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  • Abandon Shipping: In spite of the fact they are the Official Couple of the show, many fans jumped ship from Leonard/Penny after they got married. The fact the two seem to have so little in common and joke often about how Penny had to "settle" for Leonard after he wore her down for years seems like a disservice to both characters. However, many fans have noted that the relationship seemed more stable in the final two seasons of the show and the renewed playfulness resulted in fans jumping back on ship.
  • Acceptable Hobby Targets:
    • The show is infamous for its rather bitter and insulting humor towards science and nerd culture. Ironically enough, a lot of the show's dialogue and references can only be fully appreciated by those with an interest in the aforementioned subjects.
    • This video explains perfectly as how the show makes fun of geeks, nerds, and those who aren't the strongest, or stereotypically "male," of the male gender (all four of the main male characters are all of these at once, as the show portrays).
  • Adorkable:
    • Sheldon. He's a man who can somehow make wearing a plaid suit almost sexy. There's something endearingly innocent in his total inability to behave like a normal human being. His love of trains is also quite cute.
    • Howard's song to Bernadette in the episode in the episode "The Romance Resonance" qualifies. He is singing what would his life be if he did not have her. He fills it with science and science fiction references in his usual nerdy style. Among the lines are: "I'd be Doctor Who without the TARDIS", "Jobs without the Wozniak", "You're like uranium-235, and I'm uranium-238; Almost inseparable isotopes", "I'd be string theory without any string", "I'd be binary code without a one". "A cathode ray tube without an electron gun", "I'd be Firefly, Buffy and Avengers without Joss Whedon", "I'd speak a lot more Klingon" (immediately followed by a line in the Klingon language), and "We're like changing electric and magnetic fields; You can't have one without the other". The whole song is dorky, but adorable in revealing how much Howard values his wife.
    • Bernadette is petite and cute with a squeaky voice and a love for "Cinderella".
    • Amy has moments of this, particularly when she gets excited about her tiara or about hitting certain social milestones most girls would have experienced in their teens or preteens.
      Amy: A guest in my trundle bed and a boy at my door? I wish I could tell 13-year-old me, it does get better!
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Sheldon:
      • His mom mentions that she had the option to take him to a specialist in Houston, which she regrets not doing. Who knows what said specialist would have concluded.
      • 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 a materialist. His mother is The Fundamentalist. He was raised by someone who, from his perspective, believes in irrational superstitions (and since her fundamentalism is a method of denial and she is heavily implied to be very controlling, he's likely been hidden away from the positive aspects of religion, assuming all religious people are like his mother). He would have been put off at living with and being raised by a person who went around talking about, or even to, a being that doesn't exist.
      • 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 the 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).
      • On the same note, when Leonard starts sleeping with Priya, is he angry because Leonard is breaking his word and thereby messing up Sheldon's world, or is he truly empathic and angry on behalf of his friend Raj? The way he calls Leonard a traitor seems to heavily imply the latter.
      • How much of Sheldon’s eccentricities 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.
      • He's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. He grew up a Big Fish In A Small Pond and has taken that attitude to college and now to his job at USC, but now he's surrounded by people who were similarly large in similarly small pools. Making an elementary math mistake on page 1 of a paper is a good example. He also doesn't have a Photographic Memory as he claims, or else he'd know that his Not the Fall That Kills You… Superman explanation is completely at odds with what actually happens in the film. In "The Dependence Transcendence" he admits that his intelligence has limits. That being said, he also goes toe-to-toe in a trivia contest with a whole team in Season 1, and it takes until the final question for them to beat him. He certainly is very intelligent, just not as much as he thinks he is.
      • The Separation Triangulation has Sheldon renting his old room and being a model tenant, very much at odds with his usual behavior. Was he simply acting in accordance with the terms of the agreement he wrote up, given how seriously he takes such contracts? Did Sheldon not see the need to act like how he normally does because he was just renting for the sake of working and nothing else? Was it all a Batman Gambit to sucker Leonard into doing something that would snare him into a much harsher contract given Sheldon has done things like that before? Was Leonard actually right that Sheldon's obnoxious behavior through the years was all deliberate or was he just letting his paranoia and frustration paint things to be more insidious than they really were and Sheldon was just too preoccupied with his work to get up to his typical antics?
      • On a more humorous note: At one point, when discussing fencing, Sheldon notes that if he says he wants to touch (in fencing, a strike is referred to as a touch) one of his friends, he'll get called into HR. Is this a subtle sign of character development, in that by now he has at least some understanding of what kinds of phrases are inappropriate? Or has this actually happened to him before?
    • Sheldon's mom is usually played as nice, but some of her comments, which are racist if unwitting, really show she's not as nice as she seems. She's a fundamentalist who seems to have a very old-fashioned and limited view of 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 mentally-disabled 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.
      • This makes her far better than Leonard's mom. She does have a limited worldview (and her view is from the Deep South), but aside from spouting stereotypes, she treats Howard and Raj with decency and respect. Leonard's mom, on the other hand, is very well-read, brilliant, extremely educated, and just doesn't give a damn about anyone (except maybe Sheldon). She openly mocks her son for not being as good as his siblings, despite the fact that he is a brilliant researcher himself, she treats her family like an experimental group, and shows no regard for anyone except herself. She may not spout Mary's casual racism, but she's a far more destructive person. Sheldon's family may not known how to deal with a brilliant mind like his (driving many of his idiosyncrasies), but given that both of Leonard's parents are professors, they should know how their behavior would affect him as he grew.
      • Worse yet when you consider that Leonard's mother knew full well what she was doing, and didn't care. She treated him as nothing more than an experiment to take notes on. And when she finished taking her notesnote , she turned them into a book that she titled "Needy Baby, Greedy baby". That's right, you just read that. Leonard's mother gave birth to him for the sole purpose of writing a Child Psychology book after messing with his mind for eighteen years.
    • 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 behavior in the workplace? Not to mention the cold way she treats Leonard and Howard when she's in a relationship with both.
    • Raj
      • Being so opposed to Leonard dating his sister Priya. He puts up a "big brother" front stating he's just looking out for his sister and not wanting to see her get hurt. However, given the way Priya treated Leonard, it's possible that Raj knew exactly how Priya treats her boyfriends, and was actually trying to protect Leonard?
