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YMMV: The Big Bang Theory
  • Accidental Innuendo: A running joke in the 100th episode involves Sheldon dropping these while playing Settlers Of Catan.
    Sheldon: I want to build a road, but I need wood. Either of you fellas have wood? (Raj and Howard giggle) I don't understand the laughter. The object of Settlers of Catan is to build roads and settlements. To do so requires wood. Now, I have sheep, I need wood. Who has wood for my sheep? [..] Come on, I just want wood. Why are you making it so hard?
    (later) And now that I have some wood, I will begin the erection of my settlement.
    Raj: (aside, to Howard) Okay, he's got to be doing this on purpose.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Sheldon:
      • Sheldon Cooper seems to have Asperger's Syndrome, despite the creators denying this. He displays the usual signs of Asperger's: heightened vocabulary, lack of caring towards people's feelings, monologue-like speeches, difficulty in understanding social norms, obsessions, altered brain chemicals with coffee, etc. Asperger's Syndrome only got added to the DSM-IV in 1994, so if Sheldon was tested earlier in time...
      • He could be "Clark Kenting" to what he thinks all geniuses should be, copying a professor/doctor/whatever who had Autism whom he idolized when he was growing up in a highly religious part of Texas. Now he has become the mask.
      • Given that, according to Sheldon, his mother had him tested, and that this presumably occurred when he was a child, it is possible that he has a personality disorder that would not have been diagnosable in a child. Since a personality disorder is not "insanity" — and given that Sheldon is extremely Literal-Minded he may be just reacting to the terms "insane" or "crazy" only.
      • There have been lots of hints (some subtle, some not so subtle) that Sheldon's family life was not exactly ideal: his father was an abusive drunk and his mother uses religion as a form of denial. Losing his father no doubt added to the trauma. And then there was the analogy Sheldon once drew between schmoozing wealthy university donors for grant funding to being molested in the back of a van...which was probably a little ''too'' descriptive for the otherwise overly literal Sheldon to be making an extended metaphor. One gets the impression that Sheldon's childhood was horror even leaving aside the bullying he experienced as a result of his obnoxious personality. Combined with at least three severe emotional breakdowns we've seen him have, Sheldon's arrogance and aloofness may well be a defense mechanism which is breaking down over time.
      • Another aspect of his home life that might be affecting his social ability: Sheldon is extremely logical and scientific. His mother is The Fundamentalist. He was raised by someone who, from his perspective, believes in irrational superstitions that there is no evidence for. He would have been terrified at living with and being raised by a person who went around talking about, or even to, a being that doesn't exist; imagine hearing the story of Abraham (almost) sacrificing his son, and worrying that your own mother will act this out on you.
      • Considering the overwhelming majority of Epileptic Trees insists that Sheldon — along with nearly every other intelligent, eccentric character in fiction — has Asperger's, the notion that he doesn't may well be the Alternative Character Interpretation.
      • Sheldon may be a genuinely nice person. He's genuinely concerned when he thinks Penny's been hurt, runs to get her and takes her to hospital. Rather than just telling Leonard that he wouldn't cover for him sleeping with Priya, he constructed an elaborate and detailed cover to help him. When Leonard lied to Penny about her singing, Sheldon could again have simply said he didn't care and told the truth, but instead chose to follow through and help. He went to great extremes to get Howard's forgiveness when he'd ruined his chances of getting security clearance. When he felt that it would be construed as disloyal to have dinner with Penny, he almost killed himself trying to keep both she and Leonard happy. He couldn't ignore the possibility that Amy was hurt when he didn't hear from her. As much as he may pretend otherwise, he actually cares about his friends. When given the option of being trapped in one of the coldest parts of the planet with anyone, he chose his three friends. He maybe even values their friendship more than any of the rest of them and, even if it may be seen as condescending, is the least frequent to ever intentionally insult any of them (try watching an episode and counting the number of insults Sheldon gives that would actually be considered an insult to his mind, then compare them against those Leonard makes).
      • How much of Sheldon’s ecentricies are real and how much are merely done to get his way as he seems to lose the majority of them when he wants to be a Jerkass to Leonard as shown in "The Irish Pub Formulation" and "The Itchy Brain Simulation".
      • "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplication" shows that when it's something Sheldon wants, he is willing to ride the bus.
      • Sheldon's Celibate Hero status is typically attributed to having the emotional maturity of a 10-year-old, although he seems to simply ignore it to focus on his work, referring to sexuality at one point as ‘the cross we all have to bear’; later on, he reveals to simply have issues with intimacy he’s working on. He is, however, definitely not asexual, despite previous speculation on the issue.
    • Sheldon's mom is usually played as nice, but some of her comments, which are racist if unwitting, really show she's not much better than Leonard's mom. She's a fundamentalist who seems to have a very old-fashioned and limited view on the world, which she took just to compensate for her husband's cheating and uses it as a crutch to keep going. Everyone just tends to look the other way because she's nicer than Leonard's mom and tends to put a leash on Sheldon's antics, but she may very well BE the reason for Sheldon's antics. She's once described him as "one of God's special children", so she thinks, or at least once thought, he was retarded or insane, and seemingly preached this idea to Sheldon's sister. Sheldon's slightly autistic behavior could be the result of being treated as having autism.
    • In the episode of Bernadette wanting Howard to move in, was Howard pulling a Batman Gambit? He knew Bernadette would keep bugging him about moving in but he wasn't ready so he had to make a plan. Move in, piss her off by his neediness and make her stop. Notice that in his explanation he said he wrote an email to his mother about moving out and her saying she never reads email since she doesn't know how to properly work a computer.
    • Leslie Winkle: Only Sane Woman or an immature, inconsiderate bitch who gets off of any punishment for immature behaviour in the workplace? Not to mention the cold way she treats Leonard and Howard when she's in a relationship with them.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Sheldon after a brief "break up" with Amy. Instead of being sad like a normal human being, he hides it and buys 25 CATS.
