Why The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco Can Still Only Watch Early Episodes Comfortably

As the current star of HBO Max's suspense-filled murder-mystery The Flight Attendant, star Kaley Cuoco is making it pretty easy for fans to temporarily forget that she'd spent the previous twelve years at the forefront of modern TV's biggest and broadest sitcom. That's probably not such an easy feat for the Cuoco herself, nor the millions of fans who adored Big Bang Theory during its run. But anytime the actress wants to go back and reflect on her time as Big Bang's Penny, you can almost guarantee she'll mainly be catching up on episodes from the earliest seasons.

While there are no doubt Big Bang Theory fans that have watched the entire run back-to-back multiple times, it's highly unlikely that Kaley Cuoco is part of that group. As she explained to talk show host Conan O'Brien during an episode of his podcast Conan Needs a Friend, she is only comfortable with watching the earliest seasons of the sitcom because she is distanced enough from that point in her career and life that she isn't immediately drawn back into the emotional headspace. Here's how Cuoco put it:

The early episodes of Big Bang – I can’t believe how many different hairstyles I had and all the different clothes. It’s very weird because I’m much more okay watching the earlier seasons as opposed to the most recent ones. The recent ones are still too emotional for me. The early, early ones feel like a different person and a different time so I’m able to watch it and laugh. But the recent ones are tough, it was strange getting out of that and figuring what the next step was going to be. In my mind, I was going to be on it for 27 years.

It might very well be another ten years before Kaley Cuoco is able to agreeably sit down and watch installments from The Big Bang Theory's final season, which wrapped up in 2019. By that point, there's no telling what kind of projects she will be working on. It doesn't seem like The Flight Attendant is tailor-made to last for an entire decade, but I wouldn't be surprised if HBO Max keeps Harley Quinn going for as long as the talented voice cast remains capable of speech.

Many actors have trouble watching themselves on-screen, which keeps them from enjoying projects they've acted in over the years. That doesn't necessarily sound like Kaley Cuoco's situation, however, since she doesn't sound so reticent about revisiting her old performances. Her hesitation seems to be far more invested in avoiding the emotional headspace that she was in when the episodes were being filmed.

During the first two seasons of The Big Bang Theory's run, the show was clearly a success, but it hadn't yet fully tapped into the monster ratings that would cement the next ten years of renewals from CBS. Thus, Kaley Cuoco is able to revisit those episodes without being directly reminded of the intense pressures that inevitably came with being the most-watched comedy on TV. Rather, she's able to just sit back and enjoy the goofy jokes about science, superheroes and [whispers] sex.

The Big Bang Theory's later seasons, while still celebrated by fans, were also hampered behind the scenes by contractual negotiations and the cast's wavering personal relationships. By the time it all came to an end, though, with Jim Parsons spearheading the effort to put the CBS comedy to pasture, the emotions were largely geared to appreciating all that they had accomplished and given audiences across twelve years and just under 280 episodes. Not that it ever inspired Mayim Bialik to watch any of the episodes.

Be sure to join in with the many obsessed fans of Kaley Cuoco's The Flight Attendant and tune into the Season 1 finale when it drops on HBO Max on Thursday, December 17. While waiting to see how everything plays out in Cassie's life, check out our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule and our 2021 Winter and Spring TV guide to see all the other shows popping up on the small screen soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.