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.
In the episode "The Launch Acceleration", Amy tries to use her "neurobiology bag of tricks" to increase the attraction between herself and Sheldon. In the final fifth-season episode "The Countdown Reflection", Sheldon takes Amy's hand as Howard is launched into space. In the sixth season first episode "The Date Night Variable", after a dinner in which Sheldon fails to live up to this expectation, Amy gives Sheldon an ultimatum that their relationship is over unless he tells her something from his heart. Amy accepts Sheldon's romantic speech even after learning that it is a line from the first Spider-Man movie. In "The Cooper/Kripke Inversion" Sheldon states that he has been working on his discomfort about physical contact and admits that "it's a possibility" that he could one day have sex with Amy. Amy is revealed to have similar feelings in "The Love Spell Potential". Sheldon explains that he never thought about intimacy with anyone before Amy.
When Mayim Bialik first learned she had to say goodbye to neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, she opened up about the show ending in a blog post, asking, "And now I start to figure out what next. Where will life take me? Where will this career go? What do I want?" Up next she has a voice role in The Inspector Chronicles, a quasi-parody of Doctor Who making the leap from short to feature film. She'll reprise her role as the voice of the Inspector's time machine, known as B.O.O.T.H. Aside from that, she doesn't have any major projects lined up, aside from preparing to not see her close-knit cast the way she'd grown accustomed to. "We'll have to see what our lives look like," she told Us Weekly in early May about the chance they'll remain close. "I mean, we're all going to be on different schedules now; it's very different."
Two nerdy physicists share an apartment and an unlikely friendship with their beautiful neighbor with whom one of them is infatuated. Like the universe after the big bang, the show's popularity expanded, thanks to breakout star Jim Parsons, along with the chemistry among the friends and the developing romance between Leonard and Penny. The addition of Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik in later seasons also enhanced the stories and relationships of the leads.
Leonard tells Zack and Marissa he will father their child, but Penny tries to seduce him despite knowing he has to be abstinent for a few days. Her visiting father, Wyatt, points out her actions suggest she is more conflicted over having kids than she lets on, which she admits. Wyatt says he will support her no matter what. Meanwhile, Sheldon and Amy warn that he will not be allowed to raise a child that is not his. Leonard decides not to go through with it; he tells Zack to have Sheldon be the donor, but Amy forbids it. Meanwhile, Howard turns Raj's cancelled bachelor party into a couples' trip into a zero-gravity aircraft, though he's convinced that Bernadette would hate it. Bernadette tries to get out of it so Howard sits out, forcing Bernadette to go through with it just to prove him wrong, though she does not enjoy it.
Warner Bros. Television controls the online rights for the show. Full episodes are available at tv.com, while short clips and recently aired full episodes are available on cbs.com. In Canada, recent episode(s) and pictures are available on CTV.ca. Additionally in Canada, the first six seasons are available for streaming on Bell Media's CraveTV. After the show has aired in New Zealand the shows are available in full online at TVNZ's on demand web service.
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.
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.
Howard and Raj are still fighting, so Howard dis-invites Raj to Halley's birthday party. However, when Stuart pulls out as party planner at the last minute, Raj agrees to plan the party, which doesn't turn out too well due to Halley being asleep, Bernadette being on bed rest, and no people turning up. When Howard and Raj get into a shoving match in the party's bounce house, they end up letting out their frustrations, but also having fun and reconciling. Leonard is depressed upon receiving his successful brother's Christmas card and attempts to make a list of what he and Penny accomplished this year, not coming up with much. This prompts them to think about their plans for the future, so they decide to go on trips and achieve more out of life together before starting a family. Sheldon cooks Amy a Little House on the Prairie-themed birthday dinner, which gives them both food poisoning. They eventually recover enough to attend Halley's birthday party with the others, where they have fun in the bouncy castle and then have sex in Howard and Bernadette's house.
Laura Spencer as Emily Sweeney (recurring seasons 7–8, 10, starring season 9): A dermatologist at Huntington Hospital. Emily went to Harvard and delights in the macabre and states that she likes her job because she can cut things with knives. Prior to meeting Raj, Emily was set up on a blind date with Howard. After finding Emily's online dating profile, Raj has Amy contact her as his wingman instead. Their relationship becomes exclusive, but Raj later breaks up with Emily when he becomes infatuated with the bartender Claire (Alessandra Torresani).
