There was an unaired pilot which CBS did not broadcast. In March 2017, CBS announced that the series was renewed for two more years, leading the show to a total of 12 seasons. The twelfth season premiered on September 24, 2018, and served as the series' final season. During the course of the series, 279 episodes of The Big Bang Theory aired over 12 seasons.
In March 2017, the main cast members (Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg, and Nayyar) took a 10% pay cut to allow Bialik and Rauch an increase in their earnings. This put Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg and Nayyar at $900,000 per episode, with Parsons, Galecki, and Helberg also receiving overall deals with Warner Bros. Television. By the end of April, Bialik and Rauch had signed deals to earn $500,000 per episode, each, with the deals also including a separate development component for both actors. The deal was an increase from the $175,000 – $200,000 the duo had been making per episode.
Kunal Nayyar as Rajesh Koothrappali: 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.
As the theme of the show revolves around science, many distinguished and high-profile scientists have appeared as guest stars on the show. Famous astrophysicist and Nobel laureate George Smoot had a cameo appearance in the second season. Theoretical physicist Brian Greene appeared in the fourth season, as well as astrophysicist, science populizer, and physics outreach specialist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who also appeared in the twelfth season.
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (recurring season 3, starring seasons 4–12): A young woman who initially is a co-worker at The Cheesecake Factory with Penny to pay her way through graduate school, where she is studying microbiology. Bernadette is introduced to Howard by Penny; at first, they do not get along, apparently having nothing in common. They date and later get engaged and married. Although generally a sweet and good-natured person, Bernadette has a short fuse and can be vindictive and lash out when provoked.
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.