MY DREAM CAME TRUE!
Reviews of bucket-list-worthy things to do all over the world

I went to a Big Bang Theory taping!

Getting tickets:

It requires persistence and patience to obtain tickets to a taping of The Big Bang Theory. There are so many Big Bang Theory fans that when tvtickets.com, the website where the general public can get free tickets to Big Bang Theory tapings, releases tickets for The Big Bang Theory, they are sold out within minutes. On November 11th, 2013, just after 8:00AM PST, I finally obtained two "guaranteed" tickets to the December 10th, 2013 taping of The Big Bang Theory!

Getting in:

My friend and I arrived at the Warner Bros. Studios Gate 3 parking structure about three hours before showtime. Even though our tickets offered "guaranteed" admission, we arrived early because my friend and I wanted to try to get the best seats that we could possibly get. We joined the "guaranteed"-ticketholder queue, located in an outdoor parking lot just to the left of the Gate 3 parking structure. (There was a nearby, separate queue for standby ticketholders.)

Three hours before showtime, people from Audiences Unlimited checked our photo IDs and tickets, and we were admitted into the audience waiting area inside the Gate 3 parking structure. Two and a half hours before showtime, line numbers were issued; my friend and I were numbers 29 and 30. We ran back to our car to put away our cameras and cellphones (cameras and cellphones are not allowed in the studio audience). Two hours before showtime, we were invited to rise from our bench, and we were led across the street, to the Warner Bros. Studios lot. Before entering the lot, our purses were searched and we walked through a metal detector.

On the lot:

Once we were on the lot, we strolled past the Warner Bros. fire department building; actor trailers; filming equipment trucks; office bungalows; and huge tan soundstages, each with a plaque listing the TV shows and movies that have filmed there. We entered Soundstage 25, where The Big Bang Theory is filmed. Inside the soundstage, we passed through another metal detector before we were led on a winding path lined by thick green curtains to the audience bleachers.

An Audiences Unlimited representative seated my friend and me toward the center of the bleachers, four rows back, just one row behind some of the VIP seats. Big black panels blocked most of the set from view, but the little sliver of visible set that I saw put an instant smile on my face. We were seated directly in front of Sheldon and Leonard’s living room!

Music played in the studio. Still images from past episodes flashed across the TV monitors mounted above our heads. It was an hour and a half until showtime. I perused the program that was given to me when we were seated. That night's episode was called “The Hesitation Ramification.” It was episode 12 of the 2013-2014 Season (Season 7).

Thirty minutes before showtime, the audience warm up guy, Mark Sweet, announced that, on the TV monitors, they were about to show us an episode of The Big Bang Theory that has never aired. And then we watched, with rapt attention, what turned out to be that Thursday's episode. It was episode 11 of the 2013-2014 Season (Season 7), "The Cooper Extraction," a Christmas-themed show where Sheldon’s friends reflect on what their lives would have been like if Sheldon didn’t exist, kind of a spin on It’s a Wonderful Life.

Showtime:

Finally, the moment we had been waiting for arrived! Mark Sweet introduced the cast of The Big Bang Theory, who ran out from behind the barricades, one by one. Of course, everyone in the audience jumped to their feet. I caught a only a quick glimpse of the actors as they ran out; my view was mostly blocked by the standing audience members in front of me. But I would see them all soon enough.

Once everyone in the audience took their seats again, some of the black panels were moved, completely revealing the Sheldon and Leonard's living room set. The first scene featured most of the Big Bang Theory starring cast: Johnny Galecki (Leonard), Jim Parsons (Sheldon), Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Simon Helberg (Wolowitz), Kunal Nayyar (Koothrappali), and Mayim Bialik (Amy). Crew members made final touches to the actors’ hair, makeup, and wardrobe. It was fun to see the actors out of character, chatting with one another and with the crew. A prop person passed out the characters’ cellphones to the appropriate actors; the phones were marked with Post-it notes that I assume noted whose phone was whose.

Mark told us that the opening scene was about to begin. The studio became unbelievably quiet... no music, no talking, no sounds at all. A voice broke the silence, “Cold open. Take one. Cameras A, B, C, and X, common mark.” A crew member clapped the digital slate. A voice (it might have been that of the director, Mark Cendrowski) called, “Action!” The scene played out before us. Although the footage being taped was displayed on the TV monitors, I watched the actors on stage directly, a unique view of all of the action at once that I don’t get at home.

That night, almost every scene was performed twice. The two takes were generally fairly similar to each other, although there was the occasional substitution of a different joke, or a subtle change in the actors' performances from take to take. Occasionally there would be a quick “pickup,” a small portion of the scene, usually done to fix a small technical issue in the prior takes. The actors rarely flubbed their lines, but, when they did, they were pure professionals, never really breaking character. In fact, when Johnny (as Leonard) said to Penny, “No, that’s not what I meant, but I have no idea what to say next,” it fit so perfectly in the scene and was delivered so in-character, that I thought that ‘but I have no idea what to say next’ was part of Leonard’s scripted dialogue!

