The show's pilot episode premiered on September 24, 2007. This was the second pilot produced for the show. A different pilot was produced for the 2006–07 television season but never aired. The structure of the original unaired pilot was substantially different from the series' current form. The only main characters retained in both pilots were Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), who are named after Sheldon Leonard, a longtime figure in episodic television as producer, director and actor. A minor character, Althea (Vernee Watson), appeared in the first scene of both pilots that was retained generally as-is. The first pilot included two female lead characters - Katie, "a street-hardened, tough-as-nails woman with a vulnerable interior" (played by Canadian actress Amanda Walsh) and Gilda, a scientist colleague and friend of the male characters (played by Iris Bahr). Sheldon and Leonard meet Katie after she breaks up with a boyfriend and they invite her to share their apartment. Gilda is threatened by Katie's presence. Test audiences reacted negatively to Katie, but they liked Sheldon and Leonard. The original pilot used Thomas Dolby's hit "She Blinded Me with Science" as its theme song.
When Amy sees Sheldon obsessively tying and untying his bow tie the day before their wedding, Amy tells him it doesn't need to be even because sometimes a little asymmetry looks good. On the day of the wedding, Sheldon stops his mother from trying to straighten his bow tie, saying it's supposed to be a little asymmetrical. When Mary comments that sometimes it’s the imperfect stuff that makes things perfect, Sheldon has a flash of inspiration and rushes to see Amy. Sheldon and Amy’s wedding is delayed as they excitedly work on a new theory of “super asymmetry”.
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.
In May 2010, it was reported that the show had been picked up for syndication, mainly among Fox's owned and operated stations and other local stations, with Warner Bros. Television's sister cable network TBS holding the show's cable syndication rights. Broadcast of old shows began airing in September 2011. TBS now airs the series in primetime on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with evening broadcasts on Saturdays (TBS's former local sister station in Atlanta also holds local weeknight rights to the series). Although details of the syndication deal have not been revealed, it was reported the deal "set a record price for a cable off-network sitcom purchase". CTV holds national broadcast syndication rights in Canada, while sister cable network The Comedy Network holds cable rights.
Sheldon and Amy go on their honeymoon to New York City, starting with Legoland New York. Sheldon's insistence on scheduling their marital relations stresses Amy. He says he only does it to remind himself to be intimate with her. They compromise by letting him make a schedule without sharing it with her. Leonard and Penny discover Mr. Larry Fowler (Teller) in Sheldon and Amy's apartment hiding from his wife (Kathy Bates). Leonard notices parallels in his own marriage, which offends Penny. Leonard apologizes, and Penny convinces Mrs. Fowler to give her husband a break. When Mrs. Fowler wants to hang out with her regularly, Penny scares Larry out of the building. Raj instigates a Twitter feud with Neil deGrasse Tyson but is scared off when confronted over the phone. Neil then calls Bill Nye to scare him, too.
Kaley Cuoco as Penny: An aspiring actress from Omaha, Nebraska. Penny moves in across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard. She waits tables and occasionally tends the bar at the Cheesecake Factory. After giving up hope of becoming a successful actress, Penny becomes a pharmaceutical sales representative. Penny becomes friends with Bernadette and Amy, and they often hang out in each other's apartments. Penny and Leonard form a relationship and eventually marry.
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.