By season seven, Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco were also receiving 0.25% of the series' back-end money. Before production began on the eighth season, the three plus Helberg and Nayyar, looked to renegotiate new contracts, with Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco seeking around $1 million per episode, as well as more back-end money. Contracts were signed in the beginning of August 2014, giving the three principal actors an estimated $1 million per episode for three years, with the possibility to extend for a fourth year. The deals also include larger pieces of the show, signing bonuses, production deals, and advances towards the back-end. Helberg and Nayyar were also able to renegotiate their contracts, giving them a per-episode pay in the "mid-six-figure range", up from around $100,000 per episode they each received in years prior. The duo, who were looking to have salary parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, signed their contracts after the studio and producers threatened to write the characters out of the series if a deal could not be reached before the start of production on season eight. By season 10, Helberg and Nayyar reached the $1 million per episode parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, due to a clause in their deals signed in 2014.
However, no legal action was required to end production of the other show: as soon as it became known that the show was unlicensed, the actors quit and the producers canceled it. Dmitriy Tankovich (who plays Leonard's counterpart, "Seva") said in an interview, "I'm upset. At first, the actors were told all legal issues were resolved. We didn't know it wasn't the case, so when the creators of The Big Bang Theory started talking about the show, I was embarrassed. I can't understand why our people first do, and then think. I consider this to be the rock bottom of my career. And I don't want to take part in a stolen show".
Sheldon is annoyed that Amy does not have time to work on the super-asymmetry project with him so he talks President Siebert into getting her removed from her own project at the university. Amy is angry at both of them as she wants to still have her own identity outside the marriage. When confronted by Amy, Siebert apologizes to her but states that it will be difficult for the university to give her her project back. After talking with Arthur Jeffries in a dream, Sheldon apologizes to Amy and both of them talk about their fears in their marriage. Meanwhile, Raj does not want to have Howard join him in his show at the planetarium, thinking he'd just use his astronaut status to make it about himself. Raj eventually lets him join in and Raj and Howard spend the whole time complimenting each other, surprising Bernadette, Leonard and Penny.
Penny, who admits to missing Leonard in "The Roommate Transmogrification", accepts his request to renew their relationship in "The Beta Test Initiation". After Penny suggests having sex in "The Launch Acceleration", Leonard breaks the mood by proposing to her. Penny says "no" but does not break up with him. She stops a proposal a second time in "The Tangible Affection Proof". In the sixth-season episode, "The 43 Peculiarity", Penny finally tells Leonard that she loves him. Although they both feel jealousy when the other receives significant attention from the opposite sex, Penny is secure enough in their relationship to send him off on an exciting four-month expedition without worrying in "The Bon Voyage Reaction". After Leonard returns, their relationship blossoms over the seventh season. In the penultimate episode "The Gorilla Dissolution", Penny admits that they should marry and when Leonard realizes that she is serious, he proposes with a ring that he had been saving for years. Leonard and Penny decide to elope to Las Vegas in the season 8 finale, but beforehand, wanting no secrets, Leonard admits to kissing another woman, Mandy Chow (Melissa Tang) while on an expedition on the North Sea. Despite this, Leonard and Penny finally elope in the season 9 premiere.
The Big Bang Theory started off slowly in the ratings, failing to make the top 50 in its first season (ranking 68th), and ranking 40th in its second season. When the third season premiered on September 21, 2009, however, The Big Bang Theory ranked as CBS's highest-rated show of that evening in the adults 18–49 demographic (4.6/10) along with a then-series-high 12.83 million viewers. After the first three seasons aired at different times on Monday nights, CBS moved the show to Thursdays at 8:00 ET for the 2010–2011 schedule, to be in direct competition with NBC's Comedy Block and Fox's American Idol (then the longest reigning leading primetime show on U.S. television from 2004 to 2011). During its fourth season, it became television's highest rated comedy, just barely beating out eight-year champ Two and a Half Men. However, in the age 18–49 demographic (the show's target age range), it was the second highest rated comedy, behind ABC's Modern Family. The fifth season opened with viewing figures of over 14 million.
As the theme of the show revolves around science, many distinguished and high-profile scientists have appeared as guest stars on the show. Famous astrophysicist and Nobel laureate George Smoot had a cameo appearance in the second season. Theoretical physicist Brian Greene appeared in the fourth season, as well as astrophysicist, science populizer, and physics outreach specialist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who also appeared in the twelfth season.
The show originally centered on five characters living in Pasadena, California: Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, both physicists at Caltech, who share an apartment; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon's similarly geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. Over time, supporting characters were promoted to starring roles, including neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski, physicist Leslie Winkle and comic book store owner Stuart Bloom.
The men are excited that Bill Gates is visiting Penny's pharmaceutical company, although she says that she cannot bring them along. Sheldon believes that it's an April Fools' Day prank. Leonard sees what hotel Gates is staying at on Penny's schedule, so he, Raj and Howard meet him in the lobby the day before. Once Sheldon sees proof, the men twice send him to the wrong hotel as real pranks. Penny says Leonard can meet Gates for real, so he fakes being sick to avoid him. When Penny puts Gates on a video call, he recognizes Leonard from the previous night. Meanwhile, Amy is tired of Bernadette only talking about her children, so Bernadette uses her expanded parental brain to learn random science facts.
"It's different for everybody. It was time for me and I felt that. It's both simple and complicated. I don't have a diary that I could bring out and say, 'Here are the reasons as far as quote-unquote future plans in a concrete way or (that I had) a problem with coming here.' None of those things were true," he says. "I felt it was the right moment for me. But, it only helps so much to go through the end of something like this feeling you've made the right choice. It's still exceedingly emotional."
Amy and Howard begin collaborating on a neuroprosthetics project, upsetting Sheldon and Raj, who feel they are not spending as much time with them. When they seek solace with an annoyed Bernadette, she exploits the situation to trick Sheldon into doing Howard's chores. Penny successfully employs the approaches recommended in one of Bernadette's parenting books to deal with Sheldon, but Leonard believes she is coddling Sheldon too much. Sheldon and Raj resolve the issue of missing their significant others by spending time together.