5:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'The Big Bang Theory' Finale Postmortem: EP, Cast on Space, Marriage and What's Next
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Big Bang Theory's Season 5 finale.]
We have liftoff!
CBS' The Big Bang Theory managed to send Howard to space and get the engineer to do so as a married man. After the gang rallied -- and got ordained online -- they staged a last-minute ceremony on Leonard and Sheldon's roof that left viewers with beautiful and heartfelt shot reminiscent of the show's opening credits, courtesy of Google Earth.
In addition to staging a wedding and sending a man to space in the span of 30 minutes, the series also broke ground by depicting Howard's mother, however briefly, for the first time. As if that reveal weren't enough, Sheldon and Amy's relationship also took one big step forward when the analytical character reached for his girlfriend's hand for the first time.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Bill Prady and stars Simon Helberg (Howard) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) -- as well as astronaut Mike Massimino -- to get the skinny on Howard and Bernadette's wedding, how realistic the show's Soyuz capsule and spacesuits were, Sheldon's progress, Mrs. Wolowitz as well as the early buzz on Season 6.
Prady says the decision to have all five friends perform the ceremony was a "goopy moment" in the writers' room, and that many of the decisions about what the wedding would look like were drawn from the marriages of everyone involved with scripting the episode. "A lot of the decisions about the wedding … were stuff that made us sentimental," he notes. Rauch, meanwhile, confesses to being a "terrible bride" and was curious where the rest of Bernadette's wedding dress went since the wardrobe department had to chop off so much to accommodate her small frame. "I could have Maria von Trapped the whole cast with the material from the rest of the dress if it was curtains and just made outfits for everyone," she joked. The self-professed TV addict adds she was thrilled to be part of a TV wedding after watching Dwayne Wayne and Whitley tie the knot on A Different World as a kid. "I remember being like, 'This is amazing, a wedding on TV.' I'm sure a part of me wanted to marry Dwayne Wade someday, and instead I got Howard Wolowitz, which is pretty fantastic," she enthused.
View From Above
During the spectacular pan-out after Howard and Bernadette said, "I do," eagle-eyed viewers could have spotted the never-before-seen but frequently heard Mrs. Wolowitz. "It's kind of fun because it's just for a second," Prady says of the character best described as a stout woman in an ugly dress. "She's got a hat on so you just see that mass of pink. There's been a desire to not go into the Home Improvement territory and start seeing pieces of her on screen, but this seemed fun so we did it."
Attention to Detail
NASA's Mike Massimino, who guest starred (as himself) for the second time this season as one of Howard's flight comrades was also a consultant for the episode and had fellow astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum weigh in on the jargon, space suit design and Soyuz capsule, which was re-created specifically for the series. Also accurate: the Russian hardware, patches on the suits and cooling system worn underneath the heavy suit. "I encouraged them to design a mission patch and we all had patches with our names on them," Massimino says. "I'm going to see if I can count this as a real space flight now: As long as there's a patch, there's a flight!" (Bonus factoid: An artist who created a number of actual flight patches designed the show's patch.)
Importance to NASA
While scientists don't currently go to space along with their experiments, Prady says Big Bang's premise of Wolowitz accompanying his telescope on the mission was based on the concept of the payload specialist. "In our storyline, it is a sophisticated enough piece of equipment that the best choice is to have somebody from the team who designed it make the installation as opposed to training the career astronauts to do it," he says. Massimino, who noted that he sees NASA's involvement with the series as a good thing for the space program, added that he hopes scientists will one day be able to make the mission to space alongside their experiments themselves."I think that there's going to be a real possibility for that coming up," he says.
How Long Will Howard be in Space?
While seasons of The Big Bang Theory aren't mapped out in advance, Prady notes early discussions for Season 6 include leaving Wolowitz in space for the first couple of episodes, but producers have to first determine where in the show's continuity the series will return. "Something could interfere with the schedule of his return," Prady says. The idea to potentially keep Howard in space longer than he's comfortable with stemmed from the Soyuz's program's history with launch delays and the like and actually came from conversations with Massimino.