  • Applicability: The show covers a wide spectrum of personality types and situations, leaving a lot of viewers to see parallels of themselves within. While these guys are on the extreme side of smart and nerdy, they accurately portray a lot of the behaviors that are evident with any sort of obsessive fandom. Sheldon's desire to get in line early for a movie can be compared to getting to the stadium early for a football game, for example.
  • Ass Pull: Sheldon running a red light. The scene of him driving Penny to the hospital shows him refusing to even drive the speed limit (despite Penny begging him to), then stopping at a red light. It's a little hard to believe he would run a red light, much less that he would let Penny talk him into it. The ticket was issued by a traffic camera, though, and their accuracy for deciding what counts as "running" a red light is pretty notoriously questionable, although Sheldon and Penny's dialogue would seem to indicate he did drive through an intersection after the light turned red.
  • Awesome Ego: Sheldon.
  • Base Breaker:
    • Viewers tend to either think Sheldon is the best part of the show, or wish that he'd remove that gigantic stick from his ass for once.
    • Howard, pre-Character Development. Either he's hilarious or he's a prick who needs a punch to the face occasionally.
    • Penny as well — she's either a cute, lovable person, who's a nice addition to the group(s) or an ungrateful bitch who deserves to be thrown out on the street.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Lampshaded. Leonard and Howard walk in on Sheldon and Raj with a bird, shooting NERF and marshmallow guns at each other, listening to Indian music and screaming nonsensical insults at each other. They promptly walk back out again.
    Leonard: ...Anyway.
  • Broken Base: The episode "The Good Guy Fluctuation". Leonard briefly making out twice with a girl has earned more scorn than Priya sleeping with her ex-boyfriend in India.
    • The audience laughter — either worth it because the show's that funny, or teeth-grinding levels of annoying that quickly overstay their course and ruin the show.
    • Priya and Leonard's relationship, both in and out of universe.
  • Cargo Ship: Howard/the robot hand he got stuck on, Sheldon/his spot, Amy/Gerard (her electric toothbrush), Raj and his mobile phone Siri..
  • Cliffhanger Cop Out: The Season 4 finale and Season 5 opener, dealing with the ramifications of Raj and Penny waking up in bed together. At the Comic-Con panel over the summer Bill Prady said they had worked out a solution that should make everyone happy, which ended up being Penny couldn't remember what happened because she was so drunk but Raj revealed they technically didn't have sex because he was done when the condom was put on, the simplest solution was to admit it happened and just move forward. However you landed on what happened, it still came across as a Ratings Stunt.
  • Designated Hero: Leonard, as he has gained a generally jerk demeanor and holier-than-thou attitude.
  • Designated Villain: Wil Wheaeton in The Hsbitation Configuration was helping Sheldon out with his Web Show about Flags. Amy repeatedly stops filming to berate him for being a poor actors and Wil tries to take it in stride the first few times. After a while he says that he can't do it if Amy's being a pain in the ass, and Amy gets angry at Sheldon for not calling him out. We're led to believe that Sheldon was wrong for not taking her side, even though Amy's the one who initiated the conflict.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: To a degree; Sheldon. He isn't really a bad guy, but correspondingly to the Ron the Death Eater effect that Leonard can be subject to, Sheldon's character flaws, arrogance and Jerkass tendencies can be drastically downplayed.
  • Die for Our Ship:
    • Leonard. Sheldon/Penny fans never seem to catch Leonard a break even once, guy isn't allowed to so much as make a tiny mistake without them calling him a prick.
    • There's also Amy. Comes with the territory since she gets in the way of Sheldon/Penny, the Fan-Preferred Couple.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • The episode where Leonard and Sheldon come home to find their apartment broken into. Sheldon has trouble sleeping alone and asks for a high-tech security system installed. The Laugh Track to go with these moments can be inappropriate as much of the episode is him being worried the burglar will return.
      • For that matter, this episode is especially upsetting to some who have been robbed before.
    • Amy's story of the little Vietnamese girl dying in the hospital and Penny's nail salon being a front for human trafficking in the same episode, "The 21 Second Excitation", especially in the light of emerging evidence that many Asian-immigrant-owned nail bars in Great Britain are exactly that — effective slavery of illegal immigrants forced to work long shifts to repay the gangs who got them into the country as illegal immigrants. The wage-slaves are too scared to complain for fear of being deported.
    • When they reveal the characters' tragic pasts. When Howard cries and asks the Alf doll where his dad is or when Leonard breaks down while giving a speech in "The Pants Alternative", the Laugh Track doesn't feel quite appropriate.
    • Similarly, Amy's Imagine Spot of her life without Sheldon — her being completely alone and crying, is played for laughs.
    • Another example that is, if not unfunny, but very grim by the standards of the show — when President Siebert asks the gang to a fundraising party, Sheldon mocks his proposal using an incredibly dark and out-of-character reference to child rape:
      Sheldon: Hold on. Just because the nice man offers you candy doesn't mean you should get in the back of his van. What's the occasion?
      Siebert: Well, we're having a fundraiser-
      Sheldon: Ah, there it is. The tear-stained mattress and the locked rear doors.
    • When the guys are made fun of at a diner when they're in their costumes after having their car stolen. This was aimed at the right demographic!
    • Stuart's therapist killed himself. He blamed Stuart in the suicide note.
    • In one episode Penny swipes the last dumpling from the takeout box to spite Sheldon. He replies, "I've seen pictures of your mother. Keep eating." Based on the look on Penny's face that one hit her pretty hard. That was really mean, even by Sheldon's standards.
