9:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Big Bang Theory' EP Teases 'Weird Place' for Leonard & Penny, 'Forward Movement' for Amy & Sheldon
If The Big Bang Theory's out-of-this-world wedding season finale is still on your DVR, you're not alone. The developments of that episode -- Howard in space and his marriage to Bernadette, Leonard's botched proposal to Penny and Sheldon reaching for Amy's hand -- pushed nearly all the loveable guys forward in a major way, setting the stage for season six, which premieres Thursday.
"There's a lot of really interesting human things going on in all three of these relationships that are pretty great," executive producer Steve Molaro tells The Hollywood Reporter.
So what's next for the lovable nerds? THR quizzed Molaro on what's in store for Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Amy (Mayim Bialik), Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Howard (Simon Helberg), Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) in the new season now that the gang has taken one epic step into adulthood.
The Hollywood Reporter: Last season had a very clear pull with the wedding and space; has a similar driving force come up thus far?
Steve Molaro: Wolowitz in space continues to be a big issue. We come back he's still up there. When he comes down, this is a life-changing event not just for him but everybody. We're dealing with all the human aspects of what it's like if you were a guy who's an engineer at Caltech and then, next thing you know, you're on the space station and then you come back to your ordinary life and not only do you come back to ordinary life but you come back to an ordinary life where you just got a new wife a week before you left. That is continuing to be a rich vein of stories for us. There's been a lot of Leonard and Penny in some directions that even I'm happy and surprised at.
What kind of homecoming can Howard have when he returns home?
He has one thing in his head and that is not at all what he is greeted with. It's one of the funniest episodes we may have ever done; it's a big, fun, physical episode the kind of which we haven't done in a while. I don't think I've heard Chuck Lorre laugh that hard all week long. It's along the same lines as the Twister episode, but even more intense.
How will Howard navigate the minefield that exists between Bernadette and his mother when it comes to where the newlyweds will live?
Where he will live has been a bone of contention for a while now. When he gets back, that subject continues to be an issue. That really starts to heat up around six or seven episodes in. This is the main guy in Mrs. Wolowitz's life and they have a dysfunctional relationship but they're really dependent on each other so any version of this is going to be a shock for her.
The unseen Mrs. Wolowitz is getting a love interest in Happy Days' Ken Lerner. How big of a story arc will that be?
It's not a gigantic story point when we first touch on it but it's not the basis of the episode by any means. We may touch on it more down the line but the first time we start poking at that, it's not the basis of the entire episode. It's a fun part of a much bigger episode.
How long will he stick around?
At this point we don't know. In the way that when we first met Bernadette and Amy there was just let's just do this one episode because this one episode is fun and we go from there. That's how we've been doing it for years and I'm sure it will be the same here.
How will Howard struggle between juggling the demands of his overbearing mother and his new wife? Will that be something that plays out through the first half of the season?
Not well! (Laughs.) It's an ongoing struggle that we're all fascinated with. Yes, it's a situation where this guy is super close with his mom and he has his new wife who is trying to get a life started with him and the three of them are trying to work their way through that.
Considering Howard's now a semi-famous astronaut, might we see his absentee father pop up?
We've talked about it in the writers' room on and off over the past couple of years but it has not come up in regards to the trip to space. I thought about it a little bit when he was getting married and it was more about that but we ended up not pursuing it.
Sheldon has a new assistant in Alex (Margo Harshman). How will her arrival alter the group's dynamic?
Right now she's only been in the one episode; there's no big arc in place. We'll see where the characters want to go. There's a cute girl around and you could put together how that may affect the people Sheldon works with -- and their girlfriends (laughs).
How will Leonard's botched marriage proposal change Penny's perspective on their relationship?
They're in a weird place but they're trying to work through it and figure things out. They've been together for a while and this is a season where they really start to examine what is it they're doing. Even though we don't work in big arcs, I thought I had the shape of an arc in my head and it's already veering away from that in an unexpected and lovely way.
Could Penny consider seeing other people?
Anything is possible, but that's not necessarily the case yet. That's not really a path that's happening right now. It's more about them and them internally working on their relationship.
Will Penny's acting career be a greater focus this season?
It's something that we're certainly interested in. We met her dad a while back and Keith Carradine was amazing. We love him and it would be great to see him back. We know she she's got a brother floating around somewhere in Nebraska. She obviously got a mom but we don't have any plans in the works right now but we're certainly not against it.
Might we meet her mother? Kaley's been campaigning for Lisa Kudrow …
We talked about Lisa after Kaley said it. I have no idea if she's is interested in anything like that but I think she's great, that would be really cool. I think she seems a little young to be Penny's mom but then again maybe she had Penny when she was young.
The first season six promo revealed a romantic dinner for Amy and Sheldon that goes awry. How will they struggle this season?
They're in a weird place, but they're trying to work through it and figure things out. There's always weirdness, there's always Sheldon pushing back against Amy's romantic agenda. There is forward movement even though it's in small increments, it is occurring. Amy had a taste of hand-holding in the season five finale and would like more.
How aware is Sheldon about the impact the hand-holding had on Amy?
She makes him very aware (laughs). He's aware of her wanting to pull him in that direction further with more hand holding and things like that. I don't feel like we're necessarily hanging it on the specific, "Well you held my hand when rocket went up." She continues to very strongly want to take him down that road and she can be persuasive. He's not going to be happy about it but he seems to grudgingly give in here and there cause I think it's easier for him to give in a little bit than to keep fighting.
Which leaves odd man out, Raj. What's in store for him this year? Will he turn to Stuart (new series regular Kevin Sussman) to help fill the void now that Howard's in space -- and married?
There's a hole in his life that Raj tries to fill with a friendship. It walks the line of oddness. Raj and Stuart both found themselves in a similar position of being lonely and not having close friends nearby because Koothrapali's best friend Wolowitz got married and went to space. Stuart's struggling in this world by himself. It's these two lost at sea guys who fill the niche for each other. It's co-dependent and weird but it's working for them. It's making them happier so they're going with it.
Will Stuart be invited to the table for Chinese food with the gang?
Yes and no. We have fun with that. With Wolowitz gone there's a sort of, "You can play here for now and then we'll see how it goes when he gets back" attitude. That's one more source of interesting conflict that's going on.
Will Mayim's injury be written into the show?
No. We're going to shoot around it the same way we did with Kaley's leg injury. Our director Mark Cendrowski has done a really nice job of obscuring it or putting it behind a bag. We have not had to do a ton of rewriting write to get around that. We're a show that has a lot of sitting and talking so it's a bit trickier to hide a hand than a foot; that's one thing we've learned.
Last season featured dream guest stars including Leonard Nimoy and Stephen Hawking, who can top that?
There aren't any names jumping out at this time, but there's a big sci-fi world out there. I know there are a few left that we we'd be pretty excited about.
The Big Bang Theory returns Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS. Hit the comments with what you're looking forward to seeing.