The show made its United Kingdom debut on Channel 4 on February 14, 2008. The show was also shown as a 'first-look' on Channel 4's digital offshoot E4 prior to the main channel's airing. While the show's ratings were not deemed strong enough for the main channel, they were considered the opposite for E4. For each following season, all episodes were shown first-run on E4, with episodes only aired on the main channel in a repeat capacity, usually on a weekend morning. From the third season, the show aired in two parts, being split so that it could air new episodes for longer throughout the year. This was due to rising ratings. The first part began airing on December 17, 2009, at 9:00 p.m. while the second part, containing the remaining eleven episodes, began airing in the same time period from May 6, 2010. The first half of the fourth season began airing on November 4, 2010, at 9:00 p.m., drawing 877,000 viewers, with a further 256,000 watching on the E4+1 hour service. This gave the show an overall total of 1.13 million viewers, making it E4's most-watched programme for that week. The increased ratings continued over subsequent weeks.
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.
After the birth of Michael, Howard and Bernadette are unsure who should stay home with the kids. Howard decides to look after the kids one day to show he has what it takes to care for them. While Bernadette falls back in love with her job on a trip to the office, Howard is quickly tired and realizes he might not have what it takes to be a stay-at-home dad. Howard and Bernadette realize neither them is ready to give up their job.
Two physicists from Chicago, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Pemberton, accidentally prove Sheldon and Amy's super-asymmetry theory. This puts them on track for a Nobel Prize, but Leonard points out they tend to go to the experimental scientists who prove a concept instead of theorists like Sheldon who come up with it. Meeting with them, they tell Sheldon they are willing to share the Prize but only three names can be on the submission, and they want to cut Amy out. Amy does not want to prevent Sheldon's lifelong dream, but he goes to President Seibert who agrees to fight for Amy on their behalf. Meanwhile, Bernadette's drug has been approved and she wants to promote Penny to lead the marketing team. Penny resists, knowing Bernadette's attitude at work and doubting her own inexperience to take the responsibility, but Bernadette uses reverse-psychology to get Penny to take the job. Penny mirrors Bernadette's commanding style to get the other employees in line, impressing Bernadette.
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.
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After Sheldon reminds the guys about the time they mined Bitcoin without him, the guys go on a quest to find their suddenly valuable missing cryptocurrency. They realize the currency is on a laptop which Leonard gave to Penny when they dating, which she then gave to her ex-boyfriend Zack. After Leonard and Penny go to Zack's apartment, he shows them a seven-year-old video that Penny recorded on the laptop soon after she broke up with Leonard. Leonard is touched by the video which shows a drunk Penny lamenting the break-up of her relationship with him.