    • Sheldon's (if unintended) sexual harassment of his new assistant, saying she was just a slave to her reproductive cycle, showing her graphic pictures of genitalia afflicted by STDs, and boasting he "saved" her from a life of promiscuity.
    • When Stuart's comic book store burns down, a piece of debris falls where he was standing a second ago. He laments that it couldn't have fallen earlier so it would've killed him. Even though Stuart's depression is a driving force for his character, that's just too much.
    • The constant fat jokes about Howard's mom were okay at first, but then we see a glimpse of her, and she's nowhere near big enough for them to be making the kinds of joke they do.
    • In season 7, Raj finally starts learning to talk to women... cue Howard jabbing at him at every possible opportunity, particularly in one episode when Raj laments how he'll never find anyone. Because that's sure to help his self-esteem!
    • In a Season 2 episode, Howard tries to make out with Penny, and instead of pushing him away, she "sucker-punches [him] when [his] eyes are closed". When they show up at the guys' apartment, his face a complete mess, he lies about "slipping and falling" in order to protect Penny's character. The "slipped and fell" excuse is one of the best-known, classic lines from battered spouses and abused children, for exactly the same reason (and, presumably, to keep the abuser from hitting them again if they tell the truth).
  • Ear Worm
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Amy Farrah Fowler in her early appearances. She went from being "female Sheldon" when introduced to being best friends/"besties" with Penny. She is more receptive and reasonable when giving Penny advice than Sheldon would be if Penny went to him. It helps that she gained a degree of Character Development. In her first few appearances she was cold and distant, but she now flips out both positively and negatively when Penny hangs with her, i.e., in the first episode of Season 5, she was overjoyed at the thought of Penny staying the night with her and in the second episode she's on the verge of tears when Penny threatens to throw her out for "betraying her" (i.e. helping Sheldon). Her dynamic with he group was so well-liked that in her later seasons, she's a part of the cast as a prominent character.
    • Both Sheldon and Leonard's parents are very popular given their screen time. Sometimes they get just one scene, but steal the show with it.
    • Bernadette. She's the first "brainy" character who's not socially inept, snarky, or frumpy. That combined with her sheer cuteness has endeared her to many fans (especially the male ones). Also, she made Howard behave, and generally is a perky little breath of fresh air.
    • Zack Johnson. Despite being a Brainless Beauty and ex-boyfriend of Penny, he's remembered fondly by many viewers because of his friendly personality, love of comic books, and Odd Friendship with the guys even after Penny broke up with him.
    • Stuart the Comic Book Guy. He's hilarious and Woobie-esque.
    • Alex, Sheldon's assistant. She is one of the preciously few people who manage to work under Sheldon. Her occasional Ship Tease with Leonard also accounts for her Darkhorse status.
    • Howard's mom, thanks to tons of hilarious lines and excellent delivery courtesy of Carol Ann Susi.
    • Professor Proton. The fact that he won his first Emmy for his portrayal of the guy really bolstered it.
  • Fan Favorite: Sheldon himself. Leonard was supposed to be the focus of the show, but Sheldon quickly won audiences over with his eccentric mannerisms and personality quirks.
  • Fandom Rivalry: With Community. Besides having a geeky appeal there is little in common with regards to the two series, but when TBBT was moved to compete with NBC's comedy lineup on Thursdays (which includes Community in the exact same time slot) it sparked the rivalry.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • Sheldon/Penny, enough that Chuck Lorre even commented on that prospect, saying that while they have an amazing rapport Penny would probably kill Sheldon if they hung around each other too much. Other TV writers have remarked that just the idea of Sheldon being Sheldon is what makes their relationship work, the lack of romantic entanglement. Going for Slap-Slap-Kiss is too generic a description of their chemistry.
  • Fanon:
  • Freud Was Right: The light-stick size duel between Sheldon and Leonard. Big time.
  • Fridge Logic: Real discussions in a comic shop usually involve the merits of real comic book series, which would be problematic from a copyright perspective and inaccessible to non-fans. That's why they usually wind up making fun of how nerdy comic book fans (and themselves) are instead.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • In the episode "The Griffin Equivalency", Raj tells the patron next to his table, Charlie Sheen, that he's going to be in People's Magazine for discovering a celestial body. Sheen then tells him "Yeah? Call me when you're on the cover." This line becomes less funny when Sheen does end up on the cover of various magazines, and not in a good light, nor for any positive things he did.
    • In the ending of the same episode, Raj is forced to verbally apologize to Penny about his behavior towards her, and she hugs him right when Leonard and Sheldon walk out, with their getting the wrong idea that she and Raj spent the night together (she was wearing a bathrobe). Come the Season 4 finale, Penny and Raj, while drunk, do end up sleeping together, and the consequences of which are made apparent in the Season 5 premiere, where it almost shattered the group's friendship.
    • In-universe, their comment that Firefly will be on for years.
    • Several times when together with Leonard, Penny would tease about finding another dumb guy when Leonard is caught up in one of his geeky activities. Come the Season 3 finale, Penny realized that being with Leonard actually made it impossible for her to enjoy dating dumb guys again.
    • In "The Zarnecki Inclusion", Raj jokes that Priya was talking to her ex-boyfriend Sanjay. Then in "The Good Guy Fluctuation" where it's revealed that she slept with him.
    • "The Roommate Transmogrification" in Season 4, Bernadette gets her Ph.D and a good job, and the guys joke she's now the female of the relationship, Howard protesting he still has his own life. Leonard snarks "until you have kids". As of Season 5, Howard has discovered Bernadette doesn't like kids and if they choose to have them once married she wants him to stay home to take care of them while she works.
    • Bernadette's comments about crossing the Ebola virus with the common cold don't seem as funny as it was, now that we have an actual Ebola epidemic taking place. So far, the virus is not airborne, but such a mutation taking place is one of the biggest fears, since containing the virus in its present state has already proven troublesome.