      • As the show goes on Raj demonstrates some pretty big Jerkass tendencies. Is this how he's always been and his inability to talk to women kept it from being showcased too much or is it largely born out of bitterness and frustration towards his horrendous love life? Howard did claim that Raj has always been a bit obnoxious it should be noted and prior to getting over his selective mutism he could be pretty snide for no real reason, like his mockery of Sheldon in "The Vengeance Formulation".
    • Wil Wheaton: Jerkass, or a generally nice guy reacting like anyone would to Sheldon's asshole behavior?
      • A specific incident: Did he break Leonard and Penny up on purpose to win a bowling game, or did he just let Sheldon think he did to piss him off?
    • Amy. A reasonable woman, who tolerates a lot from Sheldon, or a selfish, entitled woman? Episodes like "The Habitation Configuration" certainly gives off more of the latter interpretation.
    • When Denise is teaching Bernadette to play Fortnite, she's unusually snarky and obnoxious. Is she just having a bad day? Is she super competitive? Or subtly turning Berandette's own Jerkass super-competitive tendencies back on her?
  • 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.
  • Arc Fatigue:
    • After 12 years, Raj has still been unable to find a steady girlfriend, even when Leonard, Howard, Sheldon and Stuart all have. It became increasingly difficult to be invested in any relationship he pursues since they always end in break-ups.
      • The writers seem to have realized this as well, because a story arc between him and a cleaning lady at the university in the tenth season (which according to Raj's actor was what was implied to happen) was abruptly ended after a single episode with no mention of her ever again, and a later episode in the same season had all of Raj's ex-girlfriends point out how better off they were without him. Raj being a perma-bachelor seems to be the sum of his character now because of the pointlessness of his (several, by now) arcs. It's even lampshaded by Stuart in season eleven that Raj "will screw it up soon enough" after the latter has gotten another girlfriend, which of course he quickly does.
      • It's gone so far that (when he's not whining to everyone about it) he's pretty much given up. Once in a while he'll still try to make an attempt but nowadays he's regressed to the point where he can't even get a date while resident Butt-Monkey Stuart can. At times he shows that he's scared to death at ending up alone and being left behind compared to everyone else (all of his core group of friends are now married, along with his five siblings back in India), but it's often inappropriately Played for Laughs instead of taken seriously.
    • For all of Sheldon's genius intellect (and letting everyone else know at any given opportunity), he hasn't exactly accomplished anything in his field. Of all the guys, it's Howard who is the most successful in his career (actually building and inventing things, not to mention being an astronaut) and personal life, despite everyone else's taunts and misgivings (especially from Sheldon). Any time Sheldon does seemingly get close to a major breakthrough that would change the scientific community, he's always wrong and ends up back at square one. It's not until the Grand Finale that this is finally averted.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
  • 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.
    • In season 11 The Retraction Reaction Bernedette says that she hides her successes from Howard so that he won't get insecure. However, earlier seasons show that she is always flaunting her success and her bigger salary in his face. This may be a self-serving memory, however.
    • Penny getting pregnant in the final episode seems to come out of nowhere as a convenient way to resolve the underlying tension between her not wanting to have kids and Leonard (as well as Penny's friends and family) wanting her to have them. Though, it should be noted that even if Penny did take some form of contraceptive, there are a number of instances where they can fail. She may not have used the contraceptive correctly. Birth control pills are typically 99 percent effective if you take them correctly. If not, that goes down to 91 percent.
  • Awesome Ego: Sheldon. Despite being a self-centered Insufferable Genius, he's considered as the show's breakout character. See also Unpopular Popular Character below.
  • Base-Breaking Character: All of the main characters (except for Stuart) fall here for various reasons.
    • 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. Even post-character development Howard can get this treatment. He's either the real hero of the story note , or he has become a boring Henpecked Husband who can't shut up about being an astronaut.
    • Penny—she's either a cute, lovable person and a nice addition to the group(s) or an ungrateful bitch who should be thrown out on the street.
    • Bernadette is either adorable or annoying and bitchy. Her voice certainly doesn't help. Neither does the fact that later seasons seem to place increasing emphasis on her bitchiness, both at work & at home.
    • Leonard is either a total saint and a likable protagonist or a complete Jerkass who treats Sheldon like garbage and constantly complains about how life screwed him over.
    • Raj is either the biggest woobie on the show, or a passive-aggressive, girly creep who deserves to be alone. Then there's a third group that just sees him as an unfunny Ethnic Scrappy.
    • Amy, some people see her as funny, quirky and more reasonable, while others see her as selfish, and never getting called out for her behavior. Her treatment of Bernadette before her wedding, AND her treatment of both Wil Wheaton and Sheldon in the "The Habitation Configuration" has won her few fans.
    • Outside the main cast is Sheldon's mother Mary Cooper. Some like how well she gets along with the other characters and how she's able to put Sheldon in his place while still being a caring mother. Others don't like her constant Bible-thumping, her casual bigotry and her neglect towards her other children George Jr. and Missy, especially after watching Young Sheldon and season eleven's "The Sibling Realignment".
  • Broken Base:
    • Is the show a celebration of nerdom, a mockery of it, or shameless pandering?
    • 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 and frequency that quickly overstay their course and ruin the show.
    • Priya and Leonard's relationship, both in and out of universe.
    • The biggest example is probably when Leonard and the guys faked the readings they took during their North Pole expedition. Either you see the others as Jerkass Karma Houdinis who took the coward's way out or Sheldon as an insufferable ass who got exactly what he deserved.
      • Some people Take a Third Option by seeing both parties as in the wrong. Sheldon got a job dealing with two things: subordinates and data, and proved himself incompetent at both of them. The simple fact that they were able to falsify the data without him noticing shows that he was just dictating to them while they did all the work while periodically checking the results. However they had plenty of time during the trip home to tell him the truth which would not only have given him time to redact his statement but might have softened the blow.
    • Over Penny's pixie cut in season 8.
    • Many didn't like how Raj's story ended in Season 12. While many understand that him leaving his work and friends with get married to Anu, a woman who repeatedly has been shown to be more pragmatic about love while lacking any of the same interests as Raj, would be ridiculous and could be seen as him being desperate to not end up alone which is acknowledged, Anu had always been willing to compromise with Raj in a way that made her an enjoyable love interest for the character. Also Raj had admitted that while he loved his friends, he hasn't been happy for years and the season started with him acknowledging that he had made a mess of his life.
  • Cargo Ship: Howard/the robot hand he got stuck on, Sheldon/his spot, Amy/Gerard (her electric toothbrush), Raj and his mobile phone Siri....
