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.
Penny runs into her ex-boyfriend Zack, who has gotten rich from selling his company and married a similarly dim-witted woman named Marissa. Meeting with Leonard and Penny, they say Zack is infertile and ask to pay Leonard as a sperm donor so they can have a baby. Leonard is flattered, but Penny finds it creepy. Leonard says that since Penny decided she did not want to have children, he should be allowed to help another couple with this issue. Sheldon advises him to think about the emotional toll this could have on him. Leonard says he will not do it if Penny objects; Penny says she will support whatever decision Leonard makes. Meanwhile, Raj tries to get Anu back but she points out he just wanted to be married like his friends. Raj points out that Anu is similarly looking for a quick marriage. He admits to Anu that he really likes her and they decide to start their relationship as just dating.
Laura Spencer as Emily Sweeney (recurring seasons 7–8, 10, starring season 9):[55] A dermatologist at Huntington Hospital. Emily went to Harvard and delights in the macabre and states that she likes her job because she can cut things with knives. Prior to meeting Raj, Emily was set up on a blind date with Howard. After finding Emily's online dating profile, Raj has Amy contact her as his wingman instead. Their relationship becomes exclusive, but Raj later breaks up with Emily when he becomes infatuated with the bartender Claire (Alessandra Torresani).
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (recurring season 3, starring seasons 4–12):[51] 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.
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.[145] 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.[146] 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.[147] The eighth season premiered on E4 on October 23, 2014 at 8:30 p.m.[148] 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.[149]
Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter:[42] An experimental physicist with an IQ of 173, who received his PhD when he was 24 years old. Leonard is a nerd who loves video games, comic books, and Dungeons & Dragons. Leonard is the straight man of the series, in which he shares an apartment in Pasadena, CA, with Sheldon. Leonard is smitten with his new neighbor Penny when they first meet, and they eventually marry.
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Sheldon needs half a billion dollars to prove his latest concept of string theory, which the University cannot afford to fund. Crowdfunding and selling some of his most valuable comic books to Stuart give him a small start. When Raj mentions gambling in Las Vegas, Sheldon goes there but is caught calculating odds by security before he can make any bets. Meanwhile, Amy takes Penny and Bernadette shopping for her wedding dress. She loves an old-fashioned one that the other girls admit that they find ugly, though Penny assures Amy she can make her own decisions about her wedding. Sheldon, however, comes home and sees Amy in the dress and loves how she looks.
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.[209] 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".[210]
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.
Raj hooks up with a recently separated woman, Nell, after one of his lectures at the planetarium. Her husband, Oliver, confronts Raj at the planetarium and then breaks down over the end of his marriage. After comforting Oliver, Raj talks to Nell and convinces her to give her husband another chance. Meanwhile, after diving once again into string theory and sprawling his work across his and Amy's apartment, Sheldon approaches a reluctant Leonard and Penny and convinces them to let him use his old room to study for a three-day trial period with an agreement to be quiet and stay out of their way. Sheldon surprisingly sticks to this agreement, being a reasonably good guest, which shockingly frustrates Leonard to no end. After Leonard lets out his frustrations, Sheldon then renegotiates the guest tenancy agreement for an extra few days and resumes being his normal demanding self, much to Leonard's relief.
After the strike ended, the show was picked up for a second season, airing in the 2008–2009 season, premiering in the same time slot on September 22, 2008.[17] With increasing ratings, the show received a two-year renewal through the 2010–11 season in 2009.[18][19] In 2011, the show was picked up for three more seasons.[20] In March 2014, the show was renewed again for three more years through the 2016–17 season. This marked the second time the series gained a three-year renewal.[21] In March 2017, the series was renewed for two additional seasons, bringing its total to 12, and running through the 2018–19 television season.[22]
In the apartment building where Sheldon, Leonard and Penny (and later Amy) live, the elevator has been out of order throughout most of the series, forcing characters to have to use the stairs. Stairway conversations between characters occur in almost every episode, often serving as a transition between longer scenes. The Season 3 episode, "The Staircase Implementation" reveals that the elevator was broken when Leonard was experimenting with rocket fuel.[89] In the penultimate episode of the series, the elevator is returned to an operational state, causing Sheldon some angst.
'The Big Bang Theory' executive producers Chuck Lorre, left, and Steve Hollland and stars Kevin Sussman, Mayim Bialik, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Kunal Nayyar stand to the left of 'The Big Bang Theory' stage plaque, with executive producer Bill Prady, star Melissa Rauch, executive producer Steven Molaro and star Johnny Galecki, director Mark Cendrowski and star Simon Helberg on the right. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

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.
Amy and Howard begin collaborating on a neuroprosthetics project, upsetting Sheldon and Raj, who feel they are not spending as much time with them. When they seek solace with an annoyed Bernadette, she exploits the situation to trick Sheldon into doing Howard's chores. Penny successfully employs the approaches recommended in one of Bernadette's parenting books to deal with Sheldon, but Leonard believes she is coddling Sheldon too much. Sheldon and Raj resolve the issue of missing their significant others by spending time together.
Sheldon needs half a billion dollars to prove his latest concept of string theory, which the University cannot afford to fund. Crowdfunding and selling some of his most valuable comic books to Stuart give him a small start. When Raj mentions gambling in Las Vegas, Sheldon goes there but is caught calculating odds by security before he can make any bets. Meanwhile, Amy takes Penny and Bernadette shopping for her wedding dress. She loves an old-fashioned one that the other girls admit that they find ugly, though Penny assures Amy she can make her own decisions about her wedding. Sheldon, however, comes home and sees Amy in the dress and loves how she looks.
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