    • Every single joke Howard's made about his mother's poor health is this now that Carol Ann Susi passed away after a short period of battling cancer.
      • Related: When Howard returns home to find five of his friends staging an intervention (to prevent him from returning to space) his first thought is that they're about to break the news his mother has died note . A few months after screening of this episode, Carol Ann Susi passed away.
  • Genius Bonus: A staple of the show's humor.
    • Surprisingly accurate math and physics jokes at times. Geek culture references can get very obscure.
    • When Penny mentions that she's used to getting free drinks due to her... less than modest attire, Sheldon offhandedly says that she has a lot of money tied up in 'promiscuity futures' (futures contracts are derivatives where two parties agree on a trade that will take place at some point in the future).
    • This is one of the few sitcoms with science advisers. The producers said they went about a day before they realized there was no way they could study the proper material for all of the science, and so recruited David Salzberg from the University of Los Angeles to help with the dialogue and even certain plot points (Sheldon's search for Magnetic Monopoles for instance). note 
  • Growing the Beard: The show wasn't quite certain what tone they were going to have for the show in the early episodes, focusing on the characters getting themselves into awkward situations and barely climbing out of it unscathed. It wasn't until the Halloween party in the 8th episode where the real strengths of the series came into play, showing the characters trying to navigate relatively common social situations and coming up short but wiser for it. This continued into the later half of the first season that cemented its characters better.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In "The Prestidigitation Approximation", Sheldon hacks into a military database for the trivial reason of wanting to figure out how a card trick is performed. Despite being a federal crime, he apparently only gets a slap on the wrist for this. However when Gary McKinnon did the same thing in 2002 to find out if Aliens were being covered up. If the US had managed to extradite him, he potentially would have faced over 60 years in prison. Ultimately averted, as McKinnon got away scott free.
    • In "The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary" Leonard initially refuses to hold up his end of the girlfriend pact saying "What am I supposed to ask? Hey Penny, you got any friends you never want to hear from again?" Come "The Stag Convergence" when Bernadette finds out about Howard's sleazy past and that Penny knew all along when she set them up, Bernadette runs out the run crying that she thought Penny was her friend.
    • When the group are imagining what their lives would be like without Sheldon in "The Cooper Extraction", Howard imagines that his mother would've ended up dead somehow in a situation akin to Psycho, but regardless of how, "the important thing is she's dead". Almost exactly 11 months after the episode aired, Carol Ann Susi passed away.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • "Shelbot", the mechanical stand-in for Sheldon. "Shelbot" is a remote-controlled stand with a Webcam and tablet computer screen attached that projects Sheldon's face and voice to the outside world while he stays in his bedroom. This video was eerily reminiscent of that creation. The concept was picked up again for Conan O'Brien's Web series, "The Cone Drone," where Conan sends out someone dressed in a papier-mache costume of Conan, while wearing a tablet screen projecting Conan's own face, to irritate or annoy random people.
    • "Shelbot" may also be a Shout-Out. In Red Dwarf, when Queeg demotes ship's computer Holly to a lowly night watchman/janitor position, Holly's mobile persona looks exactly like Shelbot. (Except for the night janitor's onscreen avatar wearing a flat cap and raincoat as he aimlessly wanders the corridors of the Dwarf).
    • One episode focused on Howard's space toilet having a possible malfunction and trying to fix it. Well, on July 2009, it became an actual issue.
    • In the second season finale, the guys left to try to find magnetic monopoles. About two weeks before the Season 3 premiere, real-life scientists found something that sounds similar: magnetic monopolar quasiparticles — something completely unrelated to Sheldon's experiment.
    • The Mars Rover got stuck in a ditch, just as it did in Season 2. (But it didn't accidentally find life on Mars.)
    • In the first-season episode involving the physics bowl, after Sheldon leaves the other geeks' team, they discuss people who they might be able to recruit as replacements, and one of the people they consider is the actress who played Blossom. Guess who ends up getting the last laugh as Sheldon's date at the end of the third season?
    • When Sheldon and Stuart argue about who will succeed Batman after Final Crisis, Sheldon contends that it must be Dick Grayson while Stuart believes it has to be Jason Todd. The argument is basically Stuart being awesome and smacking down Sheldon's position, calling it "as wrong as calling a tomato a suspension bridge". In "The Battle for the Cowl", Jason Todd actually tries to become a Batman with guns, but in the end Dick kicks his butt into the ground and takes on the Bat mantle
    • The entire episode "The Barbarian Sublimation", where Sheldon gets a guy named Tom to date Penny, as he was the result of an dating site Sheldon submitted Penny on to try to find a boyfriend in order to get rid of her MMORPG addiction, but is implied to be gay and thinks Sheldon is the one he's dating, is even better with the knowledge that Sheldon's actor, Jim Parsons, is gay.
    • Similarly, in "The Recombination Hypothesis", Sheldon receives a life-size cutout of Spock that he bought on the Internet, and is dismayed to discover that it's Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the reboot, rather than Leonard Nimoy. His response — "Live long and suck it, Zachary Quinto!" — is doubly hilarious in light of both Parsons and Quinto having come out as gay.
    • Related to the two above, a season 7 Thanksgiving episode has Sheldon (played by the now openly gay Jim Parsons) get along very well with Bernadette's father, who was hinted in an earlier episode to be homophobic.
    • Penny dressing as Wonder Woman to go to a New Year's Eve party with Zack, who is dressed as Superman, gets funnier knowing that Kaley Cuoco is dating Henry Cavill.
    • Hard to believe Sheldon's sweet mom used to be a psycopath.
    • The gang has often made jokes about Sheldon being an alien in human disguise. In the upcoming Dreamworks movie "Home", Jim Parsons voices an obnoxious alien invading on Earth.
