11:07am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Comic-Con: 'Big Bang Theory' Writers Tease Season 8, Offer Fans Big Surprises
CBS' The Big Bang Theory opened Friday at Comic-Con with a panel in Ballroom 20 that started with a special musical performance and took a stroll down memory lane with the writers behind TV's No. 1 comedy among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo.
Musical duo Garfunkel & Oates' Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci performed an acoustic version of "If I Didn't Have You (Bernadette's Song)" to kick off the panel (watch that video at the bottom of the post) after a clip reel and an update on the lucky fan who won a trip to space at the fan event two years ago.
The cast, who are still without contracts with production on season eight starting at the end of the month, were not in attendance. Stars Jim Parsons (Sheldon), Johnny Galecki (Leonard), Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Simon Helberg (Howard) and Kunal Nayyar (Raj) are looking for salary increases said to be in the $1 million per episode range. Co-stars Mayim Bialik (Amy) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) secured deals with studio Warner Bros. Television earlier this year, with both earning pay raises.
The jam-packed panel focused a lot on the show's love of Star Wars, with showrunner Steve Molaro telling fans that the episode in which James Earl Jones and Carrie Fisher guest-starred was the first time the duo EVER met, with the latter's first words, fittingly, being "Dad!"
Moderator Craig Ferguson's first question also was Star Wars-themed, asking which "bastard" had the idea to kill off Bob Newhart's Emmy-winning Professor Proton character.
Molaro took the blame. "The Big Bang Theory at the time had been nominated for three Emmy Awards and hadn't won any, and Bob Newhart came on the show one time and got one. I thought to myself, 'We have to kill this guy!' " he said before reassuring the audience that the character, who appeared to Sheldon in a dream as Star Wars Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi, can come back.
The writers, including Anthony Del Broccolo, Dave Goetsch, Maria Ferrari, Steve Holland, Eric Kaplan, Jim Reynolds, Jeremy Howe, Tara Hernandez, science adviser David Saltzberg and exec producer/co-creator Bill Prady, took center stage for the second Comic-Con in a row as the series looks to shine a greater light on the nerdy series with the hopes to bring home Emmy gold. Even though Parsons wasn't on the panel, he was at Comic-Con on Thursday promoting DreamWorks Animation's Penguins of Madagascar.
The panel remained largely spoiler-free for season eight as writers don't typically map out the entire season but rather write in response to what comes organically. The fan portion featured several inside jokes, including if the busted elevator would ever be repaired. (The answer is no: Its permanent damage was documented on the series, and Prady explained the stage features a hole that was dug into the set during the pilot, with the stairwell offering a place for all the characters to walk and talk in an organic fashion.)
As for the future of Sheldon and Amy, Molaro revealed there is a second version of the couple's first kiss. It features Sheldon planting one on Amy because he was happy with his train experience, motivations that Molaro described as "kinder" and "gentler." Producers noted that crafting the scene was a stressful time because they felt incredible pressure to get it right.
The panel also featured a hilarious faux-trailer for Serial Ape-ist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill, the movie starring Wil Wheaton as the heightened version of himself and Cuoco's Penny. Wheaton made a surprise appearance at the panel, complete in ape mask and furry arms. Watch the "trailer," below.
"When we worked on the episodes where that show is talked about, every time we talked about it, we got more and more excited about how we wanted it to be a real movie," Wheaton said with a laugh. Wheaton also explained that he's not nearly as mean as his Big Bang Theory alter ego started out as. (Wheaton also happens to own the velvet painting of Wesley Crusher that has been featured on the series.)
As for the future of the comic book store, which was burned down in season seven, Molaro reassured the geeky crowd, later adding that there are currently no plans for any of the characters to have children. "There will be a comic book store in the future," Molaro said. "The show will not go on without a comic book store."
As for the biggest burning question — when will Penny and Leonard get married after their season-seven engagement — Molaro said there's no rush. "They are engaged, but the wedding is some time off in the future. … Penny's first goal is to put the date far enough in the future so everyone knows she's not pregnant," he said, noting that it's unclear if they'll ever really reveal Penny's last name when the wedding finally does arrive.
Big Bang Theory will return Monday, Sept. 22, before moving back to Thursdays starting Oct. 30.