When The Big Bang Theory first premiered in 2007, no one knew it would become the massive phenomenon that it is today. Ten seasons in, the CBS series remains one of the most popular and widely watched sitcoms on TV. With Season 11 now on the way, we decided to take a look back at some of our favorite episodes from the show’s run so far. While there are obviously a lot to choose from, these 12 episodes (listed in chronological order) are some of the biggest standouts, highlighting the best of Sheldon, Penny, Leonard and the rest of the gang.
1. “The Middle Earth Paradigm” — Season 1, Episode 6
The guys attend a Halloween party at Penny’s apartment dressed in exactly the kind of nerdy costumes you’d expect: Sheldon as the Doppler Effect, Leonard as Frodo, Raj as Thor, and Howard as Robin Hood. Needless to say, they don’t exactly fit in with Penny’s friends, making for a series of hysterically awkward encounters. By the end of the night, Leonard and Penny have shared their first kiss and Raj wakes up in bed with a random girl. The episode is the perfect showcase of what The Big Bang Theory is about, at least in early seasons: four nerdy guys trying desperately to fit in and sometimes, against all odds, actually succeeding.
2. “The Barbarian Sublimation” — Season 2, Episode 3
In this episode, Sheldon gets Penny hooked to the world of gaming by introducing her to the PC game, “Age of Conan.” Penny, sick of getting nowhere in her personal and professional life, quickly becomes addicted, forgoing hygiene and work to spend days playing, eating Cheetos, and bugging Sheldon for ways to get to the next level. It’s one of the best early examples of the funny and unexpectedly warm relationship between Sheldon and Penny (aka”Shenny”). Plus, Penny realizing that she has to snap out of it while talking to Howard makes for a hilarious moment.
3. “The Panty Piñata Polarization” — Season 2, Episode 7
More of the best of Sheldon and Penny: After the latter gets three behavioral “strikes,” Sheldon banishes her from their apartment. Unlike Leonard, Raj, and Howard, Penny refuses to apologize, setting off a prank war. She sets off his neurotic tendencies by telling him she’s touched his food, while he blocks Penny from using their Wi-Fi. But it’s Penny that gets the last laugh: she calls Sheldon’s mother, who forces him to apologize. Talk about sweet revenge.
4. “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis” — Season 2, Episode 11
It’s Christmas time and after finding out that Penny has gotten him a gift, Sheldon finds himself forced to reciprocate the gesture. Without knowing exactly how much she’s spent on him, he can’t make up his mind and ends up buying a bunch of gift baskets to cover his bases. When it comes time to actually exchange gifts, Penny presents him with something beyond his wildest dreams: a napkin used and signed by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. Cue a hilarious Sheldon-sized freakout that results in the rarest of occurrences: a hug from Sheldon to Penny.
5. “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency” — Season 3, Episode 8
Leonard, Raj, and Howard go on a camping trip to watch a meteor shower, while Sheldon decides to stay home. Once there, the boys accept cookies from some other campers – only to find out they are laced with drugs. They spend the rest of their trip hilariously stoned, telling each other their deepest (and in Howard’s case, grossest) and desperately searching for food – which they find in the form of an “I love you brisket” in Howard’s backpack.
That alone would make for a great episode, but hilarity is also ensuing back in their apartment building. In another classic example of “Shenny,” Penny slips in the shower and needs Sheldon’s help getting dressed and going to the hospital. When Penny returns on some very strong painkillers, she finally gets to gives Sheldon a taste of his own medicine and makes him sing “soft kitty.”
6. “The Einstein Approximation” — Season 3, Episode 14
In this episode, Sheldon is once again grappling with a puzzle he can’t solve – specifically, a physics problem about electron behavior. After enduring sleepless nights and going to all kinds of crazy lengths to try to find an answer, he decides he needs to take on a menial job that will allow him to free up his mind. He ends up masquerading as a waiter at the Cheesecake Factory where Penny works, where he finally gets his answer.
But the true highlight of the episode? When Leonard gets a call in the middle of the night that he has to pick Sheldon up at a local mall, where he is using the plastic balls in a children’s ball pit to build carbon atoms. As Leonard desperately tries to get him out of the pit so they can go home, Sheldon keeps diving in and popping out of the balls, shouting “Bazinga!”
7. “The Pants Alternative” — Season 3, Episode 18
Sheldon is chosen to receive an award at the university and has to give an acceptance speech. He doesn’t like public speaking and tries to back out, but the gang offers to help him. Penny takes him shopping for a new suit, Raj tries to treat him with meditation, and Leonard gives him a psychological assessment. None of it helps Sheldon calm down and when the night comes, he’s so nervous that Penny convinces him to drink. He gets drunk and ends up mooning the audience while on stage…but not before telling this gem of a nerdy joke: “A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much a drink is? The bartender says ‘For you, no charge!’ Bazinga!”
8. “The Staircase Implementation” — Season 3, Episode 22
This flashback episode finally gave viewers two of the answers they’d been waiting for: how Sheldon and Leonard first met and how the elevator in their building got permanently broken. Both stories are hilarious, particularly when Leonard recounts all the hoops Sheldon made him jump through just to see the apartment. The episode proves that – yes, believe it or not – there was a time when these guys were even more socially inept. The best moment of the episode? When Leonard walks into his soon-to-be bedroom see a spray painted from Sheldon’s ex-roommate: Die, Sheldon, Die.
9. “The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification” — Season 4, Episode 2
When Sheldon works out that he won’t live long enough to download his consciousness into a robot body, he attempts to extend his lifespan by changing his diet and eating cruciferous vegetables. When those only serve to give him gas, he instead decides to build a “Mobile Virtual Presence Device,” which leads to countless funny moments. Case in point? Leonard trying to turn off Sheldon while driving his virtual presence to work and Sheldon trying to figure out how to open his office door, considering his device has no hands. Major bonus: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak appears in one of the show’s best cameos.
10. “The Prestidigitation Approximation” — Season 4, Episode 18
What bugs Sheldon even more than the thought of other people’s germs? Finding a puzzle that he can’t solve, as seen in this episode. When Howard performs a magic trick, Sheldon – much to his annoyance – can’t figure out how it’s done. He tries every solution, to no avail, and Howard, enjoying his new power over Sheldon, only continues to rub it in his face. Meanwhile, Priya feels threatened by Penny and tells Leonard to stop hanging out with her. Funniest reveal: the entire gang has been in on Howard’s card trick and has just been messing with Sheldon.
11. “The Love Spell Potential” — Season 6, Episode 23
As the girls plan a trip to Vegas, the boys excitedly organize a Dungeons and Dragons marathon. The trip ends up not working out (thanks to Amy) and the entire group ends up playing the game. Sheldon and Amy take their relationship to the next level after the rest of the group casts a “love spell” on their came characters. Meanwhile, Raj goes on date with Lucy, a girl who is even more shy than he is. Bonus: Howard brings major laughs as the dungeon master, incorporating impressions of celebrities like Christopher Walken and Al Pacino.
12. “The Prom Equivalency” — Season 8, Episode 8
The girls decide to reenact their high school proms with the guys since no one except for Penny had memorable ones. Sounds like a cheesy premise, but this episode is actually filled with charming and funny moments, as everyone reacts differently to the thought of having a prom. While most are excited, Sheldon is having a panic attack because he knows sex is often a presumed part of prom night. In the end, both central couples have great moments. Leonard and Penny share a sweet dance on the roof, during which they lightheartedly riff on Leonard’s insecurities. Meanwhile, as Amy dances around the idea of telling Sheldon that she loves him, he beats her to the punch, leading to one of the sweetest moments in their long-running relationship.
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