Set to air its finale at the end of its current season, The Big Bang Theory has consistently been a massive hit for CBS throughout its 12-year run. Part of the reason the show has amassed an extremely large and loyal fan base is because The Big Bang Theory has featured storylines that viewers enjoy.
Whether you love The Big Bang Theory or not, it is abundantly clear that a lot of the show’s storylines have hit the sweet spot in terms of inspiring viewers to tune in. Of course, even among the popular story elements of the series, some stand head and shoulders above the rest. On the other end of the spectrum, The Big Bang Theory has also featured several scenarios that the vast majority of viewers clearly dislike. Let's take a look at the best of the best and the worst of the worst.
In order for one of The Big Bang Theory’s storyline to be considered for possible inclusion on this list, it first and foremost needs to stand out from many of the show’s less important developments. From there, it either needs to have made the show significantly better or taken away from what viewers loved so much about the series. Finally, it should be noted that even short-term storylines were in the running, as long as they were memorable enough to have made a large impact on the show’s legacy.
Here are 10 Storylines That Hurt The Big Bang Theory (And 10 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: The North Pole Excursion
Don’t get us wrong, not everything to do with this storyline was awful. For instance, it was nice to see Penny admit she wished Leonard wasn’t going, and them sharing a kiss when he returned was nice too. However, it didn’t exactly make Leonard and Penny look like they would be a good couple when it took him leaving for months to make her cherish him.
On top of that, the real issue with this whole storyline was how awful it made the friendship between the guys seem. It was already clear how annoying Sheldon can be, but the idea that his best friends faked scientific results to shut him up makes all four of them look like awful people.
19 Saved: Howard’s Mother's Passing
One of the more interesting The Big Bang Theory characters, Howard’s mother, Debbie Wolowitz, was never once seen onscreen, but her presence was often felt. As he was still living with his mother for the first several seasons of the show, whenever Howard was seen at home, it was only a matter of time before his mom could be heard yelling something nuts at him.
Though she was far from a subtle character throughout her time on the series, when the woman that voiced Mrs. Wolowitz passed away in real-life the series handled it surprisingly well. Obviously sad to have lost his loved one, Howard and the gang paid a beautiful tribute by thawing all of the frozen food his mom had lovingly prepared for him and enjoyed the resulting feast.
18 Hurt: Stuart Moving In
Introduced during the second season of the show, Stuart Bloom is one of a select few supporting Big Bang Theory characters who were upgraded to starring roles. At the end of the 7th season, he began to take care of Howard’s mother and even moved in with her.
It was initially a somewhat amusing storyline, since seeing Howard jealous of Stuart’s close relationship with his mom was entertaining. However, this plot has dragged on for far too long. Able to continue living with Howard and Bernadette once Mrs. Wolowitz passed away, Stuart’s character is now stagnating and serves no real purpose for the most part.
17 Saved: Raj and Howard’s Tight Friendship
Though they seemed like a group of four equally close buddies when the show began, in reality, the male leads actually are broken up into two subgroups of closer-knit friendships. Over the show’s run, it has become abundantly clear just how much Raj and Howard actually care about one another.
In fact, the importance of their relationship was proven by a recent series of events in which Raj decided to no longer be friends with Howard due to the latter’s often biting sense of humor. Out of sorts at losing one of the most important people in his life, Howard’s attempts to mend fences with his best pal led to several heartwarming moments.
16 Hurt: Howard Going to Space
Though it was a storyline that had potential, in execution, Howard becoming an astronaut wound up being much more annoying than anything else. For example, anytime the show cut to one of the characters talking to Howard over video while he was still in space, it put the brakes on the focus of the episode.
Worse yet, once he returned to Earth, seeing his character constantly bring up his space travel was just as annoying for viewers as it was for his friends. In fact, it has gotten to the point that even when the show will randomly bring up his space travel several seasons later, it still results in many viewers rolling their eyes.
15 Saved: Sheldon’s Relationship With His Mother
It is no coincidence that so much of the show’s merchandise relates to Sheldon’s best-known catchphrase, Bazinga. No matter how much viewers enjoy his character, however, it is equally obvious that even his friends find it hard to put up with his demanding behavior at times. Considering that fans of the series tend to generally care about all of the lead characters’ happiness, seeing them enjoy Sheldon being put into his place is a lot of fun.
