After each episode of Big Bang Theory, producer Chuck Lorre ends the credits with a vanity card — you know, that page of words that’s never on the screen long enough to read and, anyway, a promo for another show has shrunk the credits down to postcard size. Anyway, Lorre puts up various jokes and thoughts and stories. Comments in the vanity cards for Two and A Half Men sparked the battle between Lorre and Charley Sheen which you can google to read about somewhere else. Last night, after The Big Bang Theory, Lorre’s card said:
CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #277
Belarus is a small, land-locked country next door to Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. According to Wikipedia, one of its major exports is cattle by-products. Which begs the question, what horrible shape are the cattle in, if all they’re good for is felt hats and wallpaper paste? But Belarus does have a bustling TV production industry. One of their most recent hits is a sitcom about four nerdy scientists who live next door to a beautiful blonde waitress. The characters are named Sheldon, Leo, Hovard, Raj and Natasha, and the show is entitled, The Theorists. …
Well, you probably already know that The Big Bang Theory is about four nerdy scientists who live near a beautiful waitress and their names are Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Penny. So why Natasha and not Penny? “Penny” is short for Penelope (or at least I guess so and I think the writers were having a little fun there — you know, faithful Penelope and all her suitors vs., um, Penny) there has to be a Belarusan equivalent. “Natasha” is so cliche — but maybe I just don’t get it, maybe there’s some involved point about national stereotypes. Or maybe only using 80% of the names gives them legal grounds to claim that they created at least 20% of the program. BTW, Lorre says there’s no use suing because the show is produced by, wait for it, the government of Belarus! Or at least the government TV authority, you know, like the CBC.
The show is about techs looking for work in a large science facility that is operating at low capacity. I take it that the place is based on Novobirsk, or some similar Science City that was shut down and is now trying to revive itself. I don’t know if it’s based on a real place in Belarus. The Science facilities at Minsk seem devoted to agricultural stuff and I think these guys, the Theorists, are physicists.
Anyway, the guys more or less live together, and Penn..Natasha, uh, Natasha works at a lunch bar. I can’t make out if the guys work for the same department or section of what is, I think, a state-run operation. But then I can’t really tell who’s Raj and who’s Wolowitz. These guys are big, nobody Wolowitz-sized here. (That actor can make himself look really small.) And which one is which ethnic joke? Is Belarus so much less anti-semitic than Russia that it would show Jewish jokes? But maybe Raj (whichever one that is) is from, say, Chechnya! Maybe he’s a Muslim! Maybe this is some kind of multi-cultural propaganda meant to foster harmony and understanding between different ethnic groups! Boy, then won’t Chuck Lorre look silly for wanting to sue the beneficent Belarus! That probably isn’t what the Belarus government had in mind; they just meant to rip off a successful show, but I am curious whether there are ethnic differences in the characters and what these differences mean.
Here is, I believe, part of the opening episode. I think that’s tall blond Sheldon and stocky Leonard meeting Hovard for the first time. But it might be Raj.
This article has some embedded clips. You can locate more (if you are compulsive) on YouTube.
Here, so you can compare, is some Big Bang Theory dubbed in Russian. You can find lots more, which suggests that there is a large audience for imitations.