Scott D. Pierce: He's a genius!

Published: Monday, Oct. 8 2007 12:33 a.m. MDT

Johnny Galecki, left, and Chuck Lorre

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Gee, I'm beginning to think that Chuck Lorre doesn't like me.

Well, not just me, but everybody who earns his/her living as a TV critic.

Lorre, the co-creator and executive producer of both "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory," is famous for his producer vanity cards that flash at the end of episodes — there are 185 of them dating back to the beginning of "Dharma & Greg." (Go to chucklorre.com to read them all.) And last week, both No. 184 and No. 185 mentioned TV critics.

No. 184, at the end of "Bang," included, "Don't answer TV critic questions about the state of TV comedy. It's a trap."

(Yes, he was asked about that during the most recent Television Critics Association press tour. But I don't think it was a trap.)

And No. 185, at the end of "Men," included (in "The Emmy Speech I Didn't Give"), "I want to thank the TV Academy for this incredible acknowledgement. The fact that it (ticks) off TV critics all over the country just makes the moment a little sweeter."

And I've always written so nicely about both shows. I'm still a big fan of "Men," and I'm even higher on "Bang" than I was in my original review — last week's second episode was absolutely hilarious. And it's a very, very good sign when the follow up to a very good pilot is an even better second episode.

Chuck, would it make you feel any better if you knew that, while watching that second episode of "Big Bang Theory," my teenage son asked me, "Is Chuck Lorre, like, a genius or what?"

IT'S NO COINCIDENCEthat the two lead characters in "Big Bang Theory" are named Sheldon (played by Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki).

Sheldon Leonard produced classic TV shows like "Make Room for Daddy," "Dick Van Dyke," "Andy Griffith" and "I Spy." He also has hundreds of acting credits from the mid-1930s to the early 1990s; he passed away in 1997.

"There was just a little hero worship on our part there," Lorre said.

ARE THE STARS of "Big Bang Theory," who play geniuses on the show, really smart?

"Johnny (Galecki) seems very intelligent to me thus far," Jim Parsons said.

"Well, (I'm) not nearly as intelligent as the character," Galecki said, "but I did really well all the way through the middle of eighth grade."

LORRE PROMISES that Penny (Kaley Cuoco), the blonde who lives across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard, really isn't all that dumb. She's just smart in a different way than the guys.

"She grew up on a farm," he said. "She can fix a tractor. She can birth a calf, and she can do just about damn near anything that these guys can just sit around and talk about. ... She's an extraordinary character in her own right, but in a different world than theirs."

It is, Parsons said, "Book smarts versus barn smarts."

LOTS OF SHOWS have consultants, but "Big Bang" may be the only one that has a consultant who's an astrophysicist at UCLA.

So when you see all the mathematical formulas Sheldon and Leonard have written on white boards in their apartment, they're real.

"In fact, we're working on giving Sheldon an actual problem that he's going to be working on throughout the season so there's actual progress to the boards," said executive producer/co-creator Bill Prady. "We worked hard to get all the science right."

Not that even the guys who write the show understand all the jokes.

"We know that the parody of the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation (on Sheldon's board) was a parody of the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation, and it made our consultant laugh," Prady said.

LORRE WILL BE WORKING on both "Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men" this season — a tall task for any writer/producer.

"Well, first of all, I plan on dividing my time incompetently. There's no good way to do it," said Lorre, who's going to do it anyway "because I love both projects dearly, and I want to be close to both of them. So I'm learning as I go."

Lorre went to Norman Lear, who had a slew of shows on the air (including "All In the Family," "Sanford & Son," "Maude" and "The Jeffersons") all at the same time, to ask for advice.

"And he said, 'I basically worked like a dog.'... It's just throwing yourself into it and giving everything you've got. The opportunity to get a show on the air is so rare that you have to give it everything you've got because these chances, they don't come up very often, especially now. There's very few opportunities for comedies to get on the air anymore. So you throw yourself into it with sort of a neurotic abandon."


E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com

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