Leonard gives an interview on public radio where he admits physics research might be at a dead end. The university is furious and, while trying to think of reasons to put in a retraction, he depresses Sheldon into thinking he might be right. Howard and Raj come over and end up just as depressed. Getting drunk with Penny, the men go to the grave of Richard Feynman and realize there is hope for physics as long as they believe in it. Leonard accidentally sends a drunken email to Human Resources. Meanwhile, Amy and Bernadette agree with each other to keep quiet about the success in their careers so as not to upset Sheldon and Howard. While bragging to each other, they end up arguing which of their fields is better.
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.
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.
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.
Filming proceeds smoothly – makeup artists do touch-ups, a prop master replenishes the pickle supply – with humor and camaraderie between takes. When a reshoot is needed because Simon Helberg, who plays Howard, held his napkin in the wrong hand, Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, lifts her food box high and mockingly asks, “Does it go over my head? I don’t remember.”
In the season eight finale, Sheldon and Amy get into a fight about commitment on their fifth anniversary. Amy tells Sheldon that she needs to think about the future of their relationship, unaware that Sheldon was about to propose to her. Season nine sees Sheldon harassing Amy about making up her mind until she breaks up with him. Both struggle with singlehood and trying to be friends for the next few weeks until they reunite in episode ten and have sex for the first time on Amy's birthday.
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".
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."