TV's best comedy (and maybe its best set)


This probably shouldn't surpise us: TV's best sitcom also has one of the best sets. It's full of playthings; also, the math equations really do make sense.

We're talking about "The Big Bang Theory," of course. With the clever touch of any Chuck Lorre production, it simultaneously mocks its characters -- four young Cal Tech scientists and the waitress who lives in the next apartment -- and views them warmly.

These guys are deep into brainy geekdome and the set reflects it. There's a dart board, a telescope, a "Captain Future: Wizard of Science" poster. There are two Batman figures, an "Infinite Chaos" figure and lots of books and toys. It would be fun to live there.

And there's the board with equations. Yes, director Mark Cendrowski assures us, they're all real.

A UCLA professor is the show's consultant. Sometimes, his staff answers questions when he's away on assignment, but at other times he does it himself. This may be the only comedy that gets e-mails from Antarctica, Lorre said.

But what about the other kind of expertise -- all the details of sci-fi geekdom? "If you spend some time in the writers' room, you'll see that's no problem for us," said co-creator Bill Prady.

This seems to be a fun place to work, including intense ping-pong tournaments. Cendrowski is the reigning champion; Kaley Cuoco and Kunal Navyar are considered the best among the actors.

And in a difference from most TV shows, the female character has the messy place, a clutter of clothes and magazines. One night, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) snuck in and cleaned the place up.

Only Sheldon could do something that creepy and still be a friend. "There's an innate charm and sweetness to Jim Parsons," Lorre said.

And there's a charm to the whole show. "Big Bang Theory" (8 p.m. Mondays on CBS) makes us laugh; its set makes us smile.  

 

 

 

 

 

Life in a TV-tour hotel


So I'm reminded of the guy who inherited a grandfather clock. The best plan, he decided, was to carry it to his apartment one night.

As he was lugging it along, a drunk passed him. "Hey buddy," the drunk said. "Why don't you just get a watch?"

That came to mind recently, during a typically odd moment at the Television Critics Association sessions in Los Angeles.

The housekeeper was busy in my hotel room, so I retreated to another spot, bringing my portable DVD player and a new Cartoon Network series. It turned out to be a good show; I was still watching it on the way back to the room.

As it happened, there was an international tourist in the elevator, staring at me. Now I'm sure he's telling people that American guys are crazy. Instead of simply using an I-pod, they go up and down in elevators, watching "Powerpuff Girls."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheerfully lost in "Lost"


"Take it easy," one character says in the Jan. 28 "Lost" episode. "I can explain myself a little better."

Or maybe not. He's been leaping back and forth over a 50-year time continuum. That's not easy to explain.

"It is a big of a mine field to do time-travel," producer Carlton Cuse told us today. "But it's rewarding."

He's right on both counts. Watching this show -- when everything can change with a flash of light -- is hugely perplexing and hugely worth the trouble. I've seen the first three hours (9-11 p.m. Jan. 21, 9 p.m. Jan. 28) and I found them fascinating and fun ... even when I didn't understand them.

The alternative, said co-creator Damon Lindelof, was to continue in the kind of stalled-plot approach of the first half of season three. "It was trending toward a path of complete and utter suckiness."

So they changed, chose an end date (one more season after this one) and sped the plot up.

It's moving so fast now that your head might explode if you overthink things. "The people who like this show are the ones who just go along with the journey," Cuse said.

Try it that way. It's a REALLY fun trip. 

 

Let's visit the "CSI" set


The sets for some TV dramas offer grit and grime. Things are muddied, to seem realistic.

Don't expect any of that on the "CSI" set. "This isn't a police station or an ER," said Louis Milito, one of the show's producers. "These people are scientists."

Scientists like neat and clean. That's how the "CSI" set looks.

I visited it the other day, as part of the Television Critics Association tour. In other blogs, I'll talk about other sets -- "Trust Me," "The Mentalist," "Big Bang Theory" and the Peach Pit from "90210."

The original "CSI" design was sort of sandy-drab, Milito said, but then Jerry Bruckheimer, the show's executive producer, intervened. "He wanted slick and shiny."

He got what he wanted; he tends to. The walls -- deep green and bluish grey -- look like they'd been painted yesterday. They always do, apparently.

Inside those rooms are modern machines. Some are just shells, said producer-writer Richard Catalani, but most can function. "The people where I used to work wish they could have these when we're done with them."

He spent 16 years with the Los Angeles County investigation unit. However, "CSI" portrays a better-funded one in  Las Vegas.

The show gets new attention now, because Laurence Fishburne is stepping in as its star. He was introduced in an episode that reruns at about 8:15 p.m. (after the presidential address) Thursday (Jan. 15) on CBS; in a pretty good episode at about 9:15, he steps in and William Petersen departs.

Fishburne brings an imposing presence, said actress Liz Vassey. "But he looks you straight in the eye and asks about you."

Of course, many guys look Vassey, who's 5-foot-9 and very impressive, in the eye.

What she found intimidating was playing a corpse in one episode filled with dream scenes. "I was the worst corpse ever," she said.

At least, she got to do it in a slick-and-shiny place. In fact, Catalani said one piece of scientific equipment is worth $100,000; another is worth $500,000.

I resisted the temptation to steal either one. TV people get very picky about that, I'm told.

 

Ahh, Ozzy

Keywords

An Ozzy Osbourne interview is fun, in its own odd way.

There was Ozzy on stage with his wife Sharon and two of their kids, Kelly and Jack. They were talking about their upcoming variety show, which Fox's Mike Darnell describes as "fun raunch."

Often, Sharon had to repeat questions in Ozzy's ear. The hearing loss came from decades of rock 'n' roll, his kids said.

But the stories were worth the trouble. Sharon said she had just returned to the U.S. the night before and met someone grumbling about one woman's comments about Ozzy:

"The immigration officer said ..., 'How dare
she say that about our Ozzy.
Everybody adores Ozzy.'”

That's when Ozzy piped up: "Why didn’t everybody adore me when I was pissed drunk all the time?"

Sharon shrugged. "You see how he hears what he
wants to? That’s very convenient. He has selective
hearing."