The fourth season's second half began on June 30, 2011. Season 5 began airing on November 3, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. as part of E4's Comedy Thursdays, acting as a lead-in to the channel's newest comedy, Perfect Couples. Episode 19, the highest-viewed episode of the season, attracted 1.4 million viewers. Season 6 premiered on November 15, 2012, with 1.89 million viewers and a further 469,000 on the time shift channel, bringing the total to 2.31 million, E4's highest viewing ratings of 2012, and the highest the channel had received since June 2011. The sixth season returned in mid-2013 to finish airing the remaining episodes. Season 7 premiered on E4 on October 31, 2013 at 8:30pm and hit multiple ratings records this season. The second half of season seven aired in mid 2014. The eighth season premiered on E4 on October 23, 2014 at 8:30 p.m. During its eighth season, The Big Bang Theory shared its 8:30 p.m. time period with fellow CBS comedy, 2 Broke Girls. Following the airing of the first eight episodes of that show's fourth season, The Big Bang Theory returned to finish airing its eighth season on March 19, 2015.
In the third-season finale, Raj and Howard sign Sheldon up for online dating to find a woman compatible with Sheldon and discover neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler. Like him, she has a history of social ineptitude and participates in online dating only to fulfill an agreement with her mother. This spawns a storyline in which Sheldon and Amy communicate daily while insisting to Leonard and Penny that they are not romantically involved. In "The Agreement Dissection", Sheldon and Amy talk in her apartment after a night of dancing and she kisses him on the lips. Instead of getting annoyed, Sheldon says "fascinating" and later asks Amy to be his girlfriend in "The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition". The same night he draws up "The Relationship Agreement" to verify the ground rules of him as her boyfriend and vice versa (similar to his "Roommate Agreement" with Leonard). Amy agrees but later regrets not having had a lawyer read through it.
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.
Sheldon and Amy struggle to choose a best man and maid of honor from their friends. They secretly decide to test and score them, allowing everyone to have an equal shot at either role. Once the gang finds out, none of them apart from Bernadette and Stuart want to be in the wedding. Sheldon settles for Stuart as best man but, once Leonard tells Sheldon that, as the groom, the decision is his alone, he picks Leonard. Amy is set to call Bernadette but, once Penny realizes Amy is her best friend, she immediately pitches herself for the position and Amy enthusiastically chooses her. Amy later makes Penny tell Bernadette the bad news.
When Leonard receives a braggy Christmas letter from his brother, he feels bad about how little he and Penny have achieved in the past year. Leonard wonders if he and Penny should be thinking about the next step after two years of marriage, like buying a house or having a baby. Penny tells him she wants to do all those things someday, but she has a bunch of stuff she would like to do first.