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • "The Space Probe Disintegration" has Sheldon calling out Leonard for how much of a jerk HE is towards Sheldon much of the time. Even though Leonard goes right back to being a jerk to Sheldon after that, it's still pretty satisfying seeing Sheldon point out that Leonard isn't exactly the nicest guy in the world either.
  • Critical Dissonance: The Big Bang Theory is frequently mocked online, bashed for relying on outdated nerd stereotypes for jokes, perceived Seasonal Rot after the guys all entered relationships, Flanderization of the cast, supposedly promoting "adorkable misogyny", or simply because It's Popular, Now It Sucks!. The show is even the biggest target of laugh track backlash, with people editing episode clips with the laughter from the studio audience muted in order to justify their opinion. Yet, it is one of the most-watched shows on cable television even after it ended in 2019, Jim Parsons won four Emmys for his performance as Sheldon and critics usually gave it favorable reviews. It even did well enough to warrant a spin-off in Young Sheldon.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Howard's remote-controlled Stephen Hawking toy. While perceived as very offensive by most characters In-Universe, it's seen as hilarious by Kripke and the audience. Even the actual Hawking found it funny and cool.
    • During one of Sheldon's dreams involving Arthur Jeffries' ghost, Jeffries outright tries to kill himself with a lightsaber to get away from Sheldon, only to find out that even the lightsaber can phase through him. After the attempt, he tells Sheldon that it was worth a shot.
    • "In the Clean Room Infiltration", Howard tells a story about how when he was a kid, he accidentally sat on a blue jay. In an effort to resuscitate it, he electrocuted it only to accidentally set it on fire. What makes it cross the line is that it ended up smelling delicious.
  • Diagnosed by the Audience: While Jim Parsons confirmed that he portrayed Sheldon as an autistic character, no conformation exists for his Distaff Counterpart and girlfriend, Amy. Despite this, Amy is often described by audiences as an autistic-coded character, thanks to her carrying over Sheldon's lack of social skills, niche interests, and idiosyncratic lines of thought that allow her to get along with Sheldon to a greater degree than the rest of his peer group. Her social anxiety and its roots in her lifelong inability to "click" with most other people are also noted as resonating strongly with real-world autistic experiences.
  • Designated Villain:
    • Sheldon and Wil Wheaton in "The Habitation Configuration". You see, Wil was helping Sheldon out with his Web Show, "Fun With Flags". Amy repeatedly stops filming to berate him for being a poor actor, 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 and it's obvious she's doing it purely out of petty jealousy.
    • Priya, so very much. She was supposed to be a villain mainly because she was dating Leonard even though Penny wanted him even though she's the one who dumped him in the first place!. As such, while we are supposed to see her as a total bitch, other than not wanting Leonard to be friends with Penny anymore (Likely because she (correctly) thinks Penny is trying to steal him away from her), she doesn't do anything mean, and is nice to Leonard 90 percent of the time. Penny eventually does start to bond with Priya somewhat in the hospital episode however, and they might have eventually became friends except for the fact that she goes back to India a few episodes later.
  • 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. Amy also stands in the way of fans who adamantly think Sheldon should be gay, like his actor.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The main characters (except Stuart) get this a lot as well, especially Leonard. They're often portrayed as saints by those who dislike Sheldon, but in truth they're no better than him and often make fun of him, torment him, or humiliate him for the heck of it. And unlike Sheldon, who's intended to be an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, they're rarely called out on it.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Both Sheldon's parents are very popular given their screen time.
    • 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.
    • Bob Newhart as Professor Proton in "Proton Resurgence" was so popular among the fans and cast that he was brought back in a recurring role the following season. The fact that Newhart won his first Emmy for his portrayal really bolstered it.
      • Speaking of guest stars, it's generally agreed that the most memorable ones are James Earl Jones and Stephen Hawking. Also, the duo of Katee Sackhoff and George Takei.
    • All the cats Sheldon temporarily adopted in "The Zazzy Substitution" are loved for being adorable and bringing out Sheldon's Kindhearted Cat Lover side, but especially Zazzles. A lot of fans have said they wished Sheldon had kept Zazzles, even after he gave away all the other cats.
    • A lot of people really like Dave, which is remarkable considering he's the guy Amy dated during her temporary breakup with Sheldon. However, much like Zack, he avoids the standard pitfalls of being a Romantic False Lead, in this case because he's a genuinely sweet, funny, affectionate guy... who becomes a Shipper on Deck for Shamy. Plus, the fact that he's played by Stephen Merchant certainly helps. A lot of people have expressed hope that he comes back, especially since he parted ways with Amy on good terms.
    • Anu was well liked despite being introduced in the last season, her more pragmatic approach to her Arranged Marriage with Raj serving as an interesting foil to Raj's romanticism. Unlike a previous one-off love interest for Raj who was also pragmatic about love, Anu was willing to compromise with Raj to find a middle ground where both were happy and many enjoyed her interactions with the other characters.
  • 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. A criticism that fans of Community often level at TBBT is that while the former laugh with its nerdy audience, the latter laughs at them.
    • Also with Genshiken, for having more or less the same idea, only Genshiken was more nerdy.
    • Fans of The IT Crowd tend to passively bash this show a lot, saying that it's the former show's premise "done wrong."
  • 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.
    • "The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition" and "The Intimacy Acceleration" seem to have been both designed to sink it for good, with the former having Sheldon and Amy finally get together and point out (in detail) why he and Penny are not compatible, and the latter having them realize that they see each other Like Brother and Sister. They do indeed love each other (Sheldon views Penny as his best friend after Leonard) but not romantically.
  • Fanon:
  • Fanon Discontinuity: An example brought about by the prequel series Young Sheldon. Fans like to think that Sheldon's father never cheated on his wife, due to Young Sheldon portraying him in a more sympathetic light. This is despite the fact that Young Sheldon from the fourth season finale onward is clearly leading up to George sleeping with Brenda Sparks.
  • 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 California, Los Angeles, to help with the dialogue and even certain plot points (Sheldon's search for Magnetic Monopoles for instance). note 
    • When Raj asks Sheldon to look at data points to see any correlations, Sheldon finds one almost immediately. Raj is skeptical, until Sheldon explains his process with details like how prime numbers have a distinctive color and he can "taste" the speed of light. When Raj tells him that is not normal, Sheldon remarks "I guess I'm a special boy." The whole conversation is based on actual documentation of savants describing their mental process in similar ways, such as doing complex math via associating numbers with shapesnote .
