The Big Bang Theory signs off for good on Thursday, May 16, meaning that there's only one last bazinga left in the pipeline before we're forced to say farewell to Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, and the gang after 12 laugh-filled seasons. And while there's still a few questions left to be answered by the big one-hour series finale—Will the elevator ever be fixed? And will we ever learn Penny's maiden name?—there's a bigger one looming for when the credits roll and it's all over.
Wil Wheaton brings William Shatner on his Professor Proton show to meet Sheldon, who gets so excited that he vomits on Shatner. Going to Wil to apologize, he finds Wil hosts a Dungeons & Dragons group with his celebrity friends including Shatner. Finding out Stuart is in the group and never told them, the guys make Stuart panic and quit. Wil secretly invites Leonard who discovers that the group also includes Shatner, Kevin Smith, Joe Manganiello and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Leonard tells Penny, who tells Amy and Bernadette, all three women having a crush on Manganiello. Because of that indiscretion, Wil kicks out Leonard and admonishes the guys for using him for his connections, and says that one of the worst things about being a celebrity is not knowing whether someone will like him for himself. To apologize, the guys invite Wil to play D&D with them at Leonard’s apartment, but Wil, secretly in the middle of a game with Penny, Amy and Bernadette and the group, politely turns them down, before allowing the girls to send them a photo of the events as payback.
Laura Spencer as Emily Sweeney (recurring seasons 7–8, 10, starring season 9): 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).
'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.)
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.
After Neil Gaiman tweets about Stuart's comic book store, it becomes very popular, and the crowds upset Sheldon. Stuart hires an assistant manager named Denise and she impresses Sheldon with her comic recommendations. Amy goes to her for information on comics to connect to Sheldon but when she tries to tell him, he says he's talked enough about comics with Denise. The store's popularity causes Stuart to be unable to babysit for Howard and Bernadette's date night. They try to have another at home, but Stuart shows up so they hurriedly go out. Meanwhile, as Raj sets up a telescope, Penny sees a new comet. Raj takes sole credit for the discovery, angering Penny. Leonard tries to defend her but feels sorry for hurting Raj's career. Penny confronts Raj herself and he agrees to share credit after Penny doesn't give in like Leonard.
"Big Bang" thrived with the addition of new characters, including scientists Amy (Bialik) and Bernadette (Rauch) and comic-book-store owner Stuart (Kevin Sussman), says Helberg, part of the original cast with Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco and Nayyar. (The show eventually spawned a hit prequel spinoff, "Young Sheldon," which heads into its third season in the fall, most likely in the "Big Bang" time slot.)
Showrunner Steve Molaro, who took over from Bill Prady with the sixth season, credits some of the show's success to the sitcom's exposure in off-network syndication, particularly on TBS, while Michael Schneider of TV Guide attributes it to the timeslot move two seasons earlier. Chuck Lorre and CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler also credit the success to the influence of Molaro, in particular the deepening exploration of the firmly established regular characters and their interpersonal relationships, such as the on-again, off-again relationship between Leonard and Penny. Throughout much of the 2012–13 season, The Big Bang Theory placed first in all of syndication ratings, receiving formidable competition from only Judge Judy and Wheel of Fortune (first-run syndication programs). By the end of the 2012–13 television season, The Big Bang Theory had dethroned Judge Judy as the ratings leader in all of syndicated programming with 7.1, Judy descending to second place for that season with a 7.0. The Big Bang Theory did not place first in syndication ratings for the 2013–14 television season, beaten out by Judge Judy.
The first and second pilots of The Big Bang Theory were directed by James Burrows, who did not continue with the show. The reworked second pilot led to a 13-episode order by CBS on May 14, 2007. Prior to its airing on CBS, the pilot episode was distributed on iTunes free of charge. The show premiered on September 24, 2007, and was picked up for a full 22-episode season on October 19, 2007. The show is filmed in front of a live audience, and is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions. Production was halted on November 6, 2007, due to the Writers Guild of America strike. Nearly three months later, on February 4, 2008, the series was temporarily replaced by a short-lived sitcom, Welcome to The Captain. The series returned on March 17, 2008, in an earlier time slot and ultimately only 17 episodes were produced for the first season.
^ From the eighth season onward, episodes of each season initially aired on Monday nights, before later returning to the Thursday night slot for the rest of the season. The eighth and ninth seasons returned on the seventh episode, the tenth and eleventh seasons on the sixth episode, and the twelfth season on the second episode.
Professor Proton, Sheldon's favorite childhood show, is being rebooted. After unsuccessfully auditioning for the part, he goes to Wil Wheaton for acting tips for his second audition. However, Sheldon is later dismayed when Wil is offered the role instead. Talking it over with Arthur in his dreams, he is still upset to see his idol replaced and considers Wil an enemy again. Meanwhile, Howard gets a vasectomy while Bernadette is on bed rest. Penny offers to take care of Halley for them, but they insult her by expecting her to be irresponsible. Halley ends up saying her first word by calling Penny "Mama."
After the birth of Michael, Howard and Bernadette are unsure who should stay home with the kids. Howard decides to look after the kids one day to show he has what it takes to care for them. While Bernadette falls back in love with her job on a trip to the office, Howard is quickly tired and realizes he might not have what it takes to be a stay-at-home dad. Howard and Bernadette realize neither them is ready to give up their job.
Sheldon's childhood friend from Texas, Tam, is visiting the university with his son. Sheldon does not want to see him and the others wonder why Sheldon has never mentioned Tam. Tam is unaware Sheldon is angry with him, thinking they just naturally drifted apart. Sheldon's brother George does not know the reason either. Sheldon eventually reveals Tam promised he would move to California with Sheldon, but then got a girlfriend and stayed with her, leaving Sheldon feeling abandoned. Tam and Sheldon make up and Sheldon has Leonard take Tam to the airport. Meanwhile, Penny and Bernadette want to get to know Anu, impressed by her connections in the hotel industry. They tell her embarrassing things about Raj and wonder if they can go out with her again after Raj confronts them.