The first and second pilots of The Big Bang Theory were directed by James Burrows, who did not continue with the show. The reworked second pilot led to a 13-episode order by CBS on May 14, 2007. Prior to its airing on CBS, the pilot episode was distributed on iTunes free of charge. The show premiered on September 24, 2007, and was picked up for a full 22-episode season on October 19, 2007. The show is filmed in front of a live audience, and is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions. Production was halted on November 6, 2007, due to the Writers Guild of America strike. Nearly three months later, on February 4, 2008, the series was temporarily replaced by a short-lived sitcom, Welcome to The Captain. The series returned on March 17, 2008, in an earlier time slot and ultimately only 17 episodes were produced for the first season.
Howard dresses as Sheldon for Halloween at work, hurting Sheldon's feelings. When Howard does not apologize, Amy and Sheldon dress as Bernadette and Howard at Penny and Leonard's party, angering Bernadette. Sheldon and Bernadette later bond over their painful childhood memories. Leonard is upset that Penny does not seem to remember that their first kiss was on Halloween. Penny later admits she does remember, but does not like to think of their first kiss as an unromantic drunken hookup. She likes to imagine their first kiss was one they shared on Leonard's birthday, which pleases him.
Anu wants to have sex with Raj, but he gets so nervous in the leadup, that his selective mutism returns. Confessing to her, she is very understanding, revealing an unusual secret of her own. The next morning, he is able to have sex with her in the shower. Sheldon attempts to bond with his father-in-law, but Larry is more impressed with Howard's magic tricks, causing a jealous Sheldon to spend time with Mrs. Fowler. They bond after finding out Amy has been using Sheldon as an excuse to avoid her mother, though he does gently advise her to forgive her daughter like he would his wife. A remorseful Amy invites the Fowlers over for thanksgiving, where Sheldon and Mrs. Fowler continue to bond over Larry's ineptitude with magic.
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.
Science has also interfered with the characters' romantic lives. Leslie breaks up with Leonard when he sides with Sheldon in his support for string theory rather than loop quantum gravity. When Leonard joins Sheldon, Raj, and Howard on a three-month Arctic research trip, it separates Leonard and Penny at a time when their relationship is budding. When Bernadette takes an interest in Leonard's work, it makes both Penny and Howard envious and results in Howard confronting Leonard, and Penny asking Sheldon to teach her physics. Sheldon and Amy also briefly end their relationship after an argument over which of their fields is superior.
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.
Wednesday night is the group's designated "comic book night" because that is the day of the week when new comic books are released. The comic book store is run by fellow geek and recurring character Stuart. On a number of occasions, the group members have dressed up as pop culture characters, including The Flash, Aquaman, Frodo Baggins, Superman, Batman, Spock, The Doctor, Green Lantern, and Thor. As a consequence of losing a bet to Stuart and Wil Wheaton, the group members are forced to visit the comic book store dressed as Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Supergirl. DC Comics announced that, to promote its comics, the company will sponsor Sheldon wearing Green Lantern T-shirts.
Two months after the events of "The Change Constant", Sheldon and Leonard repair Sheldon's DNA molecule model as everyone prepares to fly to Sweden for the Nobel Prize award ceremony. Howard and Bernadette nervously leave their kids for the first time with Stuart and Denise, while Raj leaves his dog with Bert. Penny has become pregnant, though she and Leonard are keeping it a secret. On the flight, Raj thinks he spots Sarah Michelle Gellar. Penny's frequent bathroom trips make Sheldon fear she is sick. Leonard reveals the pregnancy to Sheldon, but instead of being excited for Penny, Sheldon is only selfishly relieved that he will not get sick and he exposes the pregnancy, offending Leonard. At the hotel, a series of minor incidents with their kids make Howard and Bernadette want to go home. Much to their dismay, Sheldon is still insensitive. Amy furiously tells Sheldon he broke their friends' hearts and they only tolerate him because he does not intentionally do so, which she also sometimes does. Everyone decides to stay for the ceremony and Raj brings Gellar. After they are awarded their medals, Amy encourages girls to pursue science while Sheldon thanks his family and then individually acknowledges each of his friends and Amy as his other family who always support him. The episode closes with the gang eating in Apartment 4A (an allusion to the final scene in the opening credits) as an acoustic version of the theme song's chorus plays.
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.
Amy and Howard begin collaborating on a neuroprosthetics project, upsetting Sheldon and Raj, who feel they are not spending as much time with them. When they seek solace with an annoyed Bernadette, she exploits the situation to trick Sheldon into doing Howard's chores. Penny successfully employs the approaches recommended in one of Bernadette's parenting books to deal with Sheldon, but Leonard believes she is coddling Sheldon too much. Sheldon and Raj resolve the issue of missing their significant others by spending time together.