Is it the acting? The jokes? Kaley Cuoco’s hair? What is it about CBS’ Big Bang Theory that makes it so phenomenally popular and TV’s highest-rated comedy? The cast of the show—along with the casts of Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly and Mom—attempted to explain why their sitcoms were so popular to an assembly of TV critics at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank on Thursday night.
Though its on its final season now, Two and a Half Men was once TV’s highest-rated comedy before Big Bang came along, and Mike & Molly and Mom have been solid successes for CBS at a time when an extremely high percentage of comedies quickly flop. And the one creative commonality shared by all four shows is co-creator Chuck Lorre.
So the question was posed to the casts: What makes his shows work?
Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons: “Chuck was a musician before he was a writer, and one thing all of these shows have in common is a rhythm. These shows [perform strongly when in repeats]. You’ve seen them three times, but it’s like a pop song—its got rhythm … He’ll come in when were rehearsing and clean it up.”
Big Bang Theory star Simon Helberg: “He’s a barometer for the truth. Like Jim was saying about the rhythm, he has perfect pitch for the truth. You know if [we hear] Chuck laughing, you know the majority of people will also laugh.”
Big Bang Theory producer Bill Prady: “To Simon’s point, Chuck genuinely enjoys the shows he’s producing—and that’s not always true. Some make shows that they think others will enjoy.”
Men star Ashton Kutcher: “I think the biggest thing is these shows work because they’re all built on family—broken, beat-up, messed-up families—that are just like yours. Chuck works with people who understand that. They’re broken, messed up, familiar. And if you have one, you know what it’s like. You sit at home and you laugh at yourself.” (To which co-star Jon Cryer quipped: “And I actually do go home and watch the show and laugh at myself”).
Men producer Don Reo: “It’s [his] quest for excellence. Chuck will put your feet to the fire—[asking] ‘Can you do better than this? Can you be funnier?’ We hear his voice even when he’s not in the room.”
Men co-creator Lee Aronsohn: “The simple answer is Chuck. Chuck is hands-on for each of his shows. Without Chuck, none of this exists.”
Big Bang Theory star Melissa Rauch: “[Chuck is] the comedy whisperer.”
Men stars Holland Taylor: “Time and time again miraculously … they would tie up the show with a great ending that also somehow links all the [episodes’] stories together and they would do this on their feet … Sometimes there’s a problem that seems to bother him, something missing all through the week and sometimes they solve it with a writing fix that miraculously hits about three targets at once. It’s a writing-driven show.”
Mom star Anna Faris: “I think [it’s the] humanity dimension. I have never gotten to play a character as well rounded.
Mom executive producer Eddie Gorodetsky: “That’s a big thing—the shows are inclusive.”
Lorre even took a crack at the issue himself, at least indirectly, when asked how he knows what audiences will find funny. “You can’t presume to know any audience,” he said. “There’s too many people. You have to go with that’s in your heart.”
Quips Helberg: “I’m just happy this isn’t a eulogy for you.”