About five of the scenes took place in Sheldon and Leonard’s living room, a real treat for my friend and me because of our seat location. The last time that I went to a Big Bang Theory filming (as a standby ticket holder), I was seated in front of Penny’s living room, and there was only one scene filmed there in that episode.

In this episode, there was also a "stair scene." If you watch the show, then you know that, from time to time, a scene takes place as the characters ascend or descend the stairs of Penny, Sheldon, and Leonard's apartment building. Because the Big Bang Theory set is just one level, these scenes require a bit of "TV magic." Mark explained that the stair scene would be taped in small segments of just a few lines each. The actors expertly timed their performances to complete the first scene-segment in exactly the time that it took for them to walk from the bottom of one set of stairs to the top of the next. Once the first part of the scene was completed, the crew rushed in to make small changes to the exterior of the elevator and the items in the hallway, so that the next "floor" would look different. Then the actors performed the next piece of the scene, picking up where they'd left off. Once the scene is edited together, Mark explained, the characters will appear to be walking up multiple levels of stairs.

At this taping, everyone in the audience was in for some big surprises! The first surprise gave me flashbacks to my experience at a filming of Two and a Half Men. (SPOILER ALERT: Sheldon, in an attempt to make Amy laugh by using the element of surprise, suddenly dropped his drawers revealing his bare legs and his tighty whiteys. It sure surprised the audience!)

The second surprise was that, about halfway through the taping, Johnny and Kaley climbed right up onto the railing in front of us! They told us that this episode marked the halfway point of Season 7 and that they wanted to thank us for being there that night and for watching the show. Johnny said that every episode was like a dream come true for him! It was a very sweet moment!

The final surprise was something that will practically stop really-big-Big-Bang-Theory-fans’ hearts, even when they see the episode at home. Seeing this moment in person… well, it felt almost as if it were happening in real life! (SPOILER ALERT: Penny, for the first time ever as far as I know, proposed to Leonard!! During the first take, the audience reaction was unbridled joy and surprise, like we were watching a good friend propose to another good friend. I guess, since the characters on The Big Bang Theory feel like friends to us, we kind of were. (BIGGER SPOILER ALERT: The answer to the proposal was no. I couldn’t help feeling disappointed by Leonard's answer even though, as you will see in the episode, it was probably the right thing to do. During the second take of the scene, the audience reaction was very different from the first take (extremely subdued), and so I’m certain that I was not alone in my disappointment. UPDATE: Producers chose to use the audience reaction from the second take in the final episode. I wonder if they were trying to avoid raising the home audience's expectations.)

When the episode was over, about three and a half hours after it began, Jim did a quick little celebratory dance move! Then there were curtain calls. I again caught quick glimpses of the actors, through the spaces between the bodies in front of me.

And then people began filing toward the exit. Before leaving, I stepped down to the railing to take a closer peek at the set and got my final surprise of the night. Kunal and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) came up to the railing to sign a few autographs. Kunal autographed my program, giving me an extra-special souvenir to take home, and the perfect end to a wonderful Big Bang Theory taping adventure!

I did this on December 10th, 2013, in Burbank, California, USA.

Jen (California, USA)
 
P.S. If you're heading to L.A., check out the novel Lost in Los Angeles (about a young woman who comes to L.A. looking for a reason to live). Her incredible experience includes some of the top bucket-list-worthy Los Angeles adventures. Use it like an insider's Los Angeles travel guide to plan your own itinerary.


Additional info for standby ticket holders for The Big Bang Theory:

During the above experience, I chatted with a gentleman in the "guaranteed" queue, Andy, who had traveled with his wife all the way from England to attend the taping. His wife wasn’t sitting with him. Why not? Tickets for The Big Bang Theory need to be booked individually. When Andy booked his first ticket, he got a “guaranteed” ticket, but when he went back to book a second ticket for his wife, only standby tickets were available. And so the couple had arrived at 8:30AM that morning (10 hours before showtime) so that his wife would be at the beginning of the standby line; she was first in the standby line. Andy told me that 8 hours before showtime he saw about 15-20 people in the standby line and 6 hours prior to showtime there were about 30-40 people in the standby line.

Andy stayed with his wife in the standby line until about 3 hours before showtime, when he moved to the "guaranteed" line. He was admitted to the lot with my friend and me but, once he arrived in the audience bleachers, he asked to wait to be seated until his wife arrived so that they could be seated together.

After the show, an Audiences Unlimited representative told me that, in addition to the all of the VIPs and "guaranteed" ticket holders admitted that night, approximately 60 standby ticket holders were admitted. She said that the number of standby ticket holders admitted varies greatly from taping to taping, from approximately 30 to 80 people per show.

April 4, 2017 Update: One of our readers contacted us regarding his standby experience at The Big Bang Theory. He arrived at 10:00 AM, and he and his guest got numbers 10 and 11 in the standby line. He reports that, at 5:45 PM he was told that no standby ticket holders would be admitted to that day's taping. (Thanks, Paul, for sharing your experience.)