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.
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.
While Jim Parsons was the one who'd had enough with The Big Bang Theory, opting not to renew his contract to play socially awkward theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper and bringing about the demise of the show in the process, he won't be escaping the show's orbit entirely. He's still attached as both executive producer and narrator of prequel series Young Sheldon, returning for a third season on CBS this fall. "There was no factor; there was no situation that I was like, 'Well, I've had enough of that.' No. There was nothing like that. It was just…when you know, you know," he explained to The Hollywood Reporter in mid-May.
On March 13, 2017, CBS ordered the spin-off Young Sheldon series. Jon Favreau directed and executive produced the pilot. Created by Lorre and Molaro, the series follows 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper as he attends high school in East Texas. Alongside Armitage as 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper and Perry as Mary Cooper, Lance Barber stars as George Cooper, Sheldon's father; Raegan Revord stars as Missy Cooper, Sheldon's twin sister; and Montana Jordan as George Cooper Jr., Sheldon's older brother. Jim Parsons reprises his role as adult Sheldon Cooper, as narrator for the series. Parsons, Lorre, Molaro and Todd Spiewak will also serve as executive producers on the series, for Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television. The show's pilot episode premiered on September 25, 2017. Subsequent weekly episodes began airing on November 2, 2017 following the broadcast of the 237th episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Star Trek in particular is frequently referenced and Sheldon identifies strongly with the character of Spock, so much so that when he is given a used napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy as a Christmas gift from Penny he is overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude ("I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy?!"). Star Trek: The Original Series cast member George Takei has made a cameo, and Leonard Nimoy made a cameo as the voice of Sheldon's vintage Mr. Spock action figure (both cameos were in dream sequences). Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton have had cameos as themselves, while Wil Wheaton has a recurring role as a fictionalized version of himself. Leonard and Sheldon have had conversations in the Klingon language.
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.