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.
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.”
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.
Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz: An aerospace engineer who got his Masters at MIT. Howard is Jewish and lived with his mother, Debbie (Carol Ann Susi). Unlike Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Bernadette and Amy, Howard does not hold a doctorate. He goes into space, training as an astronaut and serving as a payload specialist. Howard initially fancies himself as a womanizer, but he later starts dating Bernadette, and they get engaged and married. Howard also has a tendency to waste money on toys and argues with Bernadette because of his oddly low income as an engineer and her high income as a pharmaceutical biochemist.
Leonard's mother Beverly visits, and he is thrilled when she takes an interest in his work. However, when he learns that she is doing research on him for a new parenting book, he is furious. He prepares to tell her how she let him down over the years, but instead chooses to accept and forgive her, and forgive himself for holding onto that resentment for so long. Beverley is touched that he forgave her and they share a genuine hug. Meanwhile, Anu gets a job offer in London. Raj prepares to fly out and propose to her, ready to follow her if she accepts. Howard stops Raj at the airport, saying there is a better match out there for him, convincing Raj to return home. Stuart and Denise are bothered by her creepy roommate Mitch, while Bernadette and Howard are tired of Denise constantly staying overnight with Stuart at their house. Stuart says he is ready to move in with Denise, and they say they love each other while convincing Mitch to move out.
Bert asks for Sheldon's help in a geology research project relating to dark matter. Sheldon secretly agrees, but is too embarrassed to admit he is working with rocks. Bert finds out about this and ends their partnership. After talking with Amy, Sheldon goes to apologize, only to find Leonard has taken his place. Meanwhile, Raj runs into Ruchi again and goes out with her, but she does not believe in romantic love. After Howard and Bernadette tell Raj that he can just have sex with Ruchi, he agrees to keep it casual.
When Raj misses out on a job at the planetarium, his father says he has no confidence because Howard always makes fun of him. Raj distances himself from Howard and later gets the job. Howard is hurt by this (even after apologizing to him) and tries to make amends with Raj after his first performance at the planetarium but, when he sees him get a date, he leaves without speaking to him, thinking that the latter's life is better without him. Meanwhile, Sheldon and Amy try randomly dividing up wedding tasks, but they keep arguing. The only thing they can agree on is to get married, so they decide to just get married at City Hall. However, Sheldon decides that he wants a first dance with his new wife and they go home to plan their wedding.
Kunal Nayyar as Rajesh Koothrappali: A particle astrophysicist originally from New Delhi, India. Raj is initially unable to talk to women unless he drinks alcohol. Raj also has very feminine tastes and often takes on a stereotypical female role in his friendship with Howard as well as in the group of four men. Raj later dates Lucy (Kate Micucci), who also suffers from social anxiety, but it eventually ends; he later speaks to Penny without alcohol and thus overcomes his selective mutism. He begins dating Emily and their relationship later becomes exclusive. Raj also has a Yorkshire Terrier named Cinnamon.
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.
The first and second seasons were only available on DVD at their time of release in 2008 and 2009. Starting with the release of the third season in 2010 and continuing every year with every new season, a Blu-ray disc set has also been released in conjunction with the DVD. In 2012, Warner Bros. released the first two seasons on Blu-ray, marking the first time that all episodes were available on the Blu-ray disc format.