5:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Big Bang Theory': The Unexpected Way Howard and Bernadette's Baby Honors Carol Ann Susi
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Big Bang Theory's "The Birthday Synchronicity" episode.]
Howard and Bernadette's bundle of joy has arrived on CBS' The Big Bang Theory.
During the Chuck Lorre/Bill Prady/Steve Molaro comedy's final episode of 2016, the gang celebrated two lives, the arrival of Baby Wolowitz, who wound up being born on Amy's (Mayim Bialik) birthday. The nerdy comedy bypassed the traditional delivery room scene in favor of an episode that focused on Amy and Sheldon's (Jim Parsons) attempts to have birthday coitus as well as a similar struggle for Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco).
But the real star of the episode was Baby Wolowitz, who it turns out was a girl — spoiled for everyone by an overbearing Raj (Kunal Nayyar). The episode featured a few sweet callbacks to the pilot and Howard's late mother (the beloved Carol Ann Susi) as well as a moment of reflection as the gang paused to marvel at each of their own personal growth.
Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) was able to get in one final impersonation of her late mother-in-law, while the baby, named Halley — after the comet — inherited her grandmother's vocal range with a special cry voiced by Better Things star Pamela Adlon.
THR caught up with showrunner Molaro to preview Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette's bumpy road ahead, how much of Adlon viewers will get to hear (or see) as well as how a baby will impact the group dynamic.
Where did the idea for this episode come from?
We knew that Amy's birthday was coming and that meant annual birthday coitus. I thought it would be bizarre if we didn't acknowledge it in some way. By tying that into the birth of the baby, it enabled us to honor her birthday without it taking front and center the way it did with last year's Star Wars episode. Rather than trying to just repeat that, Bernadette having the baby could be front and center while Amy's birthday and the coitus was playing out nicely in the background — and being interrupted by everything that was happening.
How will a baby change the group's dynamic?
It'll certainly have the greatest impact on Bernadette and Howard from all the typical things like lack of sleep to everything else. As far as the show goes, it's going to open up doors to more stories without drastically changing the DNA of what Big Bang Theory is.
What kind of stories are you talking about?
We're easing our way into that. We shot the episode that will be the first one to come back in January and it was super fun. It is a post-holidays recap that's airing the first week in January. The whole gang — and Stuart — are back in the living room, as they should be, telling the stories of the horrible holidays that they had. Wrapped up in that is covering Bernadette and Howard in their first week at home and how tough that was for them. Plus Bernadette dealing with feeling like she's not a good mother and she can't even get this baby to stop crying when everyone else can.
Where did you get the idea to name the baby Halley?
We talked about names for a while. We started inching toward the question of what are girl names that are science and space related? That's when we started to get more excited about it. We looked at options and Halley seemed like a sweet choice and it let Howard have his great joke that like Halley's Comet, Bernadette was not interested in having sex with him for another 75 years. I also just think the opportunity to call a baby girl Hal is awesome.
Was the discussion about naming the baby after Howard's mom something you considered? Why was it important to honor his mother, Debbie? We don't know what her middle name is yet, either…
We haven't said what her middle name is. We wanted to have an interesting name. We chatted about it and that scene was really sweet. We're still broken up about having lost Carol Ann Susi, who voiced Mrs. Wolowitz. Like in life, Howard and Bernadette were having this baby and wanted to have an important person who is no longer around to be there. It would have been weird to not bring it up. To hear that baby cry at the end, it was helpful to hear Melissa do Mrs. Wolowitz's voice one last time before the baby arrived.
Speaking of that crying, viewers who watched the credits caught that Pamela Adlon (Better Things) voiced the baby screaming. How much will she continue be involved going forward?
We're thrilled and lucky to have her doing it. What makes it even more special, is Pamela and Carol Ann Susi were longtime dear friends. Pamela has told me she was honored at the opportunity to get to help a piece of Mrs. Wolowitz live on. She is with us for the long haul, as far as I'm concerned. Any time we need Halley in the background, we will be calling on Pam. She's terrific, I'm a fan of all her work.
Any chance that we'll see Pamela onscreen, too?
Because it's a voiceover, she's able to do it remotely so she hasn't been on set while she's helping us out.
Why was this a good time for Leonard to bring up how far everyone has come?
