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This Is The Most Underrated Character On The Big Bang Theory

If The Big Bang Theory is your go-to comfort TV show then you likely have a certain amount of affection for the core characters — Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Raj, Howard, Amy, and Bernadette — but there are plenty of recurring characters who deserve more love too. In fact, the most underrated character on The Big Bang Theory also happens to be one of the show's most underutilized as well. We're talking about Leslie Winkle, one of Sheldon's best rivals who added a spiky dimension to the show's early seasons.

As played by Sara Gilbert, Leslie was a sarcastic experimental physicist whose progressive, sex positive ideas often baffled Leonard. Throughout seasons 1 and 2, she would periodically pop up to annoy Sheldon by solving problems that left him stumped, and sleