The Big Bang Theory is an American television sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, both of whom served as executive producers on the series, along with Steven Molaro. All three also served as head writers. The show premiered on CBS on September 24, 2007 and concluded on May 16, 2019, having broadcast a total of 279 episodes over twelve seasons.
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, experimental physicist Leslie Winkle, and comic book store owner Stuart Bloom.
The show was filmed in front of a live audience and was produced by Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions. The Big Bang Theory received mixed reviews from critics throughout its first season, but reception was more favorable in the second and third seasons.
Later seasons saw a return to a lukewarm reception, with the show being criticized for a decline in comedic quality. Despite the mixed reviews, seven seasons of the show have ranked within the top ten of the final television season ratings, ultimately reaching the no. 1 spot in its eleventh season.
The show was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series from 2011 to 2014 and won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series four times for Jim Parsons. In total, it won seven Emmy Awards from 46 nominations. Parsons also won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Comedy Series in 2011. In 2017, the series spawned a prequel series, Young Sheldon, based on Parsons’ character, Sheldon Cooper; it also airs on CBS.
For the first three seasons, Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco, the three main stars of the show, received at most $60,000 per episode. The salary for the three went up to $200,000 per episode for the fourth season. Their per-episode pay went up an additional $50,000 in each of the following three seasons, culminating in $350,000 per episode in the seventh season. In September 2013, Bialik and Rauch renegotiated the contracts they held since they were introduced to the series in 2010. On their old contracts, each was making $20,000–$30,000 per episode, while the new contracts doubled that, beginning at $60,000 per episode, increasing steadily to $100,000 per episode by the end of the contract, as well as adding another year for both.
By season seven, Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco were also receiving 0.25 percent of the series’ back-end money. Before production began on the eighth season, the three plus Helberg and Nayyar, looked to renegotiate new contracts, with Galecki, Parsons, and Cuoco seeking around $1 million per episode, as well as more back-end money. Contracts were signed in the beginning of August 2014, giving the three principal actors an estimated $1 million per episode for three years, with the possibility to extend for a fourth year. The deals also include larger pieces of the show, signing bonuses, production deals, and advances towards the back-end.
Helberg and Nayyar were also able to renegotiate their contracts, giving them a per-episode pay in the “mid-six-figure range”, up from around $100,000 per episode they each received in years prior. The duo, who were looking to have salary parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, signed their contracts after the studio and producers threatened to write the characters out of the series if a deal could not be reached before the start of production on season eight. By season 10, Helberg and Nayyar reached the $1 million per episode parity with Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco, due to a clause in their deals signed in 2014.
In March 2017, the main cast members (Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg, and Nayyar) took a 10 percent pay cut to allow Bialik and Rauch an increase in their earnings. This put Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg and Nayyar at $900,000 per episode, with Parsons, Galecki, and Helberg also receiving overall deals with Warner Bros. Television. By the end of April, Bialik and Rauch had signed deals to earn $500,000 per episode, each, with the deals also including a separate development component for both actors. The deal was an increase from the $175,000–$200,000 the duo had been making per episode.