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.
Warner Bros. Television controls the online rights for the show. Full episodes are available at tv.com, while short clips and recently aired full episodes are available on cbs.com. In Canada, recent episode(s) and pictures are available on CTV.ca. Additionally in Canada, the first six seasons are available for streaming on Bell Media's CraveTV. After the show has aired in New Zealand the shows are available in full online at TVNZ's on demand web service.
Wil Wheaton brings William Shatner on his Professor Proton show to meet Sheldon, who gets so excited that he vomits on Shatner. Going to Wil to apologize, he finds Wil hosts a Dungeons & Dragons group with his celebrity friends including Shatner. Finding out Stuart is in the group and never told them, the guys make Stuart panic and quit. Wil secretly invites Leonard who discovers that the group also includes Shatner, Kevin Smith, Joe Manganiello and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Leonard tells Penny, who tells Amy and Bernadette, all three women having a crush on Manganiello. Because of that indiscretion, Wil kicks out Leonard and admonishes the guys for using him for his connections, and says that one of the worst things about being a celebrity is not knowing whether someone will like him for himself. To apologize, the guys invite Wil to play D&D with them at Leonard’s apartment, but Wil, secretly in the middle of a game with Penny, Amy and Bernadette and the group, politely turns them down, before allowing the girls to send them a photo of the events as payback.
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.
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.