    • In The Space Probe Disintegration, when Raj goes off on a rant at the elderly Indian man who dents his car in the ashram carpark, the old man in the car looks oddly familiar: this is a deeply ebedded joke which needs a bit of background information to decode, but this actor has been identified as an actor who played Mahatma Gandhi in an Indian TV adaptation of Gandhi's life, and does indeed bear a very strong resemblence. But Raj. Sounding off at Gandhi himself.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • It is the number one comedy in Latin America, comparable to the love for House.
    • This is one of the most watched shows in Canada.
    • It's also extremely popular in China.
    • Though it's not reached total cultural saturation in the UK quite as much as Friends did, no one would know that from how often it's shown on UK TV, with the number of The Big Bang Theory reruns on E4 comparable that of Friends before they lost the rights to the latter. They regularly run somewhere between four and six older episodes twice a day and have done for years, which seems to be a fair judge of its popularity. Plus, if someone has a British friend who only watches one American sitcom, odds are very high that it's either The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family (and BBT has the added advantage of being on a FreeView channel).
      • Some British reviewers note that the series 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, M.D. because it features a child genius becoming a doctor, and the Indian culture focuses a lot on higher education and the medical field.
  • 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.
    • The show took another step forward starting around the beginning of Season Six, as the characters became more mature and well-rounded.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In the ending of the same episode, Raj is forced to verbally apologize to Penny about his behaviour 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, end up sleeping together. However, it's revealed in the following episode that they actually didnt sleep together and instead just fell asleep.
    • 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.
    • Penny once made a comment that Howard gave her a teddy bear which contained a hidden webcam. Come the news of the leaks of private nude photos of Kaley Cuoco and other famous actresses, this comment is a lot harder to laugh at.
    • In the Season 6 premiere, Penny and Sheldon are left wondering why they're missing Leonard so much when he's just having a good time in the North Sea. Sheldon hypothesizes that Penny is thinking that he might have drunken sex with one of the researchers there. Come the Season 8 finale, and it turned out that Leonard had a drunken kiss with one of the researchers there.
    • Howard imitates Raj's accent, drawing this comment: "Did you have to make me sound like a Simpsons character!?". Not so funny when the controversy behind recurring character Apu blew up in The New '10s, to the point where his voice actor Hank Azaria retired from voicing him in 2020.
    • In "The Jerusalem Duality", 15 year old Dennis Kim told Sheldon that his work in string theory was a dead end, and that he will soon see that. Come to season seven, where he DOES see that, and ends up having to basically start his career over.
      • Becomes a lot less harsh if you consider that this basically set Sheldon on the path that would lead to him actually winning the Nobel Prize in the Grand Finale.
    • In season two, Sheldon was having a hard time getting rid of Ramona, so he went to Penny for advice. When she wondered why, Sheldon stated that due to "man after man leaving her apartment", she seemed to be an expert at ending relationships. Come season nine, when it's revealed that someone did go to Penny for advice on ending relationships: Amy! It also casts Penny's earlier interactions with Sheldon in the eighth season finale in a new light: she was subtly warning him not to get Amy to end things.
    • Also related to the above, when Sheldon is emotionally wrecked after he is forced to give up string theory, Amy makes a joke about how she hopes he is as devastated if they ever break up. Cut to season nine, and Sheldon is an utter mess.
    • In season 2's "The Classified Materials Turbulence", Leonard refused to take Stuart's call, saying that he doesn't want to talk to him about Stuart's upcoming date with Penny. Sheldon points out that Leonard is jumping to conclusions, and Stuart could be calling to say the comic book store is on fire. Come the season 7 finale...
    • On the topic of Howard's mom, in the episode where Bernadette makes it clear to Howard she doesn't want kids, she comes over to Howard's to talk about it but Ms. Wolowitz yells at Howard to talk to her (Bernadette) about this nonsense where she doesn't get any grandkids before Howard has a chance to bring it up himself. Funny at the time due to her unintentionally bringing it up before Howard does, but heartbreaking nowadays because Ms. Wolowitz ended up passing away two years before Howard and Bernadette had their first child; she never got to meet the grandchildren she wanted.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • In the Season Three premiere, Sheldon, operating under the belief that he has proven String Theory and is in line for a Nobel Prize, tells the others that while he can't thank them in his Nobel acceptance speech, they can expect a profuse footnote in his memoirs. Cue the finale, and a ton of Character Development, and Sheldon delivers a profound and heartfelt speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony where he not only addresses his friends by name, but tells them that he loves them all.
    • Adam West's cameo shows him ranking Lego Batman from The Lego Movie relatively higher than Christian Bale and George Clooney. Later, he would have a supporting role in The LEGO Batman Movie and received a bigger homage courtesy of live-action footage.
    • Sheldon's Nobel Prize speech, which he dedicates to his best friends, becomes this trope when we see in Young Sheldon that he similarly dedicated his valedictorian speech to Missy. It just confirms (as if we didn't know already) that the gang aren't just his friends; they're family.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • In season 4's episode "The Prestidigitation Approximation", Sheldon can't figure out how Howard does his magic trick. Howard sarcastically says "Yeah, he's going to win the Nobel Prize." In the episodes "The Change Constant" and "The Stockholm Syndrome", the last two episodes of the series, Sheldon and Amy do win the Nobel Prize.
  • 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.
  • In one episode, Wil Wheaton receives a call about being in Sharknado 2: The Second One. He actually was in the movie, though strangely uncredited.
  • In fact, all jokes about Aquaman are pretty hilarious when you consider how successful Aquaman (2018) was and how it pretty much ended the character's Memetic Loser status. In fact one episode had Sheldon reading some Aquaman comics for the sole purpose of being able to say he read the comics before it was cool to do so.
  • The recurring joke of Sheldon making fun of Howard for being "only" an engineer at NASA becomes this when Sheldon's actor, Jim Parsons, plays a lead engineer at NASA in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
  • One of the sections of Sheldon and Amy's Relationship Agreement involves conditions for hand holding. This includes a hearty handshake after winning the Nobel Prize. In the Grand Finale they both win the Nobel Prize as a married couple, and have done much more than hand holding.
  • Ho Yay: Wolowitz and Koothrappali.
    • Even Leonard's mother noticed.
    "So Howard, Raj, have you finally built up the courage to admit your latent homosexual feelings for one another?"
    • "The night the heat went out..." "It was a bonding experience!"
