Initial reception for the series was mixed. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 52% approval rating for the first season based on reviews from 23 critics, with an average rating of 5.18/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Big Bang Theory brings a new class of character to mainstream television, but much of the comedy feels formulaic and stiff." On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 57 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Later seasons received more acclaim and in 2013, TV Guide ranked the series #52 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time.
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper: Originally from Galveston, Texas, Sheldon was a child prodigy with an eidetic memory who began college at the age of eleven, and earned a PhD at age sixteen. He is a theoretical physicist researching quantum mechanics and string theory, and despite his IQ of 187, he finds many routine aspects of social situations difficult to grasp. He is determined to have his own way, continually boasts of his intelligence, and has an extremely ritualized way of living. Despite these quirks, he begins a relationship with Amy Farrah Fowler, and they eventually marry.
Professor Proton, Sheldon's favorite childhood show, is being rebooted. After unsuccessfully auditioning for the part, he goes to Wil Wheaton for acting tips for his second audition. However, Sheldon is later dismayed when Wil is offered the role instead. Talking it over with Arthur in his dreams, he is still upset to see his idol replaced and considers Wil an enemy again. Meanwhile, Howard gets a vasectomy while Bernadette is on bed rest. Penny offers to take care of Halley for them, but they insult her by expecting her to be irresponsible. Halley ends up saying her first word by calling Penny "Mama."
After Sheldon has a food truck moved away from the building, Leonard and Penny are shocked to find he is the leader and sole member of the Tenants' Association for the building. Amy doesn't want to be caught in the middle but secretly suggests they rally support from the other tenants to vote Sheldon out. Nobody else supports Leonard so Amy tells them Sheldon was never added to the lease when he moved across the hall with her. Sheldon fires back with his own legal technicality so Amy is forced to support Leonard. She makes Sheldon happy by saying he can be Leonard's official opposition, making Leonard believe he made a mistake. Meanwhile, Howard and Raj find a drone. Raj returns it to the cute owner Cynthia and gets her number. Unfortunately, Cynthia watches footage of Raj on the drone and is immediately turned off.
In the third-season finale, Raj and Howard sign Sheldon up for online dating to find a woman compatible with Sheldon and discover neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler. Like him, she has a history of social ineptitude and participates in online dating only to fulfill an agreement with her mother. This spawns a storyline in which Sheldon and Amy communicate daily while insisting to Leonard and Penny that they are not romantically involved. In "The Agreement Dissection", Sheldon and Amy talk in her apartment after a night of dancing and she kisses him on the lips. Instead of getting annoyed, Sheldon says "fascinating" and later asks Amy to be his girlfriend in "The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition". The same night he draws up "The Relationship Agreement" to verify the ground rules of him as her boyfriend and vice versa (similar to his "Roommate Agreement" with Leonard). Amy agrees but later regrets not having had a lawyer read through it.
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking made a short guest appearance in the fifth-season episode; in the eighth season, Hawking video conferences with Sheldon and Leonard, and makes another appearance in the 200th episode. In the fifth and sixth seasons, NASA astronaut Michael J. Massimino played himself multiple times in the role of Howard's fellow astronaut. Bill Nye appeared in the seventh and twelfth seasons.
On March 13, 2017, CBS ordered the spin-off Young Sheldon series. Jon Favreau directed and executive produced the pilot. Created by Lorre and Molaro, the series follows 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper as he attends high school in East Texas. Alongside Armitage as 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper and Perry as Mary Cooper, Lance Barber stars as George Cooper, Sheldon's father; Raegan Revord stars as Missy Cooper, Sheldon's twin sister; and Montana Jordan as George Cooper Jr., Sheldon's older brother. Jim Parsons reprises his role as adult Sheldon Cooper, as narrator for the series. Parsons, Lorre, Molaro and Todd Spiewak will also serve as executive producers on the series, for Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television. The show's pilot episode premiered on September 25, 2017. Subsequent weekly episodes began airing on November 2, 2017 following the broadcast of the 237th episode of The Big Bang Theory.
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.
Raj hooks up with a recently separated woman, Nell, after one of his lectures at the planetarium. Her husband, Oliver, confronts Raj at the planetarium and then breaks down over the end of his marriage. After comforting Oliver, Raj talks to Nell and convinces her to give her husband another chance. Meanwhile, after diving once again into string theory and sprawling his work across his and Amy's apartment, Sheldon approaches a reluctant Leonard and Penny and convinces them to let him use his old room to study for a three-day trial period with an agreement to be quiet and stay out of their way. Sheldon surprisingly sticks to this agreement, being a reasonably good guest, which shockingly frustrates Leonard to no end. After Leonard lets out his frustrations, Sheldon then renegotiates the guest tenancy agreement for an extra few days and resumes being his normal demanding self, much to Leonard's relief.
When Mayim Bialik first learned she had to say goodbye to neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, she opened up about the show ending in a blog post, asking, "And now I start to figure out what next. Where will life take me? Where will this career go? What do I want?" Up next she has a voice role in The Inspector Chronicles, a quasi-parody of Doctor Who making the leap from short to feature film. She'll reprise her role as the voice of the Inspector's time machine, known as B.O.O.T.H. Aside from that, she doesn't have any major projects lined up, aside from preparing to not see her close-knit cast the way she'd grown accustomed to. "We'll have to see what our lives look like," she told Us Weekly in early May about the chance they'll remain close. "I mean, we're all going to be on different schedules now; it's very different."