Initial reception for the series was mixed. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 52% approval rating for the first season based on reviews from 23 critics, with an average rating of 5.18/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Big Bang Theory brings a new class of character to mainstream television, but much of the comedy feels formulaic and stiff." On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 57 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Later seasons received more acclaim and in 2013, TV Guide ranked the series #52 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time.
The Canadian alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies wrote and recorded the show's theme song, which describes the history and formation of the universe and the Earth. Co-lead singer Ed Robertson was asked by Lorre and Prady to write a theme song for the show after the producers attended one of the band's concerts in Los Angeles. By coincidence, Robertson had recently read Simon Singh's book Big Bang, and at the concert improvised a freestyle rap about the origins of the universe. Lorre and Prady phoned him shortly thereafter and asked him to write the theme song. Having been asked to write songs for other films and shows, but ending up being rejected because producers favored songs by other artists, Robertson agreed to write the theme only after learning that Lorre and Prady had not asked anyone else.
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.
Sheldon's childhood friend from Texas, Tam, is visiting the university with his son. Sheldon does not want to see him and the others wonder why Sheldon has never mentioned Tam. Tam is unaware Sheldon is angry with him, thinking they just naturally drifted apart. Sheldon's brother George does not know the reason either. Sheldon eventually reveals Tam promised he would move to California with Sheldon, but then got a girlfriend and stayed with her, leaving Sheldon feeling abandoned. Tam and Sheldon make up and Sheldon has Leonard take Tam to the airport. Meanwhile, Penny and Bernadette want to get to know Anu, impressed by her connections in the hotel industry. They tell her embarrassing things about Raj and wonder if they can go out with her again after Raj confronts them.
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.
On March 16, 2014, a Lego Ideas project portraying the living room scene in Lego style with the main cast as mini-figures reached 10,000 supporters on the platform, which qualified it to be considered as an official set by the Lego Ideas review board. On November 7, 2014, Lego Ideas approved the design and began refining it. The set was released in August 2015, with an exclusive pre-sale taking place at the San Diego Comic-Con International.
Through the use of his vanity cards at the end of episodes, Lorre alleged that the program had been plagiarized by a show produced and aired in Belarus. Officially titled Теоретики (The Theorists), the show features "clones" of the main characters, a similar opening sequence, and what appears to be a very close Russian translation of the scripts. Lorre expressed annoyance and described his inquiry with the Warner Bros. legal department about options. The television production company and station's close relationship with the Belarus government was cited as the reason that any attempt to claim copyright infringement would be in vain because the company copying the episodes is operated by the government.
Sheldon cannot find the perfect wedding date and begins talking in his sleep, adopting the persona of a laid-back person who goes with the flow. Amy and Penny believe that his subconscious mind is trying to tell him to be more relaxed; his attempt to be so while wearing flip-flops ends in disaster. He decides to leave all the wedding planning to Amy while he wears a Star Trek uniform underneath his tuxedo. Meanwhile, Raj and Stuart both become interested in Bernadette's new coworker Ruchi. While she likes them both as friends, she does not want a relationship with anyone.
Live+7 data is currently available only through May 5, but the top dogs will likely see little change once the final numbers are in for the traditional September-May season. The top gainer in adults 18-49 was NBC’s “This Is Us” with an average lift of 1.8 ratings points. The number two spot was a tie between CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” and NBC’s “Manifest,” with both of those shows adding 1.5 ratings points on average. These numbers do not include “Big Bang Theory’s” series finale, however, which pulled in a 3.1 rating and 18 million viewers in Live+Same Day alone on May 16.
In scenes set at Howard's home, he interacts with his rarely-seen mother (voiced by Carol Ann Susi until her death) by shouting from room to room in the house. She similarly interacts with other characters in this manner. She reflects the Jewish mother stereotype in some ways, such as being overly controlling of Howard's adult life and sometimes trying to make him feel guilty about causing her trouble. She is dependent on Howard, as she requires him to help her with her wig and makeup in the morning. Howard, in turn, is attached to his mother to the point where she still cuts his meat for him, takes him to the dentist, does his laundry and "grounds" him when he returns home after briefly moving out. Until Howard's marriage to Bernadette in the fifth-season finale, Howard's former living situation led Leonard's psychiatrist mother to speculate that he may suffer from some type of pathology, and Sheldon to refer to their relationship as Oedipal. In season 8, Howard's mother dies in her sleep while in Florida, which devastates Howard and Stuart, who briefly lived with Mrs. Wolowitz.