    • Sheldon and Leonard. When Raj's mother calls from India in one episode she thinks they are "like Haroun and Tanveer" who are "sweet young men that recently adopted the cutest little Punjab baby". Despite Leonard denying it initially, upon realizing that they own the special edition of Fiddler on the Roof, Leonard notes, "Maybe we are like Haroun and Tanveer".
    • It's also a little suggestive that Leonard's mother is a less neurotic female Sheldon. Especially considering that there's quite a bit of discussion about the psychological complexes her unaffectionate parenting style gave Leonard.
    • Similarly, Amy, who Sheldon has kissed, confessed to loving and even had sex with and planned to propose to looks and dresses much like a female Leonard.
    • As of season four, Howard and Raj have now kissed on the lips. Then we get this Innocent Innuendo from Leonard the next day:
    Leonard: So Howard, did you have fun playing with Raj's big telescope last night?
    • In one episode, Raj and Stuart got a moment when Raj asked Stuart to hang out, but sounding more like asking him on a date.
    • In a season 3 episode, Penny and Sheldon fought over who Leonard would take to Switzerland for Valentine's Day until they both come down with the flu. Leonard ends up taking Raj, who is over the moon with all the romantic furnishings.
    • In somewhat of an It's a Wonderful Plot, the gang wonders what their lives would be like without Sheldon, Howard still thinks he and Bernadette could've gotten married since they would still go to the Cheesecake Factory where she and Penny worked, but Bernadette theorizes that she would simply assume Howard and Raj were a couple and not even bother introducing herself.
  • 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.
      • In "The Bozeman Reaction", Sheldon and Leonard have their apartment broken into and ransacked with numerous valuables stolen. For the remainder of the episode, Sheldon is paranoid about the burglars returning, is uncomfortable sleeping and being alone in the apartment, asks for a security system to be installed, and finally decides he no longer feels safe in Pasadena and is moving to Bozeman, Montana. Short of moving into another state, all of Sheldon's actions in this episode are perfectly understandable after dealing with such a frightening experience, yet the cast treats it like it's his usual antics, and Leonard seems more upset with Sheldon's behavior than he does over the robbery.
    • Near the end of "The Engagement Reaction," Bernadette berates Howard for thinking that his mother had suffered a heart attack on hearing the news that the two were engaged, when in fact she actually passed out from food poisoning and it was purely coincidental that this happened at the exact time Howard told her about the engagement. While Howard was perhaps a little tactless into jumping straight to the assumption that it was a heart attack instead of his mother simply passing out from shock, and his inability to break down the bathroom door indicates that he should add a little muscle, Bernadette is portrayed as being completely right to yell at him for not working out that such an absurdly improbable coincidence had taken place.
    • While the show tries to show the guys' interests as not being a bad thing in general, it also has a tendency to say the opposite. In season 8, it's revealed Howard had a replica life-size prop TARDIS from Doctor Who in a shed behind his mother's house after he and Bernadette moved in. He wanted to keep it and store it in the basement, but Bernadette kept treating him like keeping it was the end of the world (and she ends up getting her way in the end). She's continued on with similar instances where she treats his love of pop culture as something that's wrong with him rather than just one facet of his personality. Penny also gets into this as well a bit in a subtle way. While she won't openly state Leonard's love of pop culture is outright wrong, she sometimes passive aggressively acts like it is, such as when he found out she slowly replaced most of the nerdy items in his room with what would be considered "normal" substitutes in season 9 and put them somewhere else without asking him or seeing if it was ok.
    • There are also episodes where the guys will bring something up about their relationships, mainly Leonard and Howard, with legitimate reasons as to why they would, and yet will be berated or labelled as wrong by the girls for some reason, mostly petty ones. There isn't exactly Two and a Half Men-levels of it, but it's definitely there if you pay attention.
    • In one episode, Bernadette was excited about being on a cover of a magazine for being hot, until Amy went out of her way to ruin all of that for her. Bernadette got angry and snapped that she only did it because she herself would never be considered for such an issue. Amy got all hurt and left. However, Bernadette was right to be pissed that Amy basically sabotaged something for her just because she didn't like the idea of it. Yet, the episode treated Amy like she was the victim and ended with Bernadette attempting to apologize for snapping at her.
    • Although Amy wasn’t wrong when she pointed out that as a female scientist posing on a magazine because of her looks is somewhat tasteless. She’s also not wrong that Bernadette's actions as a scientist reflects on the careers of other female scientist’s.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • Amy and Bernadette become part of the show's main cast from Season 4 onward.
    • The relationships: Leonard ends up with Penny, Howard with Bernadette, Sheldon with Amy, and Raj is the only one that's still single.

    J-W 
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Leonard. Yeah, he may be considered a Designated Hero and an ass, but the insults that 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, to the point where he relates that he built a hugging machine so that he could fake having human contact. 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 even if she was far more experienced than him, traffic lights are a pretty black and white indicator that even people who've never been in a car at all would know not to drive through. He is in fact trying to deflect the blame onto his incapacitated passenger.
      • However Sheldon was not a licenced driver at the time and took instructions from someone who was. He presented actual arguments to the Judge in traffic court all of which the judge ignored for rule of funny.
      • 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 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 in 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 it's hard not to feel bad for them.
    • Dr. Crawlie from "The Jiminy Conjecture" would be a full-on Woobie if not for being played by Lewis Black.
  • Les Yay: Amy Farrah Fowler and Penny, although this is more of a one-sided crush.
    • Penny has since revealed that as a high school student in Nebraska, she participated in extracurricular activities with the gym coach who had a massive and unwise crush on her. Just to specify the gym coach's gender, they apparently went to a Melissa Etheridge gig together note . Penny was not explicit on what she had to do to get the A-grade for gym, but mysteriously remarked that "it all worked out OK".
    • In another episode, Penny relays a story about a guy picking her up in a bar, then picking up another girl and all of them leaving together, then asking if it meant she also picked up the other girl.
    • Penny mentions that the Doctor who gave her use of a mountain cabin was having her go to an Indigo Girls concert with her.
  • Memetic Mutation: Sheldon tends to generate these.
    • "Bazinga!"Explanation 
      • A variant of this involves Sheldon's Bazinga Jump Scare almost causing Leonard to crash his car, with certain edits involving cutting out the part where he gets the car in control and replacing it with an accident or car crash, with hilarious results such as this.
