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." On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 57 out of 100, based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". 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.
When Amy sees Sheldon obsessively tying and untying his bow tie the day before their wedding, Amy tells him it doesn't need to be even because sometimes a little asymmetry looks good. On the day of the wedding, Sheldon stops his mother from trying to straighten his bow tie, saying it's supposed to be a little asymmetrical. When Mary comments that sometimes it’s the imperfect stuff that makes things perfect, Sheldon has a flash of inspiration and rushes to see Amy. Sheldon and Amy’s wedding is delayed as they excitedly work on a new theory of “super asymmetry”.
David Saltzberg, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, checks scripts and provides dialogue, mathematics equations, and diagrams used as props. According to executive producer/co-creator Bill Prady, "We're working on giving Sheldon an actual problem that he's going to be working on throughout the [first] season so there's actual progress to the boards ... . We worked hard to get all the science right." David Saltzberg, who has a Ph.D. in physics, has served as the science consultant for the show for six seasons and attends every taping. He sees early versions of scripts which need scientific information added to them, and he also points out where the writers, despite their knowledge of science, have made a mistake. He is usually not needed during a taping unless a lot of science, and especially the whiteboard, is involved.
The show originally centered on five characters living in Pasadena, California: Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, both physicists at Caltech, who share an apartment; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon's similarly geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. Over time, supporting characters were promoted to starring roles, including neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski, physicist Leslie Winkle and comic book store owner Stuart Bloom.
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (recurring season 3, starring seasons 4–12): A young woman who initially is a co-worker at The Cheesecake Factory with Penny to pay her way through graduate school, where she is studying microbiology. Bernadette is introduced to Howard by Penny; at first, they do not get along, apparently having nothing in common. They date and later get engaged and married. Although generally a sweet and good-natured person, Bernadette has a short fuse and can be vindictive and lash out when provoked.
The sixth season boasts some of the highest-rated episodes for the show so far, with a then-new series high set with "The Bakersfield Expedition", with 20 million viewers, a first for the series, which along with NCIS, made CBS the first network to have two scripted series reach that large an audience in the same week since 2007. In the sixth season, the show became the highest rated and viewed scripted show in the 18–49 demographic, trailing only the live regular NBC Sunday Night Football coverage, and was third in total viewers, trailing NCIS and Sunday Night Football. Season seven of the series opened strong, continuing the success gained in season six, with the second episode of the premiere, "The Deception Verification", setting the new series high in viewers with 20.44 million.
In 2010, Leonard, Howard, and Raj mined a lot of Bitcoin, now worth thousands of dollars, but left Sheldon out due to his fear of tax implications. Flashbacks are shown of how the Bitcoin ended up on an old laptop of Leonard's, which Penny gave to her old boyfriend Zack after she and Leonard broke up. In 2017, Leonard and Penny retrieve the computer from Zack, who first shows them a video of a drunken Penny apologizing for breaking up with Leonard. The Bitcoin is not found on the laptop. Sheldon had moved it to a flash drive on Leonard's keychain to teach the guys a lesson, but Leonard lost the keychain years ago. A final flashback to 2013 shows Stuart discovering the flash drive, which he decides to erase and sell for $10.
“I have a very long and somewhat self-centered speech here, but I’d like to set it aside. Because this honor doesn’t just belong to me; I wouldn’t be up here if it weren’t for some very important people in my life,” he says, and thanks his family and his “other family.” “I was under a misapprehension that my accomplishments were mine alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been encouraged, sustained, inspired, and tolerated, not only by my wife, but by the greatest group of friends anyone ever had.”
He's since become attached to a handful of Netflix projects, appearing in their recent Ted Bundy film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, executive producing mentee Ryan O'Connell's autobiographical comedy series Special, and signing on to reprise his role in their movie version of Ryan Murphy's Broadway production of The Boys in the Band, due on the streaming service in 2020.
In the apartment building where Sheldon, Leonard and Penny (and later Amy) live, the elevator has been out of order throughout most of the series, forcing characters to have to use the stairs. Stairway conversations between characters occur in almost every episode, often serving as a transition between longer scenes. The Season 3 episode, "The Staircase Implementation" reveals that the elevator was broken when Leonard was experimenting with rocket fuel. In the penultimate episode of the series, the elevator is returned to an operational state, causing Sheldon some angst.
Sheldon's mother Mary refuses to attend his wedding unless he invites his older brother George, with whom he is no longer speaking. Sheldon and Leonard fly to Texas to talk to George, who now owns a chain of tire stores. He refuses to attend and later explains to Leonard and Sheldon that the family sacrificed a lot to fund Sheldon's education, and he was stuck caring for their mother and sister Missy after their father died while Sheldon was in college. Sheldon never thanked him for this. Leonard takes George back to the hotel room where Sheldon apologizes for what he did and the brothers reconcile. George agrees to attend the wedding. Meanwhile, Howard and Bernadette's children contract pinkeye, infecting everyone except Penny, much to Amy's fury.