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The Bizarre Big Bang Theory Knock-Off You Likely Never Knew Existed

Creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady discovered a comedic gold mine when "The Big Bang Theory" made its debut on CBS in 2007. Though the series was slow to draw eyeballs, it eventually became one of the network's biggest hits, drawing in 18 million viewers (via Variety) during its hour-long finale in 2019.

The sitcom focuses on roommates and scientists Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), whose mundane and nerdy lives get spiced up when the carefree Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves in across the hall. Over the show's 12 seasons, the trio's lives evolve as they find new friendships, partners, and geek-centric hobbies to spend time on.

As "The Big Bang Theory" grew in popularity during the late 2000s and early 2010s, so did the acceptance of "nerd culture," with many arguing that the two benefited one another (via The New Yorker). It's no secret that the series was mostly beloved by the industry as well, nabbing 10 Emmys during its decade-plus run.

With great ratings and a slew of awards, it's no surprise that copycat sharks were lurking in the water. Most popular properties eventually end up influencing or inspiring other works of art, but fans of "The Big Bang Theory" will be surprised to know that a complete rip-off of the hit sitcom exists, and it blatantly wears its influence on its sleeve.

A Belarusian rip-off of The Big Bang Theory was canceled

Productions with the Chuck Lorre stamp of approval typically end with a brief vanity card that allows the creator to voice his thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics. One of Lorre's most notable cards aired in 2010, where he called out the Belarusian production "The Theorists," a blatant rip-off of "The Big Bang Theory" (via Chuck Lorre Productions).

In the vanity card, Lorre details how the series features four scientists who live next door to a waitress and is essentially a direct Russian translation of the series. Watching the rip-off series, it's explicitly clear that episodes are beat-by-beat retellings of the original series. It's practically uncanny how similar the characters are as well, channeling the same mannerisms that stars like Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki perfected.

After the "Big Bang Theory” scribe called out the Belarusian production, the series was swiftly canceled (via Charter 97). Speaking with Salidarnasts (via Charter 97), Leonard Hofstadter counterpart Dmitriy Tankovich revealed that he and the rest of the cast believed that any legal issues had been resolved at the time of production. As for how he feels about starring in a copycat show? Tankovich told the outlet, "I consider this to be the rock bottom of my career. And I don't want to take part in a stolen show."

Foreign rip-offs of Hollywood properties are common, so it's surprising that the "Big Bang Theory" copy was quickly taken off the air after Lorre brought its existence to light. Now, "The Theorists" exists as a cautionary tale of why it's important to get adaptation rights.