The only character who consistently has the ability to control Sheldon’s actions is his mother. Anytime Mary Cooper shows up it is a delight, especially since Laurie Metcalf is a wonderful actor.
14 Hurt: The Leonard, Penny, and Stephanie Love Triangle
It's one of the most recognizable sitcom tropes over the last several decade. It seems like almost every major network comedy has their version of the "will they or won’t they" couple. In some cases that can result in marvelous television, but it also can lead to frustrating attempts to keep a couple everyone wants to see together apart.
When Leonard began dating Dr. Stephanie, it was an obvious stall tactic to keep fans who wanted to see him with Penny on the hook even longer. Perhaps the most galling part of the whole love triangle is that Stephanie was portrayed by Sara Rue, a lovely and underrated actor whose skills should have been put to much better use.
13 Saved: Raj Learning to Talk to Women
When The Big Bang Theory began all of the lead characters had over the top and gimmicky elements to them. For instance, Sheldon obviously had a unique personality and the way Howard hit on women was pretty creepy. Raj’s gimmick was that he could not talk to women at all while sober, which could be pretty amusing at times. However, it also limited his character in some pretty massive ways and seeing Howard react to Raj whispering in his ear got pretty old after a while.
Fortunately, in perhaps the greatest indication of how much Raj’s character has grown, he not only can talk to women now but a lot of the time it seems like he lacks an off-switch around them.
12 Hurt: Bernadette Becoming Like Howard's Mother
At first this storyline seemed to be nothing more a one-time joke, so when viewers first heard Bernadette yell like Howard’s mom it elicited a great deal of laughter. Unfortunately, over the last several seasons, attempts to have her act more and more like Howard’s mom have taken away from Bernadette’s character.
In fact, despite Bernadette generally seeming like a sweet person early on, that side of her hasn't come out in a while. Instead, whenever Bernadette shows up on screen it seems like she is either going to be yelling at someone, be totally self-absorbed, or say snarky and judgemental things.
11 Saved: Sheldon Writing Agreements
Sheldon’s use of agreements to keep his life regimented is one of The Big Bang Theory's longest-running jokes. It's amusing to see how happy Sheldon is to spend hours on end crafting these agreements. Additionally, the way he uses these contracts and his eidetic memory to get the upper hand in many situations has led to some hilarious scenarios.
On top of that, Sheldon’s elation when Leonard and Penny asked him to help them create a relationship agreement of their own is fantastic. Finally, Priya helping Leonard to use his roommate agreement with Sheldon against the creator himself was a standout moment.
10 Hurt: Lucy’s Wishy Washy Interest in Raj
Raj’s interactions with Lucy wound up being downright irritating, which is a really big shame. Lucy was portrayed by the talented singer, songwriter, comedian, and actor Kate Micucci, who has been great in several other shows. On top of that, it is always exciting to see Raj with a potential romantic partner and it was interesting to see a mainstream show include a character with social anxiety.
Unfortunately, Lucy was so wishy-washy about wanting to be with Raj that it took away all of her charms. The idea that her anxiety forced her to disengage from someone as intense as Raj made total sense, but seeing her half in and half out, episode after episode, got really tedious.
9 Saved: Penny and Amy’s Friendship
Another example of one of The Big Bang Theory being highlighted by lovely friendships, Penny and Amy’s growing bond has only strengthened the show. For a while after Amy debuted on the show, it seemed like Sheldon was her only friend in the world. Since then she's been able to build a slowly expanding friendship with Penny.
Amy’s excitement at having a gal pal has been really sweet to watch. Amy has been a good influence on Penny many times, but the most delightful part of this friendship is that it has inspired Amy to develop her own self-confidence.
8 Hurt: Raj’s Perpetual Romantic Failings
At first seeing Raj strike out with women over and over again added a lot to the series. However, after several seasons of rejection added up, it became a lot more heartbreaking that none of the women in Raj's life saw his positive traits. Then, after a while of feeling bad for the guy, it became increasingly clear how immature Raj is. Now his perpetual romantic failings are simply irritating.