  • Hollywood Homely:
    • Averted to a degree. None of the characters would be considered unattractive, but they do make efforts to explain their lack of social success. For example, Johnny Galecki combines the glasses with unflattering hair, awkward posture, unflattering facial expressions, and nervous character tics (he frequently plays with his fingers when talking to someone). He also wears slightly oversized clothing to hide the fact that Galecki is actually in pretty good shape.
    • Zig-zagged with Bernadette, who is considered to be very cute on the show, but Howard's hesitation towards getting serious with her stemmed from him hoping for someone more conventionally pretty like Katee Sackhoff, Megan Fox, or even Penny. It's more reflective of Howard's shallow personality at the time and the show tries to hide it via the glasses, long skirt, and dressing her in (sometimes frumpy) layers, but there is no denying that Melissa Rauch is about as pretty as they come. Amy is similar, where she only wears large cardigans, has lank hair and big glasses, and wears long skirts with stockings that are nearly the opposite of the much more conventionally attractive Penny.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Howard and Raj get this a lot.
    • Raj and Stuart are getting a lot of this now that Raj is the only single guy in the core group, and Stuart's getting more face time.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Bernadette is this due to the fact that she will repeatedly enable Sheldon’s actions yet will refuse to budge when its something she wants.
    • This is more of a case of Moral Myopia as she only takes Sheldon’s side when it doesn’t directly effect her for example admonishing Howard for torturing Sheldon in “The Hawking Excitation” then sent Sheldon to go dress shopping with her mother in law. Raj himself mentioned that if she was the one who had to sit on the floor they would have brought a table a long time ago.
  • Informed Wrongness: Sheldon on occasion. The show likes to play up how he overreacts to things and is generally a Know-Nothing Know-it-All, but there are times where the viewer may side with him but he is still treated as being ridiculous.
  • Internet Backdraft: While the characters are portrayed positively and sympathetically, the show still relies on a lot of nerd stereotypes as a shorthand and that can and has sparked some antagonism towards the show. When a promo for "Bakersfield Expedition" had the girls venturing into the comic book store alone the tagline went "Where no woman has gone before!" and all sorts of female geeks took umbrage at it (ironically the episode itself had the girls get caught up in a nerdy argument after reading a comic because they were wondering why the guys liked comics so much). And the show gets a lot of comedic mileage by showing the guys doing nerdy things, to quote Penny Arcade: "In Big Bang, being like me is the punchline." Many articles have been written about this.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "The Killer Robot Instability," Howard tries yet again to flirt with Penny, claiming that her constant insults toward him are merely foreplay. When he attempts to make a date with her by saying that she'd be the "only doable girl" at an upcoming science event, Penny tells him that he's disgusting, sad, and pathetic, makes it clear that she is not flirting with him, and ends her rant by declaring that he will die alone, as no woman would ever want to be with him. She clearly goes too far and ends up badly hurting Howard's feelings, but she does have a point: his constant pickup lines and derogatory language are offensive and demeaning.
    • Sheldon spent years telling Penny to pay attention to her check engine light on her dashboard. While Sheldon is annoying and rude, he did have a point that Penny should pay more attention to her car, especially when it finally breaks down in the latest season.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Leonard. Yeah, he may be considered a Designated Hero and an ass, but the insults that Howard and other characters throw at him about his height or romantic life can seem mean a lot of the time. Also his mother can be quite a bitch. Once Leonard is actually with Penny his retorts to them are basically "You said it would never happen, well I made it happen." In fact most of the time whenever he does something mean or socially stupid you can trace its origin to what someone else did to him.
    • Sheldon can be highly difficult to be around, his quirks constantly interrupt the lives of everyone else, he outright insults the intelligence of everyone and berates people for not conforming exactly to his schedule. However, his emotional maturity is that of a 10-year old and whenever he is in distress he responds much like a child would and the few times he will Pet the Dog will sometimes backfire on him. For a few specific examples:
      • "The Excelsior Acquisition", Sheldon is taken to court for a traffic violation and Sheldon's style of defending himself (insulting the judge, among other things) ended up getting him thrown in the courthouse jail. The problem was he doesn't drive much and the ticket happened in the same episode when he "played the hero" taking Penny to the hospital when she dislocated her shoulder; it was Penny's coaching that led to the violation and she directed the ticket to him to avoid an insurance hike. It basically ended up as No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. However, being that he was in control of the vehicle (and the ticket was issued by a camera, which photographed Sheldon driving, not Penny), he is 100% at fault. Penny convincing him into running a red light is not a defense, as he was driving and could have ignored her at any time. He is in fact trying to deflect the blame onto his incapacitated passenger.
      • A Tear Jerker moment (as well as a case of Mood Whiplash) comes in Season 6's "The Santa Simulation", the guys play a Christmas themed Dungeons & Dragons game with Sheldon being annoyed by the theme and eventually leaving Santa, who they were supposed to rescue, to the ogres that captured him. Jerkass, for sure. The Woobie comes in when he tells "Santa" his story of why he hates him and Christmas — the last time he saw Santa was at a mall where he asks for his grandfather back, who had died earlier that year and was the only one in the family who encouraged Sheldon's interest in science. Instead, he got Lincoln Logs. "You can build a lot of things out of Lincoln Logs, but a new Pop-Pop's not one of them."
      • "The Itchy Brain Simulation" REALLY made Sheldon look vindictive toward Leonard for the sake of "a teaching experience".
      • "The Guitarist Amplification" suggests that much of Sheldon's colder aspects were his defense against being hurt emotionally when his parents fought, as seeing his friends engage is vitriolic bickering has him on the edge of a full-fledged breakdown.
    • Raj. Yes, doubtless, he Took a Level in Jerkass since around Season 3. Only one catch: living without being able to talk with women is especially hard. It's a wonder he hasn't ended up a bitter drunk yet. He may put a Smug Snake face in front of his friends, but once or twice, we see he cracks.
