‘The Big Bang Theory’: Did You Ever Notice That the Show Pays Homage to One of Johnny Galecki’s Earliest Roles?

Long before Johnny Galecki became Leonard Hofstader, and even before he became David Healy on Roseanne, Galecki was a child actor in movies. One of his most memorable roles is in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Most people have seen the film, and at this point, most fans of The Big Bang Theory have noticed Galecki in the flick. What most people probably haven’t noticed is that the series seemingly pays homage to Galecki’s early movie role in one Christmas-themed episode.

The Griswald’s Christmas tree has a stowaway

In the Christmas flick, Galecki plays Rusty Griswald, a kid who’s entire extended family infiltrates his home for the holidays, leading to disastrous results. While things start off a little rough, the family’s holiday just gets worse and worse. When an extended family member sets the Christmas tree on fire, Clark Griswald, the family patriarch, decides to make everything better by cutting down a tree in the family’s front yard.

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“Whoop… a little knot here. You work on that.”

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There is one little problem with the plan, though. A squirrel is already calling the small tree home, and he’s not giving it up without a fight. The squirrel stows away in the tree as it’s brought into the house, and pops out during the festivities. The hilarious scene is a classic Christmas moment and reminds everyone that their family’s dysfunction is pretty standard.

Penny and Leonard’s tree has a stowaway, too

In “The Holiday Summation” Penny and Leonard are determined to have a good Christmas together, so they head out to a Christmas tree farm to cut down their own tree. Much hilarity ensues when Leonard is seen wearing mittens in the Pasadena heat. According to Accuweather, Pasadena’s temperature doesn’t generally drop below 60 degrees in December. Leonard insists he blisters easily, but the Mittens make swinging an axe pretty tough.

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Happy Holidays #BigBangTheory fans!

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The pair, undeterred, attempt to bring home their tree. First, it falls off the roof onto the windshield, then Penny and Leonard struggle to bring the tree upstairs. Finally, once inside the apartment, it becomes apparent that something is living in the tree. In the end, they dump it down the elevator shaft without ever finding out what’s making noise inside the evergreen.

Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that the entire process of getting the tree and lugging it into the house is reminiscent of the process that the Griswald’s go through to bring home their own tree way back in 1989. In fact, the entire episode might be a giant Easter egg that only the most dedicated Galecki fans would notice. The scene takes place in the twelfth episode of the 10th season of the show.

Was this a purposeful easter egg?

While National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was written by John Hughes, and The Big Bang Theory was created by Chuck Lorre, it is safe to say that the earlier stowaway creature probably influenced the episode. Sure, Lorre nor the cast have ever spoken out about the Easter egg, but that’s kind of the point. It wouldn’t be an Easter egg if everyone talked about it.

Simon Helberg (as Howard), Jim Parsons (as Sheldon) and Kunal Nayyar (as Raj)
Simon Helberg (as Howard), Jim Parsons (as Sheldon) and Kunal Nayyar (as Raj) | Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

Easter eggs in shows, movies and games refer to the hidden jokes, messages, and references in the finished product. While fans are often encouraged to hunt them out, those doing the hiding very rarely share what the Easter eggs are or where they can be located in a piece of work.

According to Next Avenue, the practice began when Atari banned its game designers from including their names in video games. Atari was apparently concerned other companies would steal their designers and developers. To get credit, one designer hid his name in a game. Eventually, the practice grew and moved from the gaming industry into movies and shows. Easter Eggs can be found in most movies and show now, but the earliest examples within the entertainment industry occur in Star Wars.