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.
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.
Leonard and Sheldon are brilliant physicists—geniuses in the laboratory but socially challenged everywhere else. Enter beautiful, street-smart neighbor Penny, who aims to teach them a thing or two about life. Despite their on-again, off-again relationship in the past, Leonard and Penny have finally gotten married. Even Sheldon has found a female companion, entering into a "relationship agreement" with neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, and he recently took their relationship to the next level by marrying her after a long courtship. In their free time, Leonard and Sheldon enjoy fantasy role-playing games with their ever-expanding universe of friends, including fellow scientists Koothrappali, Wolowitz, and Wolowitz’s adorable microbiologist wife, Bernadette, who is adjusting to life with their two children.
Sheldon and Amy struggle to choose a best man and maid of honor from their friends. They secretly decide to test and score them, allowing everyone to have an equal shot at either role. Once the gang finds out, none of them apart from Bernadette and Stuart want to be in the wedding. Sheldon settles for Stuart as best man but, once Leonard tells Sheldon that, as the groom, the decision is his alone, he picks Leonard. Amy is set to call Bernadette but, once Penny realizes Amy is her best friend, she immediately pitches herself for the position and Amy enthusiastically chooses her. Amy later makes Penny tell Bernadette the bad news.
When Raj misses out on a job at the planetarium, his father says he has no confidence because Howard always makes fun of him. Raj distances himself from Howard and later gets the job. Howard is hurt by this (even after apologizing to him) and tries to make amends with Raj after his first performance at the planetarium but, when he sees him get a date, he leaves without speaking to him, thinking that the latter's life is better without him. Meanwhile, Sheldon and Amy try randomly dividing up wedding tasks, but they keep arguing. The only thing they can agree on is to get married, so they decide to just get married at City Hall. However, Sheldon decides that he wants a first dance with his new wife and they go home to plan their wedding.