    • Oh, the Humanities! (An Unusual Euphemism, substituting "Humanity", the typical word, for "Humanities", the collective fields of study of Human culture, which Sheldon tends to reference on occasion)
    • Yes! Yes! My brain is better than EVERYBODY'S! (A reference to Sheldon's typical Insufferable Genius behavior)
    • (knock knock knock) "Penny?" (knock knock knock) "Penny?" (knock knock knock) "Penny?" (A reference to Sheldon's compulsive door knocking quirk)
    • On /co/, the show is commonly made fun of in variations of "Hey guys, Green Lantern!" (audience laughter shakes the studio, snowballing into an apocalyptic event)
    • Replacing the laugh track with a variety of other people's laughs like Ricky Gervais, Tidus, SpongeBob, a random guy or just random sound effects in general.
    • There are lots of extremely surreal MS Paint productions that rival Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff in terms of Stylistic Suck. They almost always have extremely botched English, with the punchline usually being some warbled variation of "bazinga" ("bandingo", "bonswazzle", "bazooper", "carabooda", "jumanji", "bepzinky", "vajazzle", etc.) or African and Asian countries (Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Botswana, etc). Have a look for yourself.
    • For snarkers against the show, the spin off Young Sheldon became this, in particular the assumed joke where the titular character corrects his mother over the actual name of salt when she asked him to pass it to her.
    • "I don't need sleep. I need answers." (A quote from Sheldon that is used in fandom obsessed posts.)
    • "I'm going to post NSFW in general!" Explanation 
    • "Love is in the air? Wrong! Gas leak."Explanation 
  • Older Than They Think: a number of tropes that seem original actually show up in episodes of The Office.
    • Angela's Creepy Cleanliness prevents her from submitting to a group handshake without first laying a napkin on the pile of her coworkers' hands. Sheldon makes the same move in "The Zarnecki Incursion".
      Sheldon: I'm hell-bent on catching a cyber criminal, not the common cold.
    • Sheldon's Roommate Agreement and his Relationship Agreement with Amy seem unique and quirky, but Angela and Dwight had a formal contract regarding procreation. Like Sheldon, Dwight was also a notary public and validated the agreement himself. The contracts on both shows were used to invoke Read the Fine Print and Magically-Binding Contract and served as plot devices in several episodes.
    • A few of the main characters having really bad parents, and bad relationships with them as a result, is a trait this show shares with Two and a Half Men. It's, for some reason, a favorite trope of Chuck Lorre's, since he's also had the trait show up in Mike & Molly as well, to have some of the main characters have bad relationships with their bad parents and also explore the psychological aspects of them. Leonard's mother in particular shares an immense amount of traits with Evelyn, Charlie and Alan's mother, in that they show absolutely no understanding of why their children hate them, blame their children for their problems with them rather than actually examining their own actions that have screwed up their kids' lives, are very hypocritical when they're blamed for their problems, despite how true the claims are, and show absolutely no signs of changing for the better. She even shows more genuine appreciation for Leonard's siblings' accomplishments rather than his. They even have Leonard proud of the fact that she's his mother, as it's lead to his success, rather than saying he would've wanted a more traditional mom who supports everything he sets out to do, is full of genuine warmth, and loves all of her children as much as she can. Even Penny had this happen to her early on with her father, as it's established that he wanted a son and, consequently, pushed Penny away as a result of not having one rather than appreciating her for being his daughter...at least they established that before he actually showed up in the show, with absolutely none of those traits as a part of his characterization as you'd expect. Sheldon seems to be somewhat of a subversion of this as, while his mother and he don't see eye-to-eye most of the time, she does genuinely love him and he genuinely loves her and they, generally, have a good relationship outside of their thoughts on religion and Sheldon's tendency to act like a big baby when she comes to visit. Even Bernadette has a good, normal, family life with her parents.
  • 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.
    • Yvette from "The Locomotive Manipulation" is one of the more popular love interests for Raj among the fanbase, despite appearing in only one episode, due to the fact that they shared a lot of the same values and seemed quite well-suited generally. The casting of Tania Raymonde was made quite a big deal of at the time, suggesting that the character might originally have been meant to be recurring.
    • Carrie Fisher... Wielding a baseball bat... after being ding-dong-ditched by James Earl Jones.
  • Pandering to the Base: Leonard and Penny, despite being the Official Couple faced a lot of criticism during Season 10 due to there constant arguments and issues after marriage. The writers noted this and many fans were worried the two would eventually divorce. However, Season Eleven was seen as a huge improvement and many fans were pleased for them to have created a more stable and genuine relationship.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In one episode, it's revealed Howard once gave Penny a teddy bear that she discovered had a webcam inside it.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: In-universe. "Shamy" in the Season 4 Premiere for Sheldon and Amy. Amy is quick to put an end to it, though. The fans still use the term to discuss the Sheldon/Amy pairing.
    • Also in universe, Raj has suggested "Koothrapemily and "Emipalli" as one for himself and Emily.
    • "Lenny" is the term used by fans to discuss the Leonard/Penny pairing. Somewhat confusing since Lenny is a nickname of Leonard.
    • The term "Shenny" is used by fans to discuss Sheldon/Penny shipping. The Big Bag Theory Wiki has a small article on the subject.
    • The term "Howardette" is used by fans to discuss the Howard/Bernadette pairing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Penny is susceptible to this as well complete with a healthy dose of slut-shaming for having a healthy sex life while single. Some examples are the below mentioned Escalating War with Sheldon over the rules at his apartment yet no mention is ever given of the fact that he basically forces his rules everywhere he was going, including Penny’s house. Or her keeping all the horrible things Howard did from Bernadette in "The Stag Convergance" while forgetting that Penny has told Bernadette how sleazy Howard is many times from repeatedly bad mouthing him after they broke up to repeatedly asking her if she really wanted to marry him. Plus the things they saw in the video were things Penny had no knowledge of.
    • Just about every character over the course of the show has had only their flaws focused on and their positive traits ignored, often but not always when in comparison to Sheldon.
  • Seasonal Rot: While there are plenty of fans who think it gets better every season due to more Character Development and more humor, plenty of other fans think the show has been going downhill since Season 4, because of moving away from the original plot, less focus on the "nerdy" elements and more on relationships, and taking away aspects from the characters that many people loved.
  • 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.
  • Shallow Parody: The jokes about geek culture hit really obvious targets like video games, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. The targets are so big in the mainstream it's considered perfectly normal to be into them. The show itself even acknowledges this early on, when Penny mocks Leonard for collecting action figures when she herself has numerous My Little Pony and Hello Kitty dolls.