We were at that scene and the whole gang was in the waiting room while this momentous event in their lives and in the show was happening. It seemed like an organic moment that Leonard would start to talk about it. I was feeling it. We were all just thinking, "We're in season 10, Bernadette and Wolowitz are having a baby; Leonard and Penny got married; this year was a big shift with Sheldon and Amy living together. If not now, when would you reflect?" It was a chance for us to reflect on the series while the characters were reflecting on themselves and hopefully people feel like it landed as a nice moment.
This felt like a very reflective episode that also seemed a bit like a series finale. Was there ever a conversation of this being a series finale? Shonda Rhimes has said in the past that she's had so many ideas for series finales of Grey's Anatomy but the show has gone on so much longer than she envisioned that she'd had to take those ideas and turn them into season finales.
I don't think so. We never really discussed this as, "Hey, this could be a season or series finale." This show rolls along and grows on its own. Bernadette ended up getting pregnant when unexpectedly that felt like the right time for us; and she had the baby when that felt like the right time. I'm happy to hear that it felt big enough and momentous enough that it could have functioned as a season finale, but we knew it was a tentpole event and were just trying to make it feel like that and be worthy of this kind of episode.
There was a subtle callback to the pilot — Vernee Watson, the same nurse from the pilot — was at the hospital when Bernadette and the gang first checked in. Was that a coincidence?
She is the official medical worker of The Big Bang Theory. It was absolutely, 100 percent intentional. When we knew we were going to have the baby in this episode, my first question was to see if Vernee was available. She's part of the history of the show and she's deeply funny and a lovely person. She was there when Howard had the robot hand stuck on his penis; she was around for the pilot. Anytime there's a hospital scene, if she's not in it then she wasn't available for some reason.
How will parenthood change Howard and Bernadette?
I'm not sure; I don't think they're sure. Howard has had a wild growth trajectory since season one and it continues. Going into this, they're both pretty nervous. While they were expecting, this whole season Bernadette has had reservations since the beginning; she wasn't sure about how she felt about even having kids. Wolowitz is kind of a big kid himself. So I think they just got in a car for a ride and that they don't really know what to expect.
What about the group dynamic? How much of the baby will we see when the show returns?
The baby is there and asleep in Leonard's room and they bring the baby in. The baby is very much a part of Bernadette and Howard's story that they're telling off in the background. But as far as the group dynamic goes, that's the fun part of this. That's where we get to explore and see what will happen eventually when Sheldon is alone with this baby. I don’t know when that's going to happen but it will be interesting to watch how it affects all of their dynamics in those episodes where we have the baby. It's also just as easy to go back to work and somebody is taking care of the baby and it's Big Bang as usual.
Will Raj continue to be an annoying godfather?
It's tricky to get Raj heartbroken and funny at the same time. If we do it right, there's humor in his heartbreak. I like that he's fired up and is feeling left behind. It's good that he's got some drive right now to make some things happen, personally and professionally, whatever they end up being. I think he will continue to be over-involved. I'm also really loving the dynamic where Stuart and Raj are vying for this place in this family. They're ridiculously funny together.
Howard's father is still out there. Does Howard becoming a father make him any more curious to find his dad?
We don't have immediate plans to execute it but absolutely. He's out there somewhere. If it's not Howard getting curious, then certainly when his father catches wind about that baby, it's certainly a good excuse when the time is right to meet him.
I was hoping that Christopher Lloyd would wind up playing Howard's father.
You're not the first person to say that. I get it, anybody on some level would like to know that Doc from Back to the Future is secretly their father. But we ended up using him in a different way. We loved him and I'd love to figure out a way to bring him back. What a sweet, awesome and legendary man.
Any dream casting for Howard's father?
I'd hate to say names. Do you have any suggestions?!
That's one of the people who has come up. I've heard that he's awesome and semi-retired. I don't know where he is but that guy is amazing.
He's not retired; we did a big feature on him recently.
Oh cool! You'll have to send that to me!
What can you say about the idea for the Sheldon spinoff? If that goes forward, can that and Big Bang coexist?
I'm not ready to talk about it. It's an idea that came up. At this point, it's just still an idea that Chuck and I are talking about. At some point in the future, I'll be ready to say more about it but we're just not ready yet.
What did you think of Big Bang Theory's bundle of joy? Sound off below.