Where Will Howard and Bernadette Live?
Could Howard and Bernadette continue to live with Mrs. Wolowitz or could they branch out on their own? Prady says a definitive decision has yet to be made but there are several options on the table, including staying put at the Wolowitz house; taking over the master bedroom; getting their own place; getting their own place and Mrs. Wolowitz moving in temporarily but ending up becoming a permanent guest. "Next season, it will be interesting to see how much Bernadette influences him in a healthy way and how much pressure she puts on him," Helberg says. "There's going to have to be some decision about where they live and Howard's mom is probably going to be a big part of that." Also up for debate: If Howard will stick to his guns and be "brave enough" -- as Helberg says -- to have his new bride be the only woman allowed to scream at him. For her part, Rauch thinks Mrs. Wolowitz will always be a force for Howard. "You can move Wolowitz out of his environment but you can never take Mrs. Wolowitz out of his heart," she says. "I definitely think Bernadette will share in the yelling with Howard's mom; I don't know if she can handle taking care of Howard all by herself, she needs someone to split the laundry duties with."
Howard Will be More Emboldened
Wolowitz, Prady and Helberg say, will wear his NASA patch with honor. Despite being terrified of the mission, Howard will return to Earth somewhat emboldened. "He likes to peacock as we've seen, and likes to show off what he's got or what he thinks he's got," Helberg says. "Now that he can't hit on women anymore, I would think that being a married man who has been to space is probably going to be coming out of his mouth quite a bit to get what he wants; he has no shame." Adds Prady: "Howard is going to love marriage. … He's one of those guys who loves getting the word 'wife' into sentences."
Howard and Bernadette: Power Couple?
So what will Howard and Bernadette's relationship be like now that he's a certified astronaut and they're official? Rauch has high hopes for the smart pair. "It's interesting that Howard is this huge astronaut now and Bernadette is this successful scientist, so potentially when he returns from his space honeymoon, and she returns from her honeymoon in Pasadena, they can develop into the next great power couple," she says. Count us in!
What About the Wedding Reception?
Prady says Bernadette's plan was to have the reception when Howard returned from space, but whether viewers will see that in Season 6 depends on if there's a good story. "If there's no good story, if it all just simply went well, then we'd hear about it," he says. Also up in the air: an actual honeymoon for the couple, together. "The thing about a honeymoon story is you have to make two choices: Either separate those two and have a separate story; or do something where everybody goes somewhere," Prady says.
The Group's Dynamic Will Change
With Howard's wolf-like dating tendencies behind him, Leonard and Penny at least bickering about marriage and Sheldon and Amy taking a big step forward, the guys are really growing up. "I think that it's the natural evolution of a group of people at this age," Prady says. "It would be odd if they didn't start getting married."
Now that all of his friends are coupled up and his best friend has taken things to the next level with Bernadette, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) will continue to be the odd man out. "I think it's going to be a bit of a crushing thing for Raj," Helberg says. "I think things are going to change between them and that's probably going to be difficult for Raj who is the loneliest of them all at this point. He's sort of the sweetest and you feel for him."
Sheldon and Amy … are Still 'Baffling'
After toying with Sheldon via a game of Star Trek-inspired doctor in the penultimate episode, Amy (Mayim Bialik) has proven herself a real foil for Sheldon (Jim Parsons). In the finale, Sheldon takes one small step for mankind but one huge leap for their relationship when he reaches for her hand just moments before Howard's launch. Prady, who calls their relationship "baffling," previews that there will be no changes in Sheldon's character, but that he's capable of things "we haven't seen." "It's always surprising in the writers' room where we'll figure out a move for Amy to make and there's no counter move for Sheldon for that. She backs him into corners and it seems to work. They're also very fond of each other, so there's that."
What did you think of The Big Bang Theory's fifth-season finale? Hit the comments with what you most want to see next season. The Big Bang Theory's Soyuz capsule will be on display at the Paley Center for Media, as part of Warner Bros.' Television Out of the Box exhibit through May 17.