When Raj misses out on a job at the planetarium, his father says he has no confidence because Howard always makes fun of him. Raj distances himself from Howard and later gets the job. Howard is hurt by this (even after apologizing to him) and tries to make amends with Raj after his first performance at the planetarium but, when he sees him get a date, he leaves without speaking to him, thinking that the latter's life is better without him. Meanwhile, Sheldon and Amy try randomly dividing up wedding tasks, but they keep arguing. The only thing they can agree on is to get married, so they decide to just get married at City Hall. However, Sheldon decides that he wants a first dance with his new wife and they go home to plan their wedding.
Bert asks for Sheldon's help in a geology research project relating to dark matter. Sheldon secretly agrees, but is too embarrassed to admit he is working with rocks. Bert finds out about this and ends their partnership. After talking with Amy, Sheldon goes to apologize, only to find Leonard has taken his place. Meanwhile, Raj runs into Ruchi again and goes out with her, but she does not believe in romantic love. After Howard and Bernadette tell Raj that he can just have sex with Ruchi, he agrees to keep it casual.
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."[91] On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 57 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[92] 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.[93]

The fourth season's second half began on June 30, 2011. Season 5 began airing on November 3, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. as part of E4's Comedy Thursdays, acting as a lead-in to the channel's newest comedy, Perfect Couples. Episode 19, the highest-viewed episode of the season, attracted 1.4 million viewers.[145] Season 6 premiered on November 15, 2012, with 1.89 million viewers and a further 469,000 on the time shift channel, bringing the total to 2.31 million, E4's highest viewing ratings of 2012, and the highest the channel had received since June 2011. The sixth season returned in mid-2013 to finish airing the remaining episodes.[146] Season 7 premiered on E4 on October 31, 2013 at 8:30pm and hit multiple ratings records this season. The second half of season seven aired in mid 2014.[147] The eighth season premiered on E4 on October 23, 2014 at 8:30 p.m.[148] During its eighth season, The Big Bang Theory shared its 8:30 p.m. time period with fellow CBS comedy, 2 Broke Girls. Following the airing of the first eight episodes of that show's fourth season, The Big Bang Theory returned to finish airing its eighth season on March 19, 2015.[149]
Kunal Nayyar as Rajesh Koothrappali:[46] A particle astrophysicist originally from New Delhi, India. Raj is initially unable to talk to women unless he drinks alcohol. Raj also has very feminine tastes and often takes on a stereotypical female role in his friendship with Howard as well as in the group of four men. Raj later dates Lucy (Kate Micucci), who also suffers from social anxiety, but it eventually ends; he later speaks to Penny without alcohol and thus overcomes his selective mutism. He begins dating Emily and their relationship later becomes exclusive. Raj also has a Yorkshire Terrier named Cinnamon.

Sheldon is still despondent over the disproving of his and Amy's theory on asymmetry. Leonard brings out a VHS tape of a pep talk that Sheldon recorded as a boy, but it turns out that his father had recorded a long-ago football game over it. Sheldon, however, is buoyed by a halftime pep talk his father gave the team, realizing he and his father had more in common than he previously thought. This causes Amy to view asymmetry and symmetry in another manner and they decide their theory may not be dead after all. Bernadette finds an old tape of Howard preparing to audition for The Magic Castle. She insists he fulfill his dream and audition with her as a coach, drawing on her beauty pageant experience. Howard eventually decides to audition his own way, and promptly botches his chances by accidentally destroying a judge's Rolex.

