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. 

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.”
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.
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]

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.”
The Big Bang Theory started off slowly in the ratings, failing to make the top 50 in its first season (ranking 68th), and ranking 40th in its second season. When the third season premiered on September 21, 2009, however, The Big Bang Theory ranked as CBS's highest-rated show of that evening in the adults 18–49 demographic (4.6/10) along with a then-series-high 12.83 million viewers.[94] After the first three seasons aired at different times on Monday nights, CBS moved the show to Thursdays at 8:00 ET for the 2010–2011 schedule, to be in direct competition with NBC's Comedy Block and Fox's American Idol (then the longest reigning leading primetime show on U.S. television from 2004 to 2011).[95] During its fourth season, it became television's highest rated comedy, just barely beating out eight-year champ Two and a Half Men. However, in the age 18–49 demographic (the show's target age range), it was the second highest rated comedy, behind ABC's Modern Family. The fifth season opened with viewing figures of over 14 million.[96]
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.
Howard and Bernadette's new neighbor Andy begins using floodlights mounted on his balcony that encroaches on their rear deck and hot tub. Investigating whether the lights comply with city code, they enlist Sheldon to help them with the paperwork, but Sheldon finds out Howard and Bernadette's own deck is also not code-compliant. He considers turning them in, but ultimately chooses friendship over the rules. He does report Andy though for violating property lines, allowing Howard and Bernadette to enjoy their deck again. Meanwhile, Bert wants to cut into a meteorite with Raj's help, rejecting Leonard's idea to use his laser to do so. Leonard dreams that he opens the meteorite with his laser, becomes possessed by an alien intelligence and eats Bert, Raj and Penny. He later apologizes to Raj and Bert, admitting he was jealous. The possibility of the meteorite unleashing a plague scares Stuart and Denise, who use it as foreplay for procreation, Stuart closing the store on Sheldon when he tries to browse.
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]
The CBS sitcom said goodbye on Thursday night after a storied 12-season run — and now that it’s really over, we’re feeling super nostalgic. Having already revisited the pilot episode, highlighted classic “Shamy” moments and ranked our favorite recurring characters, we’re closing out our retrospective coverage with a list of the 10 episodes that we feel are a cut above the rest.
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.
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.
It was really hard to pick the right pic for this post, so here is a shot of us in a hug after we filmed the last group scene we would ever film for the series... and TONIGHT is THE NIGHT... it’s the series finale at 8pm EST and then there’s the Young Sheldon (season!) finale, and then a special behind the scenes show hosted by @kaleycuoco and @sanctionedjohnnygalecki and then the entire cast is on @colbertlateshow I hope you get a chance to tune in and i hope you enjoy all of it. If you enjoy it even half as much as we’ve enjoyed (LOVED) creating this show for the past 12 years, then that’ll be a WHOLE WHOLE lot of enjoyment. All of us will miss seeing you in this format, but we will be around in all sorts of ways, I assure you... love love love ❤️❤️❤️

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.

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