  • 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.
    • More like Scenery Effect Failure, but the brief scene of the women at Disneyland in "The Contractual Obligation Implementation" can be a bit of a Mind Screw to those who actually have been to Disneyland. The scene is very quiet, and it looks as if Penny, Amy and Bernadette are the only guests in the park!
  • Squick: Howard's subplot in the fourth season premiere. 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.
    • In Season 1, Penny's "friend" Christy comes to stay with her for a bit. The night she does, she gets seduced by and sleeps with Howard. The next day, Howard reveals they showered together and used Penny's loofa, which "reached places [Howard's] just won't." Later, Penny said that they made all her stuffed animals "sweaty." If you know what happens at the end of sex, then both are very nauseating to think about.
  • 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. While he is not free of fault due to his own haste in taking credit for the discovery, Sheldon is the victim in this, and is utterly hollowed out when he finds out. The others only offer a light apology, with only Raj actually seeming to regret it, and Leonard was only worried about getting back to he could have sex with Penny. This also doesn't get into the fact that falsifying data in the academic community is a huge breach of ethics; 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.
    • One particular 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.
    • Both Sheldon and Wil Wheaton in "The Habitation Configuration". See Designated Villain for more information.
  • Supercouple: Both Leonard/Penny and Sheldon/Amy are this.
  • 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 Character:
    • The show had the tendency of introducing possible love interests only to completely drop them off the face of the earth after a couple episodes without any explanation whatsoever as to what happened to them.
      • One notable example of this is Dr. Stephanie Barnett (Sara Rue) in Season 2. She's introduced in a 3 episode mini-arc as Howard's girlfriend only for Stephanie to end up hitting it off with Leonard, and eventually becomes his girlfriend instead. How does Leonard and Stephanie's relationship evolve from there? No one knows since Stephanie never appeared again after the mini-arc. The show just continued on as if the Stephanie plotline never happened.
      • Another example is the Ship Tease between Leonard and Alex Jensen (Margo Harshman) in Season 6 not going anywhere. Alex just suddenly stopped appearing after a couple episodes to the point of not even bothering to show why she stopped being Sheldon's assistant.
      • Lucy, who was Raj's girlfriend for the latter third of Season 6. Many fans thought that Kate Micucci would have been a great addition to the show's recurring cast, and were enthused both by the prospect of a female character who was into stereotypically male interests such as comics and video games (she and Raj first met in the comic store), and was much more of a shy wallflower-type character (the nearest thing among the existing characters being Amy, which was mostly negated by her having the same blunt force trauma social mannerisms as Sheldon). However, the episode after Lucy's introduction wasted no time in establishing that her interests were just as stereotypically "girly" as those of the three female regulars and that she just happened to randomly wander into the comic store at exactly the right time to meet Raj, and the remaining episodes she was in gave her next-to-no character development, before she was Put on a Bus at the end of the season.
  • 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 goodbye and make amends, Santa shoots Sheldon with a cannon, making the ending a Catapult Nightmare.
    • In The Bozeman Reaction, at no point does Sheldon point out that Bozeman, Montana is the future sight of the test of the first warp engine & first contact with the Vulcans in the film Star Trek: First Contact. Given his love of Star Trek, and TNG in general, this would surely have been a factor in his decision to move there. On a side-note, this counts as a Genius Bonus, and might be deliberate on the part of the writers.
    • "The Bakersfield Expedition" centered around the guys going to Comic-Con while cosplaying as Star Trek characters, only to have their car stolen and put in embarrassing situations as they make their way home. IGN's review of the episode posits that, instead of devoting the episode to mocking the leads for their hobbies, it would have been much better to put them in a dangerous situation that would let them live out their fantasies of being Starfleet officers.
    • Due to the increasing amount of attention nerd culture has received in recent years, it would be interesting if the four male leads suddenly found themselves becoming more popular for the geeky hobbies and interests that earned so much ridicule over the years.
    • The Grand Finale, instead of having Sheldon be called out for the hundredth time how much of a jerk he is (seeing the other characters "stand up to him" isn't very satisfying when they've already "stood up to him" multiple times in previous episodes), could've been a good opportunity to have Leonard, Penny, Howard, Raj, Bernadette, and Amy be called out for THEIR Jerkass tendencies (granted, Leonard and Bernadette have been called out before, but both received Aesop Amnesia in episodes after that, and it hasn't happened as often as Sheldon being called out), perhaps even by Sheldon, which considering how mean they are to him much of the time would've been far more satisfying, especially since unlike Sheldon we're intended to see them as likable characters.
      • Particularly, the last few seasons have multiple moments where someone references Bernadette's hurtful tendencies, such as Amy when she's dressed up as Bernadette or Penny when they're at work. Unlike every other character, however, she never even attempts to be a kinder person (how much the others do can vary, but it's undeniable that all of them are in general more considerate people than they were when they started out), and instead keeps on being "unnecessarily hurtful," as Amy says, to pretty much everyone outside of her friend group.
    • Some feel that Leonard and Penny's plotline in Season 12 was ruined by Penny being pregnant and happy in the Grand Finale, as it creates some Unfortunate Implications while also making their story in that season unnecessary. After Leonard coming to terms with the idea of not being a father and simply being happy in a relationship with Penny, all that is said in the final episode is that she now wants them after accidentally getting pregnant.
    • Penny's B-Horror movie plotline, and how it started to involve Penny in a geekier sphere of influence professionally (i.e. Wil Wheaton's podcast, the fan convention) could have been an interesting opportunity to explore how Penny's years of hanging out with geeks could actually help her as an actress, and in turn, force the guys to recognize how much actors like Penny have shaped their lives, and deserve more respect.
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: At first. Even if you find the show funny, it can quickly become tiring watching the four male leads constantly being bullied, harassed, insulted and put down by everyone and their mother.note  in addition, the main characters (except Stuart) all Took a Level in Jerkass after the first season, making them very hard to sympathize with.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • Howard is this in the story arc dealing with Howard's feeling unwelcome and underappreciated after returning from space. While the episode tries to play him off as having Acquired Situational Narcissism. Howard has been the butt of his friends' jokes since the beginning of the series for not having a doctorate. Even Penny and Bernadette have mocked him for this. So when he finally has something to brag about they just come across as petty for not letting him do it.
