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The Big Bang Theory Character Who Could Have Been Totally Different

The Big Bang Theory is one of the most successful sitcoms in TV history. It ran for 12 seasons and 279 episodes on CBS. Its stars Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco made $1 million per episode at the peak of the show's popularity. It's provided countless hours of laughter to millions of people all over the world, though all good things must eventually come to an end

The show's success was a team effort, but no individual played a larger role in making it a phenomenon than Jim Parsons, who played the brilliant but socially awkward physicist Sheldon Cooper. Parsons was the show's breakout star. He won four Emmys for his performance, and made nerdy tee shirts iconic. 

The show would not have worked without Parsons as Sheldon, so it's hard to imagine Sheldon being any other way than he is. Considering how it all shook out, it's remarkable to learn that the original Sheldon was going to be a very different character. When creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady were developing the show, the working title was Lenny, Penny, and Kenny, according to a 2009 Variety article. Yes, Kenny.

The Big Bang Theory starring ... Kenny?

The Big Bang Theory changed a lot from its genesis to when it finally reached TV screens in 2007. By the time it got to pilot stage, the Lenny, Penny, and Kenny title was out of play. Leonard went by his full name, and Kenny became Sheldon. But the early version of Sheldon was quite different than the one who audiences grew to know and love.

In the original, unaired Big Bang Theory pilot – which is available to watch in clips on YouTube — Sheldon is less sexually repressed than the prudish man-child of the official Big Bang Theory. The pilot opens with Sheldon and Leonard making deposits at a "high IQ sperm bank" in order to get quick cash to pay for a double date they were planning to go on.

A Sheldon who says he "likes big butts" is not even the biggest difference between the two versions. In the original pilot, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) doesn't even exist. Instead, the woman who moves in was named Katie, and she was played by Amanda Walsh. She was similarly street-smart, but a little rougher around the edges than Penny. There was also a character named Gilda (Iris Bahr), a scientist who was somewhat similar to Amy (Mayim Bialik), who didn't arrive on The Big Bang Theory until season 3.

According to Screen Rant, then-CBS Entertainment chair Nina Tassler thought Parsons and Galecki's chemistry was excellent, but the other characters weren't working. Rather than toss the whole project out, the show was reworked and a new pilot was made with Cuoco. The rest is history.