As Raj is currently engaged to a new character named Anu, thankfully it seems like he may find a degree of happiness, but in a lot of ways, it is too little, too late.
7 Saved: The Wil Wheaton Feud and Friendship
The Big Bang Theory has a long history of incorporating real-life pop culture icons, but of all the celebrities who have played themselves on the show, the most important has to be Wil Wheaton. Sheldon had a long-standing resentment for the show's version of Wheaton, who is famous for starring Star Trek: The Next Generation role.
In perhaps the show’s single funniest moments, Wheaton played on Sheldon’s anger and love for his Meemaw to win a trading card game tournament.. They were hilarious as enemies, but nobody would have expected their interactions to remain funny even after making peace. They remain a series highlight.
6 Hurt: Raj’s Night with Penny
Thankfully this storyline went away quickly because it was entertainment kryptonite. In The Big Bang Theory’s 4th season, after a night of drinking, Penny reveals to Raj she still had strong feelings for Leonard. Raj responds by bringing up his severe loneliness, and then the two wake up in the same bed the the next morning, as the season ends.
It was eventually revealed in the season 5 opener that they hadn't done what the audience presumed. Clearly, the show just wanted a dramatic moment to end its 4th season on. Anytime a series does this kind of thing, it is a total cop-out.
5 Saved: Penny Figuring Sheldon Out
When The Big Bang Theory began Sheldon Cooper had three friends who already knew he was pretty out there. Penny served as a stand-in for the show’s audience, who oftentimes felt amused by Sheldon’s confusing weirdness.
Along with her willingness to fight Sheldon’s controlling ways from time to time, Penny’s attempts to understand her new friend was one of the hallmarks of the early seasons. Her outgoing personality gradually wore down Sheldon's barriers. She's since become even closer to Sheldon than either Howard or Raj. We can’t imagine him allowing either of them to sing "Soft Kitty" to comfort him!
4 Hurt: Leonard’s Relationship with Priya
Here is the final entry on this list about the many ways in which The Big Bang Theory delayed Leonard and Penny becoming a couple. Leonard's relationship with Priya has to be the worst of them all. In fact, aside from the time she helped Leonard use the roommate agreement against Sheldon, she never actually added anything good to the show. Instead, her character temporarily built up barriers between Leonard and the two most important people in his life: Penny and Sheldon.
Worse yet, even as it seemed like her character was strictly designed to keep fans of the show from getting to see Leonard and Penny together, Priya was revealed to have betrayed Leonard with her ex.
3 Saved: Penny and Leonard Falling For One Another
If any one of The Big Bang Theory’s couples deserves credit for the show’s staying power, it is Leonard and Penny. Though it was obviously an unrequited love on Leonard’s behalf early on, viewers were overjoyed when it seemed like Penny had begun to reciprocate his feelings. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out between them at first and for several seasons they were kept apart, romantically speaking.
For all of those reasons and more, fans were very excited when Penny and Leonard finally got together. More than that, when they finally admitted their love for one another, it was joyous to see.
2 Hurt: Leonard and Penny's spark is gone
Considering all of the buildup to Leonard and Penny finally becoming a committed couple, you would think that the show’s writers would have them be happy together. To be fair, if there never was any tension between them their relationship wouldn’t have added much to the series once they became a couple.
However, over the last several seasons it feels like the only reason they are still together is that neither one brings up the myriad of issues that exist between them. For instance, they frequently throw verbal jabs at one another while in the company of their group of friends. Having a sense of humor about your partner is one thing, but these jokes are often harsh enough that they seem like evidence of Penny and Leonard’s shared resentments.
1 Saved: Sheldon and Amy’s Relationship Growth
As we touched on earlier, there is no doubt that Leonard and Penny’s relationship is the most impactful of The Big Bang Theory's romances, but that doesn’t mean it is the best. Instead, that award goes to Amy and Sheldon by far.
Even as friends, this pair of misfits was fascinating together. However, it was only once their romance began that they truly began to shine as two outcasts who had found their perfect match. Moments like their first kiss, their engagement, their wedding, and Sheldon telling Amy he loved her prior to their makeshift prom will always stick with fans of the show.
What's your favorite storyline in The Big Bang Theory? Let us know in the comments!