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.
Sheldon and Amy decide on a wedding date of May 12th. They want to have their reception at the Athenaeum at Caltech. While scouting the location, they are shocked to see Leonard and Penny eating there, as Leonard had told Sheldon their application had been denied. In reality, Leonard just wanted a place to avoid Sheldon. Kripke has booked the venue for his birthday party on the same day as the wedding. Leonard cleans radioactive sludge for Kripke to get the date for Sheldon as an apology for lying. Kripke eventually agrees to change the day but when Amy hears he wants to sing at the wedding, she suggests they get married at the Griffith Observatory instead. Meanwhile, Bernadette and Howard are unsure if one of them should quit their job to stay home with the children. Howard volunteers, but when left alone with the children he passes out exhausted, leaving Raj in charge. When Bernadette meets Penny for lunch, she realizes that she loves being at the office again, but doesn't want to leave the children. She and Howard promise to figure it out later after they take a nap.
In May 2010, it was reported that the show had been picked up for syndication, mainly among Fox's owned and operated stations and other local stations, with Warner Bros. Television's sister cable network TBS holding the show's cable syndication rights. Broadcast of old shows began airing in September 2011. TBS now airs the series in primetime on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with evening broadcasts on Saturdays (TBS's former local sister station in Atlanta also holds local weeknight rights to the series). Although details of the syndication deal have not been revealed, it was reported the deal "set a record price for a cable off-network sitcom purchase". CTV holds national broadcast syndication rights in Canada, while sister cable network The Comedy Network holds cable rights.
While opening their wedding gifts, Sheldon and Amy cannot figure out the purpose of the glass shard Leonard and Penny gave them. They decide it must be a clue to a scavenger hunt to the real gift. They eventually end up in the coffee shop where they first met and find a locket in the lost and found that they think must be the real gift. The glass shard was actually a crystal chakra wand that Raj gave as a gift to Howard and Bernadette, who then re-gifted it to Leonard and Penny, who finally passed it on as a joke. Leonard and Penny find it less funny when they are given a coded thank-you note they have to use to unlock their WiFi. After making out with his employee Denise at Sheldon and Amy's wedding reception, Stuart finally asks Denise out on a date; while preparing for the date, he has a spray-tan accident, but she just finds it funny and still goes out with him. Raj is depressed everyone else has a relationship and asks his father to arrange a marriage.
Sara Gilbert as Leslie Winkle (recurring season 1, starring season 2, guest seasons 3, 9): A physicist who works in the same lab as Leonard. In appearance, she is essentially Leonard's female counterpart and has conflicting scientific theories with Sheldon. Leslie has casual sex with Leonard and later Howard. Gilbert was promoted to a main cast member during the second season but resumed guest star status because producers could not come up with enough material for the character. Gilbert returned to The Big Bang Theory for its 200th episode.
By season seven, Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco were also receiving 0.25% of the series' back-end money. Before production began on the eighth season, the three plus Helberg and Nayyar, looked to renegotiate new contracts, with Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco seeking around $1 million per episode, as well as more back-end money. Contracts were signed in the beginning of August 2014, giving the three principal actors an estimated $1 million per episode for three years, with the possibility to extend for a fourth year. The deals also include larger pieces of the show, signing bonuses, production deals, and advances towards the back-end. Helberg and Nayyar were also able to renegotiate their contracts, giving them a per-episode pay in the "mid-six-figure range", up from around $100,000 per episode they each received in years prior. The duo, who were looking to have salary parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, signed their contracts after the studio and producers threatened to write the characters out of the series if a deal could not be reached before the start of production on season eight. By season 10, Helberg and Nayyar reached the $1 million per episode parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, due to a clause in their deals signed in 2014.
"Every heart expanding adventure begins with a single step. This was mine for @bigbangtheory_cbs," Rauch wrote. "My first episode. Or my first 'step-isode' - if you will. The second pic is shortly after I joined the cast (I couldn’t believe I had my very own dressing room)! The friendships and memories that would build from these moments simply overwhelm me."
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.
Two physicists from Chicago, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Pemberton, accidentally prove Sheldon and Amy's super-asymmetry theory. This puts them on track for a Nobel Prize, but Leonard points out they tend to go to the experimental scientists who prove a concept instead of theorists like Sheldon who come up with it. Meeting with them, they tell Sheldon they are willing to share the Prize but only three names can be on the submission, and they want to cut Amy out. Amy does not want to prevent Sheldon's lifelong dream, but he goes to President Seibert who agrees to fight for Amy on their behalf. Meanwhile, Bernadette's drug has been approved and she wants to promote Penny to lead the marketing team. Penny resists, knowing Bernadette's attitude at work and doubting her own inexperience to take the responsibility, but Bernadette uses reverse-psychology to get Penny to take the job. Penny mirrors Bernadette's commanding style to get the other employees in line, impressing Bernadette.
Sheldon and Amy go on their honeymoon to New York City, starting with Legoland New York. Sheldon's insistence on scheduling their marital relations stresses Amy. He says he only does it to remind himself to be intimate with her. They compromise by letting him make a schedule without sharing it with her. Leonard and Penny discover Mr. Larry Fowler (Teller) in Sheldon and Amy's apartment hiding from his wife (Kathy Bates). Leonard notices parallels in his own marriage, which offends Penny. Leonard apologizes, and Penny convinces Mrs. Fowler to give her husband a break. When Mrs. Fowler wants to hang out with her regularly, Penny scares Larry out of the building. Raj instigates a Twitter feud with Neil deGrasse Tyson but is scared off when confronted over the phone. Neil then calls Bill Nye to scare him, too.
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.”
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".