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CBS’ The Big Bang Theory is set to break new ground.
The Chuck Lorre comedy about a group of geeks and the women who love them will, on Dec. 17, feature virgins Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) having sex for the first time.
The episode will feature the return of Big Bang Emmy winner Bob Newhart, who will reprise his role as Arthur Jeffries and reappear as a ghostly Jedi in Sheldon’s dreams in a bid to help him sort out his feelings and determine if the time is right to be intimate with Amy. The installment also will feature a major Star Wars arc in which Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj have tickets to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens — which happens to open mere hours after this episode will be broadcast.
To hear co-creator Lorre and showrunner Steven Molaro tell it, the decision to have the couple become sexually active is a moment they’ve been waiting to explore for eight-plus seasons.
“Their relationship floundered this season,” Lorre tells THR of Sheldon and Amy’s breakup storyline. “It helped spur them to move forward and pursue their relationship more aggressively, having realized that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, as the song goes. That happened for Sheldon — missing Amy was wearing on him in a way he hadn’t anticipated.”
In a move that only Big Bang could do, the episode’s central storyline sees the gang getting tickets to the new Star Wars and Sheldon struggling with the decision of whether to see the movie on opening night — which also happens to be Amy’s birthday. Ultimately, Sheldon decides to forgo Star Wars and spend Amy’s birthday with her. It’s a big move for the typically emotionally stunted Sheldon — especially after the couple broke up when he refused to make her a priority.
“They’ve been together on and off for over five years, and it just seemed to be a good way to ultimately resolve this journey they’ve been on, including this breakup as well,” Molaro tells THR. “How long could we make this poor girl wait?! I liked that there was something unexpected about it. You could have easily made an episode like this be a season finale or something like that, so why not pull the trigger when people think we may not? The stories lined up with Star Wars coming out. We were so excited about it, and we felt it was time.”
The showrunner, who started season nine with Leonard and Penny’s marriage, reveals he’s had pieces of Amy and Sheldon’s intimate night in his mind for a long time, including Bob Newhart’s role in helping Sheldon make the decision.
“With the idea of Newhart and the Star Wars release coming up, it started to gel,” says Molaro of the timing. “The fact that we were able to find a way to blend Star Wars with something for us on Big Bang — it’s such an event for Sheldon and Amy, I couldn’t be happier with it.”
Stars Parsons and Bialik, meanwhile, didn’t see Amy and Sheldon finally consummating their relationship coming — especially this season, as the duo most recently started seeing other people.
“We were very surprised,” Bialik told THR during a set visit for the episode. “She’s not supposed to know about it; it’s supposed to be something he surprises her with, but Penny and Bernadette leak the information, which I think is pretty smart.”
What’s perhaps more momentous for Amy and Sheldon is the fact that the intimate decision comes from Sheldon and not from the woman who had to fake illness to get Sheldon to take care of her.
“He wants to get her a gift and something that shows that he thinks she’s special,” Parsons tells THR, noting that the episode “doesn’t feel overly momentous,” even though he knows otherwise.
As for the actual scene itself, everyone involved went above and beyond to protect the characters and make sure the episode was in line with Sheldon’s typical behavior.
“We have a scene where Sheldon and Amy discuss it before we even get to the bedroom, and it’s one of my favorite scenes that Jim and I have done together,” says Bialik. “It’s very tender and special. As much as Amy really wanted this, it’s terrifying for her to have this in front of you, even with the right person and someone you’re in love with.”
“Especially as adults and those of us who have lived a life of serial monogamy, you forget what that feels like, but it can feel like that — even if it’s not your first time,” she added. “That’s what the writers capture. We had to be careful and walk the fine line between nervous and excited because you don’t want it to feel like, ‘Ew, maybe she’s not ready; maybe he’s not ready.’ It’s so much in the words, but there are a lot of subtleties. You can’t be too freaked out about it because then you’re watching uncomfortableness, and that can feel like a violation of these characters you love.”
Adds Parsons: “And on the other side of it, because of Sheldon’s somewhat odd relationships, he ends up feeling a little less anxious about it than she does because it hasn’t been built up in that way for him. This is not something he’s been waiting and waiting for. As he says to Professor Proton, ‘I understand the mechanics.’ “
The significance of Amy and Sheldon’s moment wasn’t lost on TV icon Newhart, who won his first career Emmy for his guest turn as the show’s beloved Professor Proton.
“This is a very important episode; this is what people have been waiting for for eight years,” Newhart told THR on the set. “There’s a cover of a magazine in my dressing room from season five that says, ‘Will Sheldon ever have sex?’ This is it, and this is the answer! It’s wonderful seeing them — each time they rehearsed it, they had some wonderful and very funny scenes.”
As for that engagement ring that Sheldon planned to propose to Amy with last season before she broke up with him, that’s still in play. “That’s something we’re trying to figure out. I don’t have any answers for you at the moment, but the ring will rise again,” Molaro says with a laugh.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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