    • Pretty much every character with any development save for Stuart (due to being too friendly to qualify) will have shades of this. Everyone has moments where they act selfish, intolerable, or just generally disdainful, but they all also have so many issues and problems that its hard not to feel bad for them.
  • Karma Houdini: A minor example, in "The Junior Professor Solution", Amy plays Bernadette and Penny off each other by talking negatively about them behind their backs. She completely gets away with this, and they even invite her out for drinks!
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Wil Wheaton, especially when he implies he indirectly broke up Leonard and Penny to win a bowling game.
    • When one of the gang plays an antagonistic role, they usually fill this trope.
      Priya: Don't push me Leonard.
      Sheldon: He does that all the time, doesn't he. Ten seconds.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Bazinga!"
      • BAZOOPER.
    • On /co/, the generic references and laugh track are commonly made fun of in variations of "Hey guys, Green Lantern!" (audience laughter shakes the studio, snowballing into an apocalyptic event)
    • Oh, the Humanities!
    • "I ate a butterfly"
    • Yes! Yes! My brain is better than EVERYBODY'S!
  • Older Than They Think: Check out the movie Ball of Fire (1941) sometime.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Alice from "Good Guy Fluctuation" was incredibly popular, being an attractive, friendly and quirky female nerd played by Courtney Ford. Martha and Abby from "Psychic Vortex" are similar, given how they double date Raj and Sheldon based on him carrying a Green Lantern prop around.
    • Bob Newhart as Professor Proton in "Proton Resurgence" was so popular among the fans and cast that he was brought back in a returning role the following season.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: "Shamy". Got used In-Universe once.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Most of everything Sheldon's mother says.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: When Amy was initially introduced she came across as a Distaff Counterpart of Sheldon competing for the Brutal Honesty lines, which many fans did not appreciate. Once she started up a friendship with Penny, calling her "My Bestie" (best friend), and demonstrating her own personality outside of a female Sheldon fan response has switched around. Particularly her instigation of the rumor-mill in "The Herb Garden Germination" and Sheldon calling her a "vixen" for getting him into the social sciences.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Give Season 5's "The Recombination Hypothesis" a 2nd look, and you'll spot some subtle clues throughout that most of the episode is a daydream Leonard is having. The most telling clue being that Sheldon is seen flirting with Amy at one point.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Leonard is frequently turned into this in order to promote the Sheldon/Penny pairing. Correspondingly, Sheldon becomes a Draco in Leather Pants where Leonard is a horrible person for teasing, pranking or otherwise making fun of him, supposedly because Sheldon is a child and unaware of the hurtful things he says and does.
    • Just about every character over the course of the show has had only their flaws focused and their positive traits ignored, often but not always when in comparison to Sheldon.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Although not exactly a villain, Sheldon is portrayed as a childish, controlling, and demanding Insufferable Genius who can't address others without a tremendous amount of condescension. It doesn't stop many viewers from sympathizing with him when his friends try to call him out on his behavior. Fan speculation that he has autism, Asperger's, or some other related condition generally helps. (Jim Parsons has stated he plays him as suffering from Asperger's, for what it's worth.)
  • The Scrappy:
    • Priya Koothrapali, Raj's sister, is hated by most fans. This was due to her dating Leonard and starting to treat him horribly. She also challenged The Roommate Agreement. She's seen as The Scrappy in-show by many too, though is Rescued from the Scrappy Heap for Penny by the end of her run.
    • Leonard was briefly disliked in late Season 3 through most of Season 4 because he gained a rather bitter and selfish attitude towards life after breaking up with Penny. While realistic to a degree, it made him rather mean-spirited. This was largely reverted in the fifth and sixth seasons that saw him return to being the patient Straight Man and The Woobie where nothing really goes his way.
    • Amy used to be one, but see above, as she was rescued from this. However Leonard and Amy are still this, MOSTLY by Sheldon/Penny fans.
    • Howard Wolowitz is a Broken Base case — half of the fans find his Casanova Wannabe antics hilarious, while the other half never found it funny in the first place and wish he gets less screen time. His character development after meeting Bernadette seems to have saved him from the scrappy heap.
    • Sheldon, to those that can't stand his rude, self-centered, narcissistic tendencies, and just wish that he'd get the comeuppance that he rightfully deserves, Freudian Excuse be damned.
    • Bernadette can come across as this to some viewers because of her high pitched, grating, out of date voice.
    • Raj is currently the character who gets the most hate, due to his Flanderization into an over the top super girly Camp Straight caricature of himself, other than being a whiny jerk most of the time.
    • Stuart who has no purpose on the show other than being pathetic.
  • Seasonal Rot: Debated in whether this show has gone too cushy with the higher ratings, resulting in weaker stories that rely more on stock jokes and Running Gags.
  • Ship Mates: Those who ship Leonard with someone other than Penny (like Alex), which leaves Penny open to be with Sheldon.
  • Shipping Bed Death:
    • Leonard and Penny's relationship had a lot more fan support in the first two seasons than after they get together in the third. The thing was that much of the Character Development of the first two seasons was about getting them to that point and resolving their Unresolved Sexual Tension while trying to otherwise keep the status quo left the third season feeling very stale. Their relationship had little impact on the stories other than a couple of fights and token episodes where they try to learn more about each other (Leonard tried to learn about sports, Penny tried to learn physics) and they eventually broke up towards the end.
    • Leonard and Penny getting back together in the fifth season has produced a mixed reaction. Some like that the characters are actually trying to interact with each other on a more personal level (avoiding the stale feeling from before) while others feel that the whole story had run its course and the show is just putting the audience through another round of drama.
