The Big Bang Theory’s recently concluded sixth season marked the show’s official victory over ABC’s Modern Family as the number-one prime-time comedy in the 18–49 ratings demographic, but fans have been buzzing more about the game-changing story lines introduced in the final two episodes. At last, Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) has had a meaningful conversation with a woman while sober; Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) have finally taken their relationship to the next level (well, a next level); and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) have found their happiest place ever as a couple, despite a new job that will separate them for four months. What’s next? Vulture spoke with Big Bang executive producer Steve Molaro about season six’s strong finish, what’s on the horizon for the beloved nerds in season seven, and why you probably won’t ever truly meet Wolowitz’s mother.
Raj can talk to women now! When did you decide to do that?
It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while; it’s not the greatest situation [to have] a character who can only speak in front of women when he has alcohol in his hand. So, it’s a moment of growth for him. What I particularly enjoy is that it didn’t happen in an episode where it’s, “Hey, let’s fix Koothrappali.” It came from him falling in love [with Lucy] as opposed to “let’s get him to a psychiatrist or on medicine and give him these weird side effects.”
Were you concerned about losing a go-to source for funny Raj moments?
I can tell you that just because he can speak to women now doesn’t mean he’s going to be very good at it. He does not have a lot of experience speaking to women while sober. My guess is he’s not going to be great at it, at least not in the beginning.
Will he try again with Lucy?
We’ll see what happens in season seven. But Kate [Micucci] was great. We all love her. I think the character’s really fun. It’s a definite possibility that Raj will try and find her in the future.
The last three episodes of the season were stellar, especially Sheldon and Amy upping the ante on their relationship.
We could not be more proud of how that scene turned out. Jim and Mayim are spectacular. It was beautiful. I loved that we could have such a big, energetic, broad, funny story line, [along with] Simon doing impressions and everyone drinking and playing Dungeons & Dragons, but then just take this hard left turn and go to a place that suddenly gets really quiet and really intimate between Sheldon and Amy. One of the writers, Tara Hernandez, described the scene as “so intimate it’s almost hard to watch.”
It was a big emotional payoff for “Shamy” fans. What’s the next step for them?
There are no steps planned at the moment. We do our best to let the characters take us where they want to go. She obviously wants to have a complete and long‑lasting relationship with Sheldon. There are challenges with that. We have learned, especially in that episode, while it’s going very slowly, he’s doing the best he can [and] tells her, “It may not seem like it to you, but for me, this is extremely intimate.” I think that helps explain where he’s at. I think it helps explain why she is willing to hang in there for this guy.
Simon Helberg’s celebrity impersonations in that episode were a delight. Had you heard him do those before writing that in?
We had heard him do Nicolas Cage and we always thought that was really funny, so when we started going down that road we [asked him], “Who else do you think you can do here?” [But that story line actually] started with the idea of Dungeons & Dragons. The writers and I stayed late one night to actually play. I used to play all the time when I was a kid, and [co-executive producer] Eric Kaplan used to play all the time as well. We said, “You know, we’ve had it in the show a few times, and a few of the other writers had never played it before.” We decided, “Let’s actually stay one night and play.” Eric was the Dungeon Master, and not unlike the episode, we all had a couple of drinks and started playing. It basically turned into a nerd craps table in Vegas in our writers’ room.
Bob Newhart guest starred this season. Who’s on tap for next season?
Oh, we’ve had so many incredible ones — Leonard Nimoy and Stephen Hawking — that at this point it’s greedy to even think this can keep going. But generally, it always starts with a story. Rarely does it begin with, “Oh, so and so wants to do the show. How do we work them in?” It’s usually like, “Wow, how cool would it be if Leonard Nimoy was the voice of the doll?”
It was cool. Now how about William Shatner? He has to be on your mind somewhere, right?
It’s hard for him not to be, especially now that, at least in those Priceline commercials, Kaley is his daughter.
Too bad you already introduced Penny’s dad on the show! Would that have been a possibility?
I don’t know, but that’s pretty funny. That didn’t come up at the time. But I guess you’re right, if he were to [guest star] someday, there’s no reason that he would need to play himself.
Looking ahead to season seven, who’s going to miss Leonard more: Penny or Sheldon?
I think that’s an excellent question you’re asking. Pen has not been put to paper, but I think it’s fair to say that the key figure in these two characters’ lives, Penny and Sheldon’s, is missing, and I think it’s fair to say that it will have an impact on their friendship and their relationship. I think it’s an opportunity for them to get closer.
Will we finally get to see Howard Wolowitz’s mom?
Are you aware that there was a glimpse of her this season? More than a glimpse of her; we had a little fun having her cross back and forth in the background, almost like Bigfoot or a yeti. Does that not count as seeing her? Or do you mean seeing her on‑camera, speaking?
We kind of got a little bit of a glimpse of her, this season in the kitchen. And she was on the roof at Howard’s wedding. But there are no immediate plans to have her actually speaking on camera. It’s more fun to keep the mystery alive.
Speaking of which: Will we or won’t we ever learn Penny’s last name?
What name could we possibly pick that would be satisfying at this point? You know, I don’t think we will [reveal it]. We’re kind of a superstitious lot here. We’ve made it this far without knowing Penny’s last name. I think we’re good not finding out.
But what if her acting career takes off? Wouldn’t we learn her full celebrity name then?
We’ll have to find some way to get around that.
So, Penny’s acting career might actually take off?
Well, we saw this season that she’s actually a pretty talented actress when she was onstage. I don’t know, though. We don’t have immediate plans for or against her career taking off. In general, I think what we have so far is a pretty accurate portrayal of a pretty girl who moved to Los Angeles, and took acting classes, and is trying, and is struggling, and is a waitress. I think for a lot of people, that’s the reality. If she starts to get really successful, now we’re sort of behind the scenes in Hollywood, and I think that may be not exactly the kind of thing we tend to do on this show. But nothing’s ruled out.