One of the recurring plot lines is the relationship between Leonard and Penny. Leonard becomes attracted to Penny in the pilot episode and his need to do favors for her is a frequent point of humor in the first season. Meanwhile, Penny dates a series of muscular, attractive, unintelligent, and insensitive jocks. Their first long-term relationship begins when Leonard returns from a three-month expedition to the North Pole in the season 3 premiere. However, when Leonard tells Penny that he loves her, she realizes she cannot say it back. Both Leonard and Penny go on to date other people; most notably with Leonard dating Raj's sister Priya for much of season 4. This relationship is jeopardized when Leonard comes to falsely believe that Raj has slept with Penny, and ultimately ends when Priya sleeps with a former boyfriend in "The Good Guy Fluctuation".
Sheldon and Amy decide on a wedding date of May 12th. They want to have their reception at the Athenaeum at Caltech. While scouting the location, they are shocked to see Leonard and Penny eating there, as Leonard had told Sheldon their application had been denied. In reality, Leonard just wanted a place to avoid Sheldon. Kripke has booked the venue for his birthday party on the same day as the wedding. Leonard cleans radioactive sludge for Kripke to get the date for Sheldon as an apology for lying. Kripke eventually agrees to change the day but when Amy hears he wants to sing at the wedding, she suggests they get married at the Griffith Observatory instead. Meanwhile, Bernadette and Howard are unsure if one of them should quit their job to stay home with the children. Howard volunteers, but when left alone with the children he passes out exhausted, leaving Raj in charge. When Bernadette meets Penny for lunch, she realizes that she loves being at the office again, but doesn't want to leave the children. She and Howard promise to figure it out later after they take a nap.
Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter:[42] An experimental physicist with an IQ of 173, who received his PhD when he was 24 years old. Leonard is a nerd who loves video games, comic books, and Dungeons & Dragons. Leonard is the straight man of the series, in which he shares an apartment in Pasadena, CA, with Sheldon. Leonard is smitten with his new neighbor Penny when they first meet, and they eventually marry.
Sheldon's childhood friend from Texas, Tam, is visiting the university with his son. Sheldon does not want to see him and the others wonder why Sheldon has never mentioned Tam. Tam is unaware Sheldon is angry with him, thinking they just naturally drifted apart. Sheldon's brother George does not know the reason either. Sheldon eventually reveals Tam promised he would move to California with Sheldon, but then got a girlfriend and stayed with her, leaving Sheldon feeling abandoned. Tam and Sheldon make up and Sheldon has Leonard take Tam to the airport. Meanwhile, Penny and Bernadette want to get to know Anu, impressed by her connections in the hotel industry. They tell her embarrassing things about Raj and wonder if they can go out with her again after Raj confronts them.

Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler (guest star season 3, starring seasons 4–12):[52] A woman selected by an online dating site as Sheldon's perfect mate.[53] Amy is from Glendale, CA. While she and Sheldon initially share social cluelessness, after befriending Penny and Bernadette she eventually becomes more interested in social and romantic interaction. Her relationship with Sheldon slowly progresses to the point at which Sheldon considers her his girlfriend, eventually they get married. Amy believes she and Penny are best friends, a sentiment that Penny does not initially share. Amy has a Ph.D. in neurobiology.
They are also fans of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Doctor Who. In the episode "The Ornithophobia Diffusion", when there is a delay in watching Star Wars on Blu-ray, Howard complains, "If we don't start soon, George Lucas is going to change it again" (referring to Lucas' controversial alterations to the films) and in "The Hot Troll Deviation", Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica appeared as Howard's fantasy dream girl. The characters have different tastes in franchises with Sheldon praising Firefly but disapproving of Leonard's enjoyment of Babylon 5.[76][n 1] With regard to fantasy, the four make frequent references to The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter novels and movies. Additionally, Howard can speak Sindarin, one of the two Elvish languages from The Lord of the Rings.
When Raj misses out on a job at the planetarium, his father says he has no confidence because Howard always makes fun of him. Raj distances himself from Howard and later gets the job. Howard is hurt by this (even after apologizing to him) and tries to make amends with Raj after his first performance at the planetarium but, when he sees him get a date, he leaves without speaking to him, thinking that the latter's life is better without him. Meanwhile, Sheldon and Amy try randomly dividing up wedding tasks, but they keep arguing. The only thing they can agree on is to get married, so they decide to just get married at City Hall. However, Sheldon decides that he wants a first dance with his new wife and they go home to plan their wedding.
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