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.
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.
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.
In November 2016, it was reported that CBS was in negotiations to create a spin-off of The Big Bang Theory centered on Sheldon as a young boy. The prequel series, described as "a Malcolm in the Middle-esque single-camera family comedy" would be executive-produced by Lorre and Molaro, with Prady expected to be involved in some capacity, and intended to air in the 2017–18 season alongside The Big Bang Theory. The initial idea for the series came from Parsons, who passed it along to The Big Bang Theory producers. In early March 2017, Iain Armitage was cast as the younger Sheldon, as well as Zoe Perry as his mother, Mary Cooper. Perry is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who portrays Mary Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.
Campbell and Pemberton start a publicity tour for their Nobel campaign, including appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Caltech reaches out to previous winners, including George Smoot, Kip Thorne and Frances H. Arnold, only to find that Sheldon has offended most of them in the past. Leonard and Penny convince them to show up to the reception, only for Pemberton and Campbell to crash the party. Leonard holds Sheldon back, only for Amy to verbally snap at them. Meanwhile, with Halley scared of the dark, Stuart and Bernadette turn Howard's story from his time in outer space into the children's book: The Frightened Little Astronaut. Howard is embarrassed until Bernadette talks him into helping children and Stuart's art career by letting it be published.
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.
After Sheldon reminds the guys about the time they mined Bitcoin without him, the guys go on a quest to find their suddenly valuable missing cryptocurrency. They realize the currency is on a laptop which Leonard gave to Penny when they dating, which she then gave to her ex-boyfriend Zack. After Leonard and Penny go to Zack's apartment, he shows them a seven-year-old video that Penny recorded on the laptop soon after she broke up with Leonard. Leonard is touched by the video which shows a drunk Penny lamenting the break-up of her relationship with him.