Sheldon needs half a billion dollars to prove his latest concept of string theory, which the University cannot afford to fund. Crowdfunding and selling some of his most valuable comic books to Stuart give him a small start. When Raj mentions gambling in Las Vegas, Sheldon goes there but is caught calculating odds by security before he can make any bets. Meanwhile, Amy takes Penny and Bernadette shopping for her wedding dress. She loves an old-fashioned one that the other girls admit that they find ugly, though Penny assures Amy she can make her own decisions about her wedding. Sheldon, however, comes home and sees Amy in the dress and loves how she looks.
When Penny tells Leonard he needs to be more assertive in making decisions for himself, he starts standing up to Sheldon over small things. His confidence makes him want to demand the university support his idea for a plasma physics project. He threatens to quit if the university refuses, alarming both Sheldon and Penny, who consider this to be a risky career move. Sheldon is conflicted on whether or not he is being selfish over Leonard's decision, but Amy suggests that the fact that he is worried over Leonard's motivation proves that he does care about him, which he acknowledges. President Seibert refuses the project, but in order not to lose Leonard, gives him co-leadership over a photon entanglement project, leaving Leonard proud of himself and Penny impressed. Meanwhile, Raj shows Anu his lab, and suggests one possible answer for something he's seen in space might be alien life. When someone mentions this at his observatory presentation, the scientific community starts mocking him as a conspiracy theorist. Raj points out scientists should consider all possibilities when seeking the truth, though this causes people to think he believes in the Loch Ness Monster.
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".
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.
Amy enthusiastically accepts Sheldon's marriage proposal. However, when dining with Amy's colleagues later that night, Sheldon is offended that they are more impressed with Amy's work than his own. With help from Stephen Hawking, Sheldon later comes to grips with the fact that he will not always be the center of attention in the marriage. Bernadette is shocked to realize that she is pregnant again. She and Howard are not thrilled at the idea of having another baby so soon after their first. They attempt to convince Leonard and Penny to have a child as well, but are rebuffed.
Sheldon's mother Mary refuses to attend his wedding unless he invites his older brother George, with whom he is no longer speaking. Sheldon and Leonard fly to Texas to talk to George, who now owns a chain of tire stores. He refuses to attend and later explains to Leonard and Sheldon that the family sacrificed a lot to fund Sheldon's education, and he was stuck caring for their mother and sister Missy after their father died while Sheldon was in college. Sheldon never thanked him for this. Leonard takes George back to the hotel room where Sheldon apologizes for what he did and the brothers reconcile. George agrees to attend the wedding. Meanwhile, Howard and Bernadette's children contract pinkeye, infecting everyone except Penny, much to Amy's fury.
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.
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 and Amy recruit Leonard to research and write citations for their paper on super asymmetry. While working in the campus library, Leonard and Raj discover a Russian paper that asserts that super asymmetry has no merit. Reluctantly, Leonard shares the news with Sheldon and Amy, who fall into a depressive state and do not leave their apartment. Meanwhile, Bernadette asks Denise to teach her how to play Fortnite: Battle Royale so that she can beat Howard. Despite losing to Howard in a rematch after all of her training, Bernadette revels in beating a disinterested Penny.
Raj meets with the woman his father set up for him, Anu. Her commanding personality and practical approach to marriage startle Raj but he agrees to go ahead with it. Howard criticizes him but apologizes; he just never expected Raj to give up on romance. Raj admits this to Anu so she proposes to him, and he says yes. Raj also sends out a relationship questionnaire to Leonard and Penny, which soon reveals that Penny does not think she ever wants kids, upsetting Leonard, who would like to have kids someday, and their friends selfishly badger them on the issue. After telling her father Wyatt who is also upset, Leonard tells Penny that he'll be okay with it, as he never thought he'd have her in his life. To get his mind off of it, Penny rents Leonard a Batmobile to drive in and have fun with for the day. Meanwhile, Stuart starts bringing home Denise at night, which is very uncomfortable for Howard and Bernadette. When they also try to have time to themselves, they wake up their kids.