Leonard and Sheldon are brilliant physicists—geniuses in the laboratory but socially challenged everywhere else. Enter beautiful, street-smart neighbor Penny, who aims to teach them a thing or two about life. Despite their on-again, off-again relationship in the past, Leonard and Penny have finally gotten married. Even Sheldon has found a female companion, entering into a "relationship agreement" with neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, and he recently took their relationship to the next level by marrying her after a long courtship. In their free time, Leonard and Sheldon enjoy fantasy role-playing games with their ever-expanding universe of friends, including fellow scientists Koothrappali, Wolowitz, and Wolowitz’s adorable microbiologist wife, Bernadette, who is adjusting to life with their two children.
The show's pilot episode premiered on September 24, 2007. This was the second pilot produced for the show. A different pilot was produced for the 2006–07 television season but never aired. The structure of the original unaired pilot was substantially different from the series' current form. The only main characters retained in both pilots were Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), who are named after Sheldon Leonard, a longtime figure in episodic television as producer, director and actor. A minor character, Althea (Vernee Watson), appeared in the first scene of both pilots that was retained generally as-is. The first pilot included two female lead characters - Katie, "a street-hardened, tough-as-nails woman with a vulnerable interior" (played by Canadian actress Amanda Walsh) and Gilda, a scientist colleague and friend of the male characters (played by Iris Bahr). Sheldon and Leonard meet Katie after she breaks up with a boyfriend and they invite her to share their apartment. Gilda is threatened by Katie's presence. Test audiences reacted negatively to Katie, but they liked Sheldon and Leonard. The original pilot used Thomas Dolby's hit "She Blinded Me with Science" as its theme song.
And while the actor, 44, doesn't have any other gigs lined up just yet—his most recent stab at producing, CBS' Living Biblically, was canceled after 13 episodes in 2018—he's busy preparing for his biggest role yet: fatherhood. On May 3, 2019, he and girlfriend Alaina Meyer announced that they were expecting their first child together. "We are absolutely over the moon to announce that we will soon be welcoming a little one into this crazy and wonderful world," he wrote on social media, sharing the big news. "There truly is love out there for all. We hope ours is the ember of yours, as we feel yours is the ember of ours."
Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler (guest star season 3, starring seasons 4–12): A woman selected by an online dating site as Sheldon's perfect mate. Amy is from Glendale, CA. While she and Sheldon initially share social cluelessness, after befriending Penny and Bernadette she eventually becomes more interested in social and romantic interaction. Her relationship with Sheldon slowly progresses to the point at which Sheldon considers her his girlfriend, eventually they get married. Amy believes she and Penny are best friends, a sentiment that Penny does not initially share. Amy has a Ph.D. in neurobiology.
Sheldon has been writing to the reclusive scientist Dr. Wolcott (Peter MacNicol) who invites Sheldon to visit him in his completely isolated mountain cabin. The women quickly ask Leonard, Raj and Howard to tag along with him, making this his bachelor party, despite Sheldon's assertions that it shouldn't be called such. Wolcott has a brilliant mind but his behavior is very strange to the guys. He tells Sheldon he cut off all contact with others to focus on science. Though Sheldon enjoys the science, he decides that he doesn't want to live like Wolcott because of his friends and Amy. The guys leave to avoid Wolcott, whose theories about time make him doubt whether the guys were ever there. Meanwhile, Penny and Bernadette throw Amy a quilting bee for her bachelorette party, which she quickly finds boring. When Amy tells them she wants a night full of bad decisions as she earlier implied, they go to a bar where Amy drinks a few shots and passes out in twelve minutes. When she wakes up back at the apartment hungover and disappointed, the women lie and reassure her she had a wild time, involving her drunkenly riverdancing.
After learning Sheldon went behind their backs to work with the military again, Leonard and Howard say Sheldon is like Thomas Edison, taking credit for others' ideas, while they are more like Nikola Tesla. Leonard and Howard bring in Barry Kripke to help create a better idea than Sheldon's, but Kripke goes to the military himself, cutting all three of them out. Meanwhile, Bernadette fears Ruchi is trying to steal her projects at work while she is on maternity leave and enlists Raj to spy on her. Though he finds proof that Ruchi may be stealing from Bernadette, Raj tries to defend Ruchi like a boyfriend would, pointing out Bernadette's hypocrisy as she would most likely have stolen from other people's projects as well. Ruchi is not happy about this and promptly dumps Raj.
The sixth season boasts some of the highest-rated episodes for the show so far, with a then-new series high set with "The Bakersfield Expedition", with 20 million viewers, a first for the series, which along with NCIS, made CBS the first network to have two scripted series reach that large an audience in the same week since 2007. In the sixth season, the show became the highest rated and viewed scripted show in the 18–49 demographic, trailing only the live regular NBC Sunday Night Football coverage, and was third in total viewers, trailing NCIS and Sunday Night Football. Season seven of the series opened strong, continuing the success gained in season six, with the second episode of the premiere, "The Deception Verification", setting the new series high in viewers with 20.44 million.
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (recurring season 3, starring seasons 4–12): A young woman who initially is a co-worker at The Cheesecake Factory with Penny to pay her way through graduate school, where she is studying microbiology. Bernadette is introduced to Howard by Penny; at first, they do not get along, apparently having nothing in common. They date and later get engaged and married. Although generally a sweet and good-natured person, Bernadette has a short fuse and can be vindictive and lash out when provoked.