After the strike ended, the show was picked up for a second season, airing in the 2008–2009 season, premiering in the same time slot on September 22, 2008. With increasing ratings, the show received a two-year renewal through the 2010–11 season in 2009. In 2011, the show was picked up for three more seasons. In March 2014, the show was renewed again for three more years through the 2016–17 season. This marked the second time the series gained a three-year renewal. In March 2017, the series was renewed for two additional seasons, bringing its total to 12, and running through the 2018–19 television season.
Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper are both brilliant physicists working at Cal Tech in Pasadena, California. They are colleagues, best friends, and roommates, although in all capacities their relationship is always tested primarily by Sheldon's regimented, deeply eccentric, and non-conventional ways. They are also friends with their Cal Tech colleagues mechanical engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Rajesh Koothrappali. The foursome spend their time working on their individual work projects, playing video games, watching science-fiction movies, or reading comic books. As they are self-professed nerds, all have little or no luck with women. When Penny, a pretty woman and an aspiring actress from Omaha, moves into the apartment across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon's, Leonard has another aspiration in life, namely to get Penny to be his girlfriend. Written by Huggo
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.
Sheldon cannot find the perfect wedding date and begins talking in his sleep, adopting the persona of a laid-back person who goes with the flow. Amy and Penny believe that his subconscious mind is trying to tell him to be more relaxed; his attempt to be so while wearing flip-flops ends in disaster. He decides to leave all the wedding planning to Amy while he wears a Star Trek uniform underneath his tuxedo. Meanwhile, Raj and Stuart both become interested in Bernadette's new coworker Ruchi. While she likes them both as friends, she does not want a relationship with anyone.
Although earlier this season Penny (Kaley Cuocuo) told her husband Leonard (Johnny Galecki) that she never wanted kids, part two of the finale reveals that she is pregnant. But when Sheldon dismisses her announcement, Leonard angrily says “to hell with” his Nobel Prize. When his friends threaten to leave at his poor treatment of them, Sheldon takes time to self reflect.
Sara Gilbert as Leslie Winkle (recurring season 1, starring season 2, guest seasons 3, 9): A physicist who works in the same lab as Leonard. In appearance, she is essentially Leonard's female counterpart and has conflicting scientific theories with Sheldon. Leslie has casual sex with Leonard and later Howard. Gilbert was promoted to a main cast member during the second season but resumed guest star status because producers could not come up with enough material for the character. Gilbert returned to The Big Bang Theory for its 200th episode.
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.
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.
When Leonard receives a braggy Christmas letter from his brother, he feels bad about how little he and Penny have achieved in the past year. Leonard wonders if he and Penny should be thinking about the next step after two years of marriage, like buying a house or having a baby. Penny tells him she wants to do all those things someday, but she has a bunch of stuff she would like to do first.