Freshman Series: The Big Bang Theory

Studio audience keeps show honest

For “The Big Bang Theory,” exec producer Chuck Lorre knew what he had in actor Johnny Galecki. The two worked together on “Roseanne” in the early ’90s.

What startled him, however, was how seamlessly relative newcomer Jim Parsons handled the science-heavy dialogue while at the same time hitting all his comedy beats.

“The first time he auditioned, he was so startlingly good, I needed for him to come back again,” Lorre explains. “I had to see it wasn’t a fluke.”

Lorre, who exec produces with Bill Prady, has been around sitcoms for much of his professional life, working with folks such as Brett Butler (“Grace Under Fire”) and Cybill Shepherd (“Cybill”). Although those shows might’ve worked in delivering laughs, behind the scenes it was anything but funny.

Now Lorre feels blessed with the success of longtime fave “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” two shows that work entirely different portals of Lorre’s brain — and with comedy casts that come to work, and not to create drama.

“Each show has their own unique voice, and you don’t want to confuse them,” Lorre says. “There’s an innocence to these characters and a lack of carnal intent. What’s wonderful about working with a live audience is that if the dialogue is inappropriate, they’ll tell you.”

Working with a studio audience in comedy today is a bit out of fashion. Shows such as “30 Rock,” “The Office” and “Entourage” might get all the buzz, but their single-camera setups don’t necessarily make them funnier than shows shot in the traditional sitcom way.

“It’s both a blessing and a curse in giving autonomy to your studio audience,” he says. “They keep you honest. You can’t bullshit yourself as to when a line is good, and when it’s not.”

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