    • Sheldon can fall into this a lot as well. Yeah, he's an Insufferable Genius, but the things that Leonard and his friends do to him generally slide into Disproportionate Retribution, and they're also rather fond of messing with him because it amuses them, making it hard not to feel at least a little sympathy for him. For example, in the aforementioned "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation", he and his friends return from the North Pole, only for Sheldon to discover that his friends faked data in order to get him to be less obnoxious. They tell him this AFTER he sent out an email to the university about how he'd discovered magnetic monopoles, and as a result he is humiliated and mocked. Even if they were planning on telling him before he sent out the email and just didn't realize how fast he would do it, the others just shrug him off and act like he's overreacting (the only one who has his back is Penny; and Raj, to an extent). We're presumably supposed to side with them, but can you really blame him for being upset and betrayed considering that they humiliated him and on top of that faked data — which is a big breach of ethics in the academic community — just to get him to be less annoying?
    • In "The Agreement Dissection", after Priya abolishes the Roommate Agreement, we have Sheldon coming home to discover that Leonard, Howard and Raj got Greek food, which they know that he loathes, on Pizza Night just to tick him off, which was not justified at all — none of them had said anything about not liking pizza, and Leonard hates Greek food just as much as Sheldon does and yet he's totally okay with getting it for no other reason than to make Sheldon angry (not to mention that when Sheldon points out that Leonard hates Greek food, Leonard just replies "Not as much as you."). How exactly is Sheldon in the wrong for being angry about this?
    • Wil Wheaton for being fed up with Amy's whining and bitching in "The Habitation Configuration", and Sheldon for siding with him, and being treated like he's somehow in the wrong for it.
    • Fans and characters in the show usually make fun of Raj for being desperate to get a girlfriend (and, indeed, some of his actions are pretty pathetic). That being said, it can be really difficult when all of your friends are in relationships, and you're the only single one. Especially given that his family life wasn't great as a child, meaning that he already had low self-esteem as it was.
    • Lucy is blamed by all the characters for how she dumps Raj over an email, but the fact is that he pushed her into coming to a large party full of strangers when he knows perfectly well how incredibly shy she is. While dumping him over email is pretty low, it's also completely understandable that she feels they're done.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Leonard, Howard, Raj, Penny, Amy and Bernadette are supposed to be sympathetic for having to put up with Sheldon. The thing is, they're no better than him and enjoy tormenting him, bullying him, and insulting him (and each other) to his face. This also makes the many, many episodes where they "stand up to Sheldon" unsatisfying, they rarely if ever take his Jerkass behavior lying down and they come across as massive Hypocrites who can dish it out but can't take it.
    • "The Panty Pinata Polarization" has Sheldon and Penny getting into an Escalating War over the rules at Sheldon's apartment. We're supposed to side with Penny, but she's acting just as awful and petty as Sheldon, taking advantage of his many quirks to drive him insane.
    • Another example of Penny being this comes in an episode where Leonard sneaks a look at and fixes her bad history paper. She gets angry at him because she wanted to do it herself... then proceeds to enlist the help of Amy and Bernadette to rewrite it just to stick it to him. Hypocrisy, thy name is Penny.
    • Howard is this in "The Apology Insufficiency", where he gets ticked-off at Sheldon because Sheldon accidentally told a government agent that Howard crashed the Mars Rover trying to impress a date, and as a result Howard didn't get security clearance to work on a project. Howard was the idiot who crashed the Mars Rover trying to impress a girl in the first place, and he didn't even have clearance to enter the control room in the first place. Sheldon told the agent - by accident - something completely true about Howard that demonstrates that he is indeed an irresponsible person who really shouldn't have security clearance. And yet we're supposed to side with Howard.
    • Amy in "The Habitation Configuration", where she acts like an enormous Jerkass towards Wil Wheaton, and yet when Sheldon is understandably annoyed he and Wil are treated as the ones in the wrong.
    • Raj after breaking up with Emily. He spends the rest of the episode as a thoroughly depressed mess, but he only broke up with her after obsessing over another woman (who clearly told him she wasn’t interested) for days before breaking up with Emily right before Valentine’s Day. He then went crawling back to her when this stupid decision blew up in his face. All in all, he comes across looking more like a sleaze than someone you should feel sorry for.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Most of the characters on the show are not popular in the conventional sense, but within the context of the main group this comes up regularly.
    • Sheldon, whose Jerkass behavior is barely tolerated by the others and they have contingencies on how to deal with his narcissism and arrogance, but was certainly the Breakout Character of the show.
    • Barry Kripke is an obnoxious tool the other characters dislike, but being such an unapologetic ass who can put Sheldon in his place earned him a good deal of fans.
    • Stuart is straight up The Eeyore sad sack, but being the owner of the Local Hangout and friendly demeanor earned him a place in the main credits.
    • Bert sees the main group as the popular crowd, and his social awkwardness is hard to get around, but his sincerity and being played by Brian Posehn elevated what was originally a one-gag character.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: In the Season 7 premiere, 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 Long Runner nature of the show meant that everyone would have their own opinion of when it started suffering Seasonal Rot (ranging from season 3 to season 12). The Grand Finale, on the other hand, was wildly praised by just about everyone as a great conclusion, ending on a high note as a love letter to both the characters and the fans. Sheldon truly becoming kinder and more empathetic also earned a lot of praise.
  • The Woobie: Pretty much the entire cast and even side characters take turns at this, since they bonded by having mutual problems with apathetic family members and growing up ostracized for their intelligence.
    • 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 unpopularity 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, 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. He finds it hard to talk with people outside of the nerd community, and is often depressed about his lot in life, and the fact that he's rarely invited to hang out with his friends in their group events. To cap it off, his comic book shop burns down in the Season 7 finale (and no matter what other people say, he didn't do it to collect the insurance), and in Season 8, Debbie (Howard's Mother), who he was getting close to, passed away right after providing him with the funds he needed to get his shop back in business. The poor guy just can't catch a break.
    • 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.
    • Howard's mother used to be thin and beautiful until she became a chocolate addict from eating the candy her dates brought her. Her husband up and leaves her alone with a young child to raise alone and she clearly suffers from a fear of abandonment because of it. Her controlling and manipulative nature just seems to be her way of keeping the only person who loves her close to her. Then she dies while on a great vacation and only a short time after developing probably her closest friendship in years.
    • 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 Priya, 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. Even when she gets a job that pays a lot of money, she eventually admits to Leonard that she hates it because having to flirt with doctors all day to make sales doesn't feel good, but she also isn't sure if she wants to go back to acting because she remembers how miserable the auditions and failure made her.
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