  • Sleeper Hit: The show opened to mediocre reviews (some of which were very harsh) and this was after a highly disliked original pilot. But the show built up some steam and when it came back after the 2007 Writers Strike it managed to actually improve in quality, unlike a lot of other shows. The ratings gradually increased until they took a small hit moving from Mondays to Thursdays in the fourth season, but after a Syndication deal they started breaking records as a scripted show, they are the first since Friends to dethrone ratings giants like American Idol.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Penny tells Leonard to go against a Double Standard and put his foot down and tell Stephanie that he wasn't ready for her to move in.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • In the Season 5 premiere, Sheldon has a nightmare where several bugs start crawling all over him. The bug effects look like something out of windows movie maker. Though that does not stop it from being disturbing.
    • In Season 6, the boys (in Star Trek cosplay) get ready to take some photos by Vasquez Rocks. Or rather, in front of a backdrop portraying said rocks — it's rather painfully obvious they're on a set! Possibly intentional, as a reference to the obvious sets in the original Star Trek.
  • Squick: Howard's subplot in the fourth season premiere qualifies as this. He built a robotic arm, and after showing it to his friends, when he's at home he gets it to massage his shoulder. Then, as soon as he realizes "it's just like a real hand", well... guess what he tries to get it to do. And it doesn't even stop there — the hand misinterprets what it's been programmed to do, mistakenly believing its duty is about twisting a screwdriver. As soon as Howard no longer has any control over the situation (which is pretty quickly), he has to ask Leonard and Raj for help, and then everything goes downhill from there.
  • Straw Loser: Played with. With Penny, it can be that she's too stupid to know who Adam West is without bringing up Family Guy and basically is set up so the guys can be geeky. With the guys, it could be that they're too geeky for a normal person like Penny or Bernadette to relate to.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Sheldon is a difficult person to get along with and is often assumed to be wrong on certain matters because of his selfish behavior and desperate arguments. But there are a few times when you have to admit he has a point in his argument.
    • After they return from the North Pole after several months of experimenting Sheldon discovers the others interfered with the results so Sheldon would be more tolerable. The problem was Sheldon immediately sent out an email to the University about their findings before they clued him in on what happened; the forced redaction hurts his career and turns it into Disproportionate Retribution. Sheldon is utterly hollowed out when he finds out, and while the others offer a light apology they don't recognize how hurt Sheldon must benote (Leonard was more concerned with having sex with Penny, who was waiting for him during their absence). In the end all three are Easily Forgiven, though it should be noted that Leonard stated that the real (inconclusive) data was kept - just hidden from Sheldon.
      • It's arguable that had Sheldon not been in such a rush to brag about the findings without verifying them, his career would not have been affected: the thinking is that his ego caused him to take credit for what he considered a paradigm-shifting moment in science, so he received the lion's share of the fallout. However, falsifying data in the academic community is considered a Moral Event Horizon in itself. Even excluding the emotional hurt done to Sheldon, the group's actions could have resulted in the total ruin of their friend's (legitimately distinguished) career, humiliation for the university they work at, as well as calling into question the validity of any of their own current or previous work because they were part of the research team. That none of this seems to have occurred to gang, despite two holding Ph Ds and the third a Masters, strains credulity.
    • One particularly event that really sticks out is in "The Deception Verification" Sheldon's treated as if he's in the wrong for being angry when he discovers that his best friend intentionally lied to him, because he didn't want to spend time with him.
    • Amy is this in "The Spoiler Alert Segmentation" due to the fact that both she and Penny and were shown to be in the right even though they were on opposite sides of the argument. Moving in with Sheldon wasn’t just a big step like it was for Penny and Leonard, it was A STEP. As she herself stated she does a ridiculous amount of things for Sheldon while getting nothing in return and like with Leonard the things he is required to do he can choice not to at his discretion. It’s shown just how much this episode effected Amy’s character because after it while she still adores Sheldon she has been shown to be far less tolerant of his actions.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: A good portion of the fandom is upset that the guys are having some success in long term companionships, claiming that the show has become just another stereotypical sitcom with a focus on relationships. The thing is that even the early seasons were focused on relationship stories, mostly on how the guys would strike out (especially Howard). Whether or not the changes to the cast and the formula have been handled well (balanced cast, creative stories, insider jokes, etc) is a different subject altogether.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: At the finale of "The Santa Simulation," Sheldon reveals to "Santa" (in a Christmas-themed game of Dungeons & Dragons) why he dislikes Christmas; Sheldon had asked Santa when he was a child to bring back his grandfather, who had died earlier that year and was the only family member to encourage his interest in science. Sheldon instead got Lincoln Logs. In The Stinger, Sheldon meets Santa Claus during a dream, in which Santa apologizes for letting Sheldon down as a boy. Rather than a heartwarming moment where Sheldon's Pop Pop comes back for one dream so Sheldon can say good bye and make amends, Santa blows Sheldon away with a cannon, making the ending a Catapult Nightmare.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Penny has sometimes been put into conflict with the others where we are supposed to side with her but some feel that she ends up being mean and cruel while the others were at worst ignorant of how it would affect her. She gets into an Escalating War with Sheldon over the rules at his apartment. She gets angry at Leonard for sneaking a look and fixing her bad history paper because she wanted to do it herself, only to recruit Amy and Bernadette to help her rewrite it to stick it to him (prompting a reference to the Alpha Bitch trope from them). There's also the time when Sheldon decided to try alcohol, and made a complicated drink order (that he would happily have paid and tipped for), and Penny simply poured him a shot of whiskey saying "everyone makes it different." If it had been anyone but Sheldon the audience's sympathy may have been with him for the crappy customer service.
    • Lucy, Raj's girlfriend. She is afraid of anything and everything, but unlike our geeks she never actually makes an honest effort to correct her fear. The joke of her abandoning Raj in the middle of their dates may be funny on her first appearance, and yet as the season progresses it becomes clear that Raj is the one pulling all the weight on their relationship.
