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'The Big Bang Theory': Showrunner Steve Holland on Shamy, the baby, and hitting episode 250

SPOILER ALERT: This interview about the Season 11 premiere of The Big Bang Theory contains storyline and character spoilers.

She said yes! Okay, so it wasn’t really such a surprise that Amy Farrah Fowler accepted Sheldon’s marriage proposal, but it was a big way to start off The Big Bang Theory’s Season 11, which also included news of another baby on the way for new parents Howard and Bernadette.

New TBBT showrunner Steve Holland talked to Yahoo Entertainment about what to expect the rest of the season, including Sheldon’s groomzilla potential, Raj’s prospects for finally finding love, more Stuart, and whether we’ll meet more of the gang’s family members, like Amy and Howard’s dads.

You co-wrote the Season 3 finale that brought Amy Farrah Fowler into the gang’s lives, into Sheldon’s life. It seems very appropriate then that this is your first episode as showrunner, with the Sheldon and Amy engagement.
It’s amazing in the way that we tend to not plan a lot of things out. When we wrote that [Season 3] episode with Amy, we didn’t have grand designs for her. It was actually just written as a joke at the end of the episode, where Raj and Howard had put Sheldon on a dating site, and what kind of girl we’d set him up with. Mayim [Bialik] was great, and it turned into this amazing thing.

Was there any possibility that Amy might have said no to Sheldon’s proposal?
We certainly talked about every possibility. We were going into this episode like, “Let’s explore. What could happen?” As we’re talking about it, we’re like, “Okay, maybe the kiss… if she found out about the kiss [between Sheldon and Ramona], would that make her say no?” The more we talked about it, the more it felt like this was us as writers trying to stall a thing, and not her as a character giving an answer that she would genuinely give. It just felt more real and believable to us that she was going to say yes. Which was also scary, because you start the episode with an answer, which is such a high point. Then you still have 22 minutes of episode to go after that.

And then Sheldon acts like a jerk with her colleagues, and we’re thinking Amy might have some second thoughts. To his credit, and has been happening more with the character in the last couple of seasons, he does see the error of his ways. He is growing, he is evolving, he knows he needs to become a partner, not just have their relationship continue to be all about him.
We see it some in the premiere episode, and I think we’ll see it more this season, because of the things we’ve been playing with. What we’ve been reading in the science world is that neuroscience is a really hot field right now. Physics sort of is on a little bit of a stall, there hasn’t been as big a breakthrough as they thought it would have coming up. Sheldon having to deal with a partner who might be more of a science celebrity than he is is another tricky thing he’s going to have to deal with.

We also got another clever Stephen Hawking cameo, and I would argue that he gets the best lines of this episode: “Can you see the irony? How about now? How about now?” Is he always game for what you ask him to do?
He’s been nothing but lovely to us. He’s never hesitated at anything we’ve asked him to do, including have a heart-to-heart with Sheldon in a bathroom. He’s always been up for it, and so supportive of the show.

Now that Sheldon and Amy will be planning a wedding, will we see some groomzilla behavior from the former?
I think Sheldon has to overthink every decision. I think for Sheldon, there is a perfect answer to everything. There’s a thousand decisions that have to be made when you’re planning a wedding. I think in the sweetest way, because he wants this wedding to be perfect, he has to hyper focus on everything.

Will the wedding happen this season?
We don’t have the season planned out like that, but certainly the wedding planning is going to be a thread that runs through this season. It’s possible we could see it at the end of the season. We’re not that far along, so I can’t say that for sure.

Sheldon confirmed he had asked Amy’s dad for permission to marry her. We have yet to meet Amy’s dad, or Howard’s dad, or anyone from Stuart’s family. Is there a chance any of those new family members might pop in this season?
There is always a chance, leading up to the wedding, when we start talking about what that wedding is going to be and who’s going to be there. We certainly don’t want to be the show that in Season 11 is just going to outside characters because we’ve run out of stories. We don’t feel like we’ve run out of stories. Certainly when it feels natural and organic to bring these people into the show, it’s a fun way to meet them. For Leonard and Penny’s wedding, we brought in her whole family, which was amazing, where we had Katey Sagal, and Judd Hirsch and Jack McBrayer. A whole world of new people, which was fantastic, but also really hard to write because it was a lot of characters you had to service.

Photo: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

On to Bernadette and Howard, who were feeling less than sheer excitement with their news. Was that the inspiration behind the storyline?
Melissa [Rauch’s] pregnancy, when she told us that she and her husband were expecting, was so great for them, and we just started talking about, what’s the best way, how do we want to use this in the show? Do we want to do the normal thing of just hiding her behind tables and couches for a season? Our first thought was, “[Bernie] just had a baby, so she can’t be pregnant again.” But then we’re like, “Or maybe she can.” And that’s a really surprising wrench to throw into their world. My kids are close together. Not that close, but I know when you have a toddler and are expecting another baby, it’s crazy. For them not expecting this news, it really throws them for a loop.

Would you tease what’s ahead for Raj? He so desperately wants to find love.
He does. He’s the sweetest, most romantic character on the show. He keeps getting thwarted. Last season, his arc from the middle to the end was that he gave up his parents’ [financial support] and had to strike out on his own. Going into this season, that’s going to have an impact on him and maybe start to give him a little more confidence that could play into his dating life.

You mentioned how Amy was introduced as a character you didn’t necessarily plan would become as important to the show as she has… is that true of Stuart, too?
Honestly, Kevin Sussman is hilarious. He’s so funny and such a great guy to have around that, I guess it’s not surprising that fans love him, because he’s just hilarious. He’s constantly surprising us with how he will deliver lines and ways he’ll find to make things funny. With Stuart, it’s nice to have some other people in their world, because their world can feel a little small sometimes. He’s been around since the beginning of the show, but he became a person we would go to more and more.

The show will reach Episode 250 this season. Will you do something special?
Actually, do you know what? As you say that, I have to go and look at our board, and we should write down which episode is 250 and talk about it. Honestly, this is true, we really just try to make each episode as good as we can make it. Obviously there are some big tent poles, where we can really try to pull out all the stops. Right now, I’m just focused on the next episode and making that as good as possible. The more I look at that board, where we have the spaces for all the episodes coming up, it can be overwhelming. We just sort of put our heads down, look at the next one, and try to make it great.

The Big Bang Theory airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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