLA professor David Saltzberg, who ensures that the science in every script is factually sound.
6. Blossom exists in the Big Bang universe
Speaking of Blossom, she was mentioned as a character not once but twice in the life of TBBT. The first time was two seasons before Bialik joined the cast, when the guys were looking for someone to replace Sheldon in the science bowl (Raj suggested the smart girl from Blossom). The second time was by Bialik herself, who suggested she and Sheldon go as Blossom and Joey for Halloween. Woah!
Sadly, that idea never came to fruition. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that one of Johnny Galecki’s first roles was on Blossom as one of Bialik’s love interests. Now how’s that for full circle?
7. Those stairs are deceiving
We all want to know if the finale will conclude in the elevator being fixed, but in the meantime we’ve had plenty of great memories with those stairs, haven’t we? Surprisingly though, those stairs are actually only on one floor. They’re in the middle of the set, and the crew just changes the surroundings to make it appear as though they’re several levels high.
8. Amanda Walsh was the original Penny
By now most fans know that the original Big Bang Theory pilot was much different than the one that made it to air. In that first take, Penny was actually named Katie, and she was played by former MuchMusic VJ and Canadian Amanda Walsh. Test audiences and the powers that be decided that Katie wasn’t the right fit, and she was eventually replaced by Kaley Cuoco.
One actor who was always meant to be on the series though: the one and only Jim Parsons. Co-creator Chuck Lorre was so impressed with Parson’s first audition that he asked him back right away, only to see if his first take was a fluke. It wasn’t, and he was reportedly hired on the spot. Not bad for an actor who was previously known as that guy from the gum commercials… or the guy who once sucked on a wolf’s teat, huh?
9. The original theme song was also different
It’s hard to imagine The Big Bang Theory without its signature Barenaked Ladies theme song,”The History of Everything.” Yet when the show was first conceptualized, the intention was going to go with a version of Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science.” In the end, the Canadian group recorded the theme song we know and love instead, and Dolby’s hit was featured as Howard’s ringtone on a couple of occasions.
10. Belarus tried to rip off the show
Many fans are aware that after the end of each episode, one of Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards appears on screen. He’s used the cards to sound off on a number of issues, like his squabs with Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men or his general musings on life. In 2010, he took the opportunity to educate viewers about a Belarus show known as The Theorists, which featured “four nerdy scientists who live next door to a beautiful blonde waitress. The characters are named Sheldon, Leo, Hovard, Raj and Natasha.”
The Theorists was cancelled shortly thereafter. They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery though. Perhaps that’s why The Big Bang Theory: A Pop-Rock Musical Parody is able to exist today, even as the TV series comes to a close.
11. Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki secretly dated
If you thought Penny and Leonard share chemistry on-screen, well that could have been because they shared chemistry off-screen too. In 2010, the actors revealed that they had secretly dated for two years before calling it quits, but that they remain good friends IRL.
If only we could all be such great friends with our exes.
12. Mayim and Kaley have filmed with broken bones
Filming in front of a live studio audience can be tough, but we imagine it’s even tougher to do with an injury. When Cuoco broke her leg horseback-riding in 2010, she missed two episodes and filmed scenes at The Cheesecake Factory (where Penny worked at the time) behind the bar.
A couple of years later in 2012 when Bialik broke her hand in a car accident, the crew had experience hiding injuries. Perhaps that’s how they managed to hide her injury all season long.
13. Howard may be the biggest feminist of all
Back before Howard was married and living with Bernadette, his room was a total sci-fi haven. But as eagle-eyed fans have noted, every single one of Howard’s action figures were female. The only exception was a figurine of Jabba the Hut, but even he was displayed next to Princess Leia.
Howard Wolowitz, a true lover of fearless femmes everywhere.
14. Leonard’s glasses are fake
Even though we rarely see Leonard without his frames, look closely and you may notice there are no actual lenses inside. That’s because during scenes in which he looks up to Sheldon the camera would catch a glare, so Galecki was forced to pop them out early on.
15. Melissa Rauch doesn’t voice her crying babies
Also fake? Bernadette’s voice. Melissa Rauch isn’t that high-pitched in real life, but for the show she puts on a voice that’s inspired by her own mother’s. Meanwhile, although Bernadette used to do a great impression of Howard’s mom (the late Carol Ann Susi), she doesn’t voice her crying babies, who like Howard’s late mom are also seen but never heard. That honour goes to Pamela Adlon, who once voiced Bobby Hill on King of the Hill and is currently starring in her own series, Better Things.
16. Each episode is named after a scientific theory
Not only does each episode of The Big Bang Theory integrate science, but the episodes themselves are all named after a scientific theory. Sure, these theories are all fictional, but we think titles like “The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary” and “The Skank Reflex Analysis” add a certain vibe to the show, don’t you?
17. We may never officially know Penny’s last name
While we know the last names of all the characters on the show, Penny is the one exception. Originally the creators intended to reveal her name, but then they reportedly got superstitious and decided against it. Rumour has it her full name will not be revealed in the finale, but fans have been calling her Penny Hofstadter ever since she married Leonard anyhow.
The Big Bang Theory finishes its historic run on Thursday, May 16.