'The Big Bang Theory' to end season on cliffhanger
May 16, 2013 11:00 AM
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LOS ANGELES — Listening to actor Simon Helberg talk about “The Big Bang Theory,” you’d think his show was actually a nerdy nighttime soap. The actor, who plays aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz on the CBS sitcom, dropped a few hints about what to expect from tonight’s season finale.

“This time, the adventure is for Leonard,” Helberg revealed, referring to the experimental physicist played by Johnny Galecki. “Howard finds Stephen Hawking’s crew is sending out an expedition to the North Sea, and he gets Leonard a job, going on a boat for four months.”

But there’s no easy scientific equation that can tell Leonard how to choose between the expedition and his street-smart girlfriend Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco.

“The obstacle is Penny and Leonard have never been better,” Helberg continued. “So, is he really going to leave her for four months?”

And Penny isn’t the only one who doesn’t want to see Leonard go. His roommate, the perennially neurotic theoretical physicist Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons, doesn’t want to be left alone.

There’s also trouble for romance-challenged astrophysicist Raj, played by Kunal Nayyar, and his new love interest Lucy, played by Kate Micucci. Raj wants more from the relationship than Lucy may be able to give — a major leap considering she has a habit of crawling out of restaurant bathroom windows on their dates.

To add to the nerd drama, there are science jealousies at play, too.

“Howard’s a little competitive now that Leonard is getting the spotlight, (because) no one cared about Howard being an astronaut. So, it creates this sort of ripple effect.”

In six seasons, “Big Bang” has more than doubled its debut-audience U.S. viewership, delivering its most-watched first-run episode ever this year, with more than 20 million tuning in. Add to that number the millions who watch the show’s reruns daily on local stations and on cable network TBS. The show is also a smash globally, with Canada, the U.K. and Brazil delivering some of its biggest ratings success stories.

Helberg, 32, who has a 1-year-old daughter with actress-wife Jocelyn Towne, said he sees a long life for “Big Bang.”

“I think we’re all having a good time,” he explained.” And I think the show is far from being stale. It is kind of constantly — not reinventing itself — but just expanding on these characters. So, yeah, I think we’re going strong for now, as long as people keep inviting us in.”

The Season 6 finale of “The Big Bang Theory” airs tonight on CBS.

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LONDON — Zoe Saldana has played an alien and a future space traveler — but taking on the role of an actual famous person proved even harder.

The star of “Avatar” and “Star Trek” plays pianist, singer and activist Nina Simone in the forthcoming biopic “Nina.”

Her casting drew criticism from some, who argued that Saldana bears little resemblance to the singer, who died in 2003 aged 70.

Musician India.Arie said “they should have chosen someone who looks like Nina Simone,” and an online petition for a boycott of the film attracted more than 10,000 signatures.

But Saldana, 34, said she feels strongly that she’s right to play Simone, an immense, irascible talent who made an indelible mark on both music and the civil rights movement with songs including “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and “Mississippi Goddam.”

“The Nina Simone story needed to be told, and I’m really blessed that I did it,” said Saldana, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent.

“I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me,” Saldana said at a recent London event to promote “Star Trek Into Darkness,” in which she plays multilingual communications officer Lt. Uhura.

“So it did affect me, but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do.

“Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that (this) was a story that needed to be told.

“I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help,” she added. “But then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of people. I’m here to be an artist first.”

“Star Trek Into Darkness,” the second film in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted series, sees Uhura play a bigger role in the action, to Saldana’s delight. She even got to do a scene in Klingon.

“They flew in this linguist from San Francisco who gives courses. You go away for the weekend and you just speak Klingon,” she said. “It ended up being much easier than I thought.”

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NEW YORK — The Grammy Award-winning comedy duo Cheech and Chong based their 42-year career on counterculture humor with a particular emphasis on marijuana use. But these days Tommy Chong, 74, sees the recreational drug as something more than fodder for jokes about stoned hippies.

The comedian thinks legalizing marijuana on a federal level would offer numerous benefits, including a boost to the U.S. economy if it were taxed.

“Look at the situation we’re in now. Sequesters. Cuts. Everything cut across the board. Now, the government is tapped into the biggest cash crop in the world,” Chong said. “There’s little manufacturing cost. You don’t have to do anything except watch it grow and get a couple of hippies to cut it and then put it in a bag.”

His ambitions for marijuana may be outsized, but he notes the potential medical uses that have already inspired some states to legalize the drug. Nearly 20 states have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana, and two of them — Colorado and Washington — have totally legalized it. And at least 12 states have pending legislation to legalize it for medical use.

“Hemp itself is going to save the world,” Chong said.

Chong’s comedy partner, Richard “Cheech” Marin, 66, thinks legalization will come in the next couple of years.

“The tipping point is 24 states to legalize medical marijuana, so it’s coming soon,” said Marin.

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