The ongoing contract negotiations with CBS/WBTV and the core cast of "The Big Bang Theory" loomed over Friday (July 25) morning's San Diego Comic-Con panel, or at least the negotiations loomed if you happened to be obsessed with such things. If you're not, the negotiations were a total non-factor in the spirited and amusing give-and-take between the show's writers, moderator Craig Ferguson and the Comic-Con crowd.
According to a Deadline.com story, question monitors at the panel prevented Deadline from asking about the negotiations, which raises exactly two issues for me:
1) The writers of "The Big Bang Theory," for the most part, could hardly have less to do with negotiations that are going on far, far, far above their paygrade or job description. Even the highest ranking writers on the panel, folks like co-creator Bill Prady and showrunner Steve Molaro, could hardly have less to do with those negotiations and wouldn't have had any answer more substantive than, "We're writing the early episodes assuming that everything will be worked out as these things tend to be," because there's literally nothing else they could say. Even if WBTV and CBS are urging the writers to begin working on a hypothetical episode built only around Bernadette, Stuart, Amy and Kripke there is no known percentage low enough to represent the chances that anybody on the panel would have admitted to that or been allowed to admit to that. So the only reason to get in line to ask a question about contract negotiations would be to make people who know nothing about those contract negotiations squirm and give a canned answer.
2) Why did Deadline have reporters in line at a Comic-Con panel to ask questions anyway? Comic-Con is a fan event. There are press components in outside rooms, but the panels at Comic-Con? They're for fans. I would never ask a question at Comic-Con in a panel unless I were moderating that panel, because it's not my room. The idea of a media outlet trying to Shanghai a Comic-Con panel to ask pointed questions that nobody on the panel could possibly answer is just strange.
Friday's Comic-Con panel was not, in fact, the bizarrely inappropriate time for an announcement about cast negotiations, though those negotiations either did or didn't have anything to do with the lack of acting cameos on the panel. The last time "Big Bang" did a writers' panel, Melissa Rauch moderated and Johnny Galecki popped up in costume. This time, Craig Ferguson did a fine job of moderating and Wil Wheaton made a guest appearance, but a Wil Wheaton guest appearance at a Comic-Con panel is every bit as shocking as an appearance by a hot dog vendor in the middle of a baseball game. And that's not an insult to Mr. Wil Wheaton, because I've never been unhappy to see a hot dog vendor at a baseball game either, but I'm more disappointed not to see hot dog vendors, than I am shocked when they appear.
In the absence of shocking cameos or shocking announcements about the business affairs of WBTV and Comic-Con, the "Big Bang Theory" wasn't chock-full-of-news. It was just funny, talented people talking with a funny moderator and enjoying answering questions from passionate fans.
Heaven forbid, right?
So here are some things we learned or were reminded at the "Big Bang Theory" Comic-Con Panel...
1) Don't expect a Leonard/Penny wedding immediately. Just because Penny and Leonard somehow stumbled into engagement last season doesn't mean that we're necessarily heading toward a May Sweeps wedding. "They are engaged, but the wedding is sometime off in the future and they're not in a rush. Penny's first goal is to put the date far enough off in the future that everyone knows that she's not pregnant," Molaro says. Of course, the beautiful thing about a TV season is that it's eight-ish months and between the end of last season and next May Sweeps? Well, that's plenty of time for Penny to have proven her point. We'll see. Oh and, "There's no plans for babies at any point," Molaro says.
2) The reveal of Penny's last name isn't a huge priority. "At this point, we've come so far it's a bit of a superstition for us," Molaro explains.
3) And speaking of low priorities, they're not fixing the elevator any time soon. "What the stairwell gave us was a place to have walk-and-talk conversations that was organic," Prady explains, noting that a hole was dug on Stage 25 at Warner Brothers to accommodate the stairwell. As as Molaro explains, "I think those stairs are the only exercise those guys get."
4) Fans haven't forgotten Stuart. When we return, Stuart will still be serving as a nurse/assistant to Mrs. Wolowitz. And, in addition, the comic shop burning will be a plot point, at least insofar as there will be a new comic book store. Will Stuart be running it? We'll see!
5) Sheldon really is making progress. They promise. Bill Prady describes the essence of the character thusly: "Sheldon will not move at all and Amy will not let him not move. Just watching Amy move Sheldon is incredible. I would say 'There's absolutely no way that Sheldon would ever do such and such' and then Steve would get angry and show how this would happen." The train episode and the Sheldon/Amy kiss caused a lot of stress in the writers' room. Molaro said, "There's a kindler, gentler version were he kisses her just because he's having such a lovely experience on the train."
6) They hired the wrong Eric Kaplan. I feel like this story was told last year as well, but writer-producer Eric Kaplan, a veteran of "Spy" magazine, wasn't the Eric Kaplan who was supposed to be interviewed for the job. "Eric Kaplans, this is not true of other names, are pretty fungible," Kaplan says, rather brilliantly. "We don't exceed a certain level of quality, but we also don't drop below a certain level of quality." [Eric Kaplan also dislikes "Star Wars."]
7) Carrie Fisher had never met James Earl Jones when they worked together last season. First off, James Earl Jones deserved an Emmy nomination for his guest appearance last season. He was loose and funny in a way I haven't seen him since "Coming to America." Second off, as I'm sure you know, Carrie Fisher and James Earl Jones starred in "Star Wars" movies, but he was just a voice and she was a princess, so I suppose there isn't necessarily a reason why they had to have met. Much as I suspect the story is apocryphal on some level, Molaro says, "When they approached each other, the first thing Carrie Fisher ever said was, 'Dad!'"
8)Craig Ferguson is willing to stand by his dislike of Aquaman. A questioner came up and asked about the show's textual disrespect for Aquaman. Ferguson fielded the question by declaring that they don't respect Aquaman because he's not a real superhero. The questioner revealed that she was the granddaughter of "Aquaman" creator Paul Norris. The very briefly shamed Ferguson, who mimed falling on his sword, because admitting that he'd be more impressed by Aquaman if adversaries couldn't thwart him by climbing up on a rock.
9) You've seen Mrs. Wolowitz before. Howard's elusive shrieking mother? She was spotted at her son's rooftop wedding. Kinda. "You can see a big pink blob. That's Mrs. Wolowitz," Molaro says.
10) Remember the fan "Big Bang Theory" was sending into space? The last time "Big Bang Theory" did a full-cast Comic-Con panel was 2012, a Hall H affair that climaxed with with a drawing to give one fan a trip aboard @XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx. Well, Mercedes Becerra has yet to make it into space, but she seems to be getting closer and we saw a video that was kind enough to remind us that this was something that happened and is still happening.
11) Oh wait! Wheaton wasn't the only cameo. Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome, also known as Garfunkel and Oates, did a very sweet performance of "If I Didn't Have You," which also let them promote their upcoming IFC show.
12) There's a trailer for "Serial Ape-ist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill." And it's tremendous. Check it out: