In August 2009, the sitcom won the best comedy series TCA award and Jim Parsons (Sheldon) won the award for individual achievement in comedy. In 2010, the show won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Comedy, while Parsons won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. On January 16, 2011, Parsons was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical, an award that was presented by co-star Kaley Cuoco. On September 18, 2011, Parsons was again awarded an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. On January 9, 2013, the show won People's Choice Award for Favorite Comedy for the second time. August 25, 2014, Jim Parsons was awarded an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The Big Bang Theory also won the 2016 People's Choice Awards for under Favorite TV Show and Favorite Network TV Comedy with Jim Parsons winning Favorite Comedic TV Actor. On January 20, 2016, The Big Bang Theory also won the International category at the UK's National Television Awards.
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.
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.
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.
Sheldon and Amy are surprised to find that Wil Wheaton's new Professor Proton show is actually very entertaining and that Wil had Howard on as a guest. On Howard's suggestion, Sheldon apologizes to Wil, mending their friendship, and tells him he wants to be on the show; but Wil asks for Amy. Sheldon tells her to do it, but she says she often doesn't do things to avoid upsetting him. Sheldon is horrified when he realises how selfish he has been, especially when he finds out that the men do the same for him. Sheldon encourages Amy to go on the show to inspire girls to pursue science while trying to control his obvious jealousy for her. Meanwhile, Leonard writes a book about a physicist that solves a murder, the protagonist Logan Dean is based on himself. Bernadette points out Logan's mean boss Illsa is similar to Penny, who thinks it is based on Bernadette, though Leonard does not correct her. However, Bernadette tells Penny the truth, upsetting her and making her mad at Leonard. After calling his mother for advice, Leonard learns that Illsa is actually like her; but abandons the book when he realizes he wrote romantic tension into the relationship between the characters.