Howard and Bernadette learn their second child will be a boy, leading Howard to doubt whether he can be a good father to a son. He and Sheldon go out in the desert to test launch a model rocket, but it explodes, causing him further doubt. On the way home, Howard does a good job coaching Sheldon to drive them home, for which Sheldon tells him he will be a good teacher to his son. Leonard's mother Beverly begins talking to Penny as a friend and confidant, troubling Leonard, especially when he learns that Beverly told Penny that she was proud of her, a level of praise she never bestowed upon Leonard himself. When Leonard confronts Beverly, he is touched when she says that of all of her children's spouses, Penny is the one by whom she is most impressed and that, for this, she is indeed proud of him. Meanwhile, Raj helps Bernadette turn baby girl clothes into boy ones.
Showrunner Steve Molaro, who took over from Bill Prady with the sixth season, credits some of the show's success to the sitcom's exposure in off-network syndication, particularly on TBS, while Michael Schneider of TV Guide attributes it to the timeslot move two seasons earlier. Chuck Lorre and CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler also credit the success to the influence of Molaro, in particular the deepening exploration of the firmly established regular characters and their interpersonal relationships, such as the on-again, off-again relationship between Leonard and Penny. Throughout much of the 2012–13 season, The Big Bang Theory placed first in all of syndication ratings, receiving formidable competition from only Judge Judy and Wheel of Fortune (first-run syndication programs). By the end of the 2012–13 television season, The Big Bang Theory had dethroned Judge Judy as the ratings leader in all of syndicated programming with 7.1, Judy descending to second place for that season with a 7.0. The Big Bang Theory did not place first in syndication ratings for the 2013–14 television season, beaten out by Judge Judy.
However, no legal action was required to end production of the other show: as soon as it became known that the show was unlicensed, the actors quit and the producers canceled it. Dmitriy Tankovich (who plays Leonard's counterpart, "Seva") said in an interview, "I'm upset. At first, the actors were told all legal issues were resolved. We didn't know it wasn't the case, so when the creators of The Big Bang Theory started talking about the show, I was embarrassed. I can't understand why our people first do, and then think. I consider this to be the rock bottom of my career. And I don't want to take part in a stolen show".
Filming proceeds smoothly – makeup artists do touch-ups, a prop master replenishes the pickle supply – with humor and camaraderie between takes. When a reshoot is needed because Simon Helberg, who plays Howard, held his napkin in the wrong hand, Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, lifts her food box high and mockingly asks, “Does it go over my head? I don’t remember.”
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.
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.
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.