    • Raj after being dumped, when the episode showed him pressuring his socially anxious maybe-girlfriend to meet his friends and to say whether she was his girlfriend or not.
    • When Penny gives Howard a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, we are supposed to feel sympathy toward Howard when he hides himself away in his room, despite his prior consistent, unrelenting harassment of Penny and her consistent, unrelenting lack of interest in him. On top of this, he ignores her apology and tries to kiss her.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Sheldon whose Jerkass and Butt Monkey status seems to increase with each season.
  • Values Dissonance: A very mild example. Some non-British European audiences are surprised by the gang's consumption of takeaway/restaurant food every single night. Whilst not unheard of, this is far less common in Europe than it is in Great Britain note  or in the United States.
    • Values Resonance:
      • Some British reviewers note that The Big Bang Theory is unusually vicious for an American comedy. This appeals to the long-standing and proud British TV tradition of laughing at oddballs placed in amusing situations, which is a factor in the show's British success on E4. It still carries a bit more sentiment than the typical British show and the nerd leads can be even heroic despite their innumerable weaknesses. But Sheldon and especially early seasons Howard is almost straight out of British comedy of a socially awkward oddball who refuses to change.
      • In-universe, it is commented upon that India LOVES Doogie Howser MD because it features a child genius becoming a doctor, and the Indian culture focuses a lot on higher education and the medical field.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: In the Season 7 pilot, Leonard gets hoisted off of a boat by a Kraken's tentacles. It really looks believable.
  • Win Back the Crowd: Season 3 was criticized for an overabundant focus on Sheldon and a lackluster exploration of Leonard and Penny's relationship. Season 4 was slightly better with Amy and Bernadette shaking up the character dynamics, but the quality control on Season 5 left a normally reliably funny show as being hit or miss, especially as Raj became more incidental to the stories. But after an iffy start to Season 6, many people started praising it as hitting a new high mark as everyone started getting some really juicy comedic moments, and Raj became important to the show again.
  • The Woobie:
    • Leonard is generally a decent guy who tries to find some sort of emotional attachment and rarely getting it. But then we find out he was never hugged as a child, his parents never celebrated any birthday, and often directly mocked for his struggles (especially by Sheldon, but Raj and Howard also teased him about Penny frequently with no provocation).
    • Woobie status will shift to Sheldon sometimes. Especially here, where he nearly has a panic attack because the guys cut off one of his long rants, and they did it on purpose. Although Sheldon's 0% Approval Rating attitude makes him an Acceptable Target for a lot of pranks, this show still probably deserves credit for making The Woobie out of characters who, in most sitcoms, would merely be one-joke occasional characters. Consider how much of a Flat Character Sheldon — or even the other guys — would be as extras in a more traditional sitcom.
    • When Amy was first introduced she was rather cold and distant to most people, only becoming friends with Sheldon because of feeling a kinship between them. As she became friends with Penny she opened up extensively and often recalls having a rough and lonely childhood, probably more so than any of the guys. While her dialogue is still meant to be funny, a lot of it hints towards her being very sad and depressed before she met them. When Penny is staying at her place and Raj shows up Amy said, "A sleepover and a man at my door. I wish I could tell my 13-year-old self it does get better!" Things get worse in the Season 5 episode "The Isolation Permutation" where Amy has an emotional breakdown because Penny and Bernadette don't ask her to pick out wedding dresses with them. She spends most of the episode agonizing over how no one wants to hang out with her and recounting some pretty horrible experiences where people have humiliated her, at one point calling herself "the tumor nobody wants around." Yeah, pretty safe to say she's the show's biggest Woobie by now.
    • Stuart, the comic book guy, due to his growing debt, Perpetual Poverty, and the fact everyone takes advantage of his friendliness and easygoing-ness to get cheaper prices on stuff from his store really makes you feel for the guy. The closest thing he has to a dating life is a cat he doesn't own that occasionally visits to share cans of tuna.
    • Alex Jensen, Sheldon's assistant. The poor girl tries so hard, and she still gets talked down to on a regular basis.
    • Raj. In Season 6, he and Stuart bonded over their shared loneliness as Raj's best friend was away and both were single. For the past few seasons, he's been feeling really depressed about being single while all of his friends are paired up (especially since one of the couples involves Sheldon). When he does finally get a girlfriend, she breaks up with him. He also had a girlfriend for an episode who ended up being a Gold Digger.
    • Howard. His father abandoned him when he was a kid, forcing him to look after his mother. (Who may qualify, herself.) Sheldon constantly taunts him about not having a doctorate (at one point, Bernadette joins in), Bernadette goes behind his back to tell his mother about his going to space, he comes close to breaking up with her after his lecherous past is revealed. He is clearly terrified of going into space. There, he's bullied by the other astronauts who dub him "Fruit Loops" and he suffers from Space Madness. It doesn't get much better for him upon re-entry, as his wife is trying to seduce him while suffering from a cold. His mother is having an affair with the dentist, he finds himself between Raj and Stuart's Ho Yay, and the rest of the group coldly rebuff him, leaving him to eat cheesecake alone in a diner where he finds out he caught the cold from Bernadette. Poor guy.
    • Even Penny can be this at times (just not as often as the others). In the early seasons she had a tendency to fall for Jerk Jock types only to be devastated when she realized they were jerks. When she and Leonard broke up and Leonard began dating Pria, Penny tried to pull an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, but couldn't actually say it out loud without bursting into tears mid-sentence. She's an aspiring actress (and has some genuine talent) but her acting career has been going nowhere. Every now and then, the realization of that hits her hard.
  • What an Idiot: In "The Speckerman Recurrence", a simple threat of calling the police would have solved that problem.

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