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.
Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz:[45] 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 and Sheldon are brilliant physicists—geniuses in the laboratory but socially challenged everywhere else. Enter beautiful, street-smart neighbor Penny, who aims to teach them a thing or two about life. Despite their on-again, off-again relationship in the past, Leonard and Penny have finally gotten married. Even Sheldon has found a female companion, entering into a "relationship agreement" with neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, and he recently took their relationship to the next level by marrying her after a long courtship. In their free time, Leonard and Sheldon enjoy fantasy role-playing games with their ever-expanding universe of friends, including fellow scientists Koothrappali, Wolowitz, and Wolowitz’s adorable microbiologist wife, Bernadette, who is adjusting to life with their two children.
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.[207] 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.[208]
Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom (recurring seasons 2–5, 7, starring seasons 6, 8–12):[54] A mild-mannered, under-confident owner of a comic book store. A competent artist, Stuart is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, and though he is socially awkward he possesses slightly better social skills. Stuart implies he is in financial trouble and that the comic book store now also is his home. He is later invited to join the guys' group while Howard is in space. Stuart gets a new job caring for Howard's mother later. After Mrs. Wolowitz's death, Stuart continues to live in her home, along with Howard and Bernadette, until he finds a place of his own.
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."[91] On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 57 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[92] 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.[93]
^ "Editor's Note: With final Monday ratings in, The Big Bang Theory has now reached a new series high in viewers (16.32m) and was the night's top program in adults 18-49 (5.9/15), up a tenth from this morning. -- "Two and a Half Men" Soars to Its Best Adult 18-49 Rating in Three Years". CBS. March 9, 2010. Archived from the original on January 8, 2014. Retrieved January 5, 2013.

Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom (recurring seasons 2–5, 7, starring seasons 6, 8–12):[54] A mild-mannered, under-confident owner of a comic book store. A competent artist, Stuart is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, and though he is socially awkward he possesses slightly better social skills. Stuart implies he is in financial trouble and that the comic book store now also is his home. He is later invited to join the guys' group while Howard is in space. Stuart gets a new job caring for Howard's mother later. After Mrs. Wolowitz's death, Stuart continues to live in her home, along with Howard and Bernadette, until he finds a place of his own.

The men are excited that Bill Gates is visiting Penny's pharmaceutical company, although she says that she cannot bring them along. Sheldon believes that it's an April Fools' Day prank. Leonard sees what hotel Gates is staying at on Penny's schedule, so he, Raj and Howard meet him in the lobby the day before. Once Sheldon sees proof, the men twice send him to the wrong hotel as real pranks. Penny says Leonard can meet Gates for real, so he fakes being sick to avoid him. When Penny puts Gates on a video call, he recognizes Leonard from the previous night. Meanwhile, Amy is tired of Bernadette only talking about her children, so Bernadette uses her expanded parental brain to learn random science facts.
Regina King reprised her role as Janine Davis in “The Retraction Reaction”. Bob Newhart returned as Arthur Jeffries in “The Proton Regeneration”. Dean Norris reprised his role as Colonel Williams in “The Tesla Recoil”. Brian Thomas Smith returned as Zack in “The Bitcoin Entanglement”. Brian George guest starred as Raj’s father, Dr. Koothrappali, in “The Confidence Erosion”. Joshua Malina reprised his role as President Siebert in “The Monetary Insufficiency”.
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."
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.[85] 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.[86] 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,[87] and Sheldon to refer to their relationship as Oedipal.[88] In season 8, Howard's mother dies in her sleep while in Florida, which devastates Howard and Stuart, who briefly lived with Mrs. Wolowitz.

Science has also interfered with the characters' romantic lives. Leslie breaks up with Leonard when he sides with Sheldon in his support for string theory rather than loop quantum gravity.[70] When Leonard joins Sheldon, Raj, and Howard on a three-month Arctic research trip, it separates Leonard and Penny at a time when their relationship is budding. When Bernadette takes an interest in Leonard's work, it makes both Penny and Howard envious and results in Howard confronting Leonard, and Penny asking Sheldon to teach her physics.[71] Sheldon and Amy also briefly end their relationship after an argument over which of their fields is superior.[72]
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