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The Unexpected Backing Behind The Big Bang Theory's Belarusian Copycat The Theorists

Love it or hate it, there is no denying the fact that "The Big Bang Theory" was one of the most watched and influential sitcoms of all time. It got off to a rocky start, as critics weren't too fond of the show at the beginning, with SFGate calling it "coyly predictable." However, its viewership and review scores quickly went up as the show carried on, and by the end of Season 12 in 2019, the show had turned into a globally-recognized, pop culture powerhouse. Accolades and revenue aside, this level of recognition carries along some unintended consequences. 

Many American TV shows have been remade abroad. When done legally, it's not a problem. Shows like "Metastasis" (a shot-for-shot Colombian remake of "Breaking Bad") or "The Nanny" (adapted in 11 countries) have proven capable of generating viewership and becoming staples of local TV landscapes. This was not the case with "The Theorists," a Belarusian remake of "The Big Bang Theory," which was not only canceled after a few episodes but also produced illegally, without obtaining the rights to the hit series beforehand. 

The Theorists was backed by the Belarusian government

The Belarusian rip-off of "The Big Bang Theory," called "The Theorists," was a shot-for-shot remake of the original, with very few changes. Chuck Lorre, the creator of "The Big Bang Theory," voiced his criticism for the production in a vanity card aired at the end of Season 3, Episode 15 (via Entertainment Weekly). Lorre outlined "The Theorists'" poor production quality in detail, and claimed that "each episode appears to be a Russian translation of a 'Big Bang Theory' episode." He went on to inform that there was nothing that the Warner Brothers legal department could have done about the unlawful adaptation since the production company responsible for "The Theorists" was "owned and operated by the government of Belarus." Finally, Lorre expressed his hope that the vanity card will at least reach "The Theorists" creators all the way in Belarus. 

The Russian-language "Big Bang Theory" adaptation didn't stay on the air for too long. Allegedly, even the cast was misled about the legality of the production. One actor, Dmitry Tankovich, voiced his displeasure in unwittingly ripping off an American sitcom, telling Russian-language Charter97 in 2010, "I think that this is the most disastrous period in my creative career. And I don't want to continue participating in a pirate project." [Editor's Note: Translated from Russian]. "The Theorists" was quickly scrapped.

For those wishing to find out for themselves how the "Big Bang Theory" storyline would play out in a parallel universe, Season 1, Episode 1 of "The Theorists" is available on YouTube with full English subtitles. Surely, it will stay up there for the foreseeable future, as the Belarusian government doesn't really have any ground for a copyright claim against the YouTube channel, aptly named "terribletvshows".