Initial reception for the series was mixed. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 52% approval rating for the first season based on reviews from 23 critics, with an average rating of 5.18/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Big Bang Theory brings a new class of character to mainstream television, but much of the comedy feels formulaic and stiff."[91] On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 57 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[92] Later seasons received more acclaim and in 2013, TV Guide ranked the series #52 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time.[93]

After learning Sheldon went behind their backs to work with the military again, Leonard and Howard say Sheldon is like Thomas Edison, taking credit for others' ideas, while they are more like Nikola Tesla. Leonard and Howard bring in Barry Kripke to help create a better idea than Sheldon's, but Kripke goes to the military himself, cutting all three of them out. Meanwhile, Bernadette fears Ruchi is trying to steal her projects at work while she is on maternity leave and enlists Raj to spy on her. Though he finds proof that Ruchi may be stealing from Bernadette, Raj tries to defend Ruchi like a boyfriend would, pointing out Bernadette's hypocrisy as she would most likely have stolen from other people's projects as well. Ruchi is not happy about this and promptly dumps Raj.


Showrunner Steve Molaro, who took over from Bill Prady with the sixth season, credits some of the show's success to the sitcom's exposure in off-network syndication, particularly on TBS, while Michael Schneider of TV Guide attributes it to the timeslot move two seasons earlier. Chuck Lorre and CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler also credit the success to the influence of Molaro, in particular the deepening exploration of the firmly established regular characters and their interpersonal relationships, such as the on-again, off-again relationship between Leonard and Penny.[103] Throughout much of the 2012–13 season, The Big Bang Theory placed first in all of syndication ratings, receiving formidable competition from only Judge Judy and Wheel of Fortune (first-run syndication programs). By the end of the 2012–13 television season, The Big Bang Theory had dethroned Judge Judy as the ratings leader in all of syndicated programming with 7.1, Judy descending to second place for that season with a 7.0.[104] The Big Bang Theory did not place first in syndication ratings for the 2013–14 television season, beaten out by Judge Judy.[105]
However, no legal action was required to end production of the other show: as soon as it became known that the show was unlicensed, the actors quit and the producers canceled it.[209] Dmitriy Tankovich (who plays Leonard's counterpart, "Seva") said in an interview, "I'm upset. At first, the actors were told all legal issues were resolved. We didn't know it wasn't the case, so when the creators of The Big Bang Theory started talking about the show, I was embarrassed. I can't understand why our people first do, and then think. I consider this to be the rock bottom of my career. And I don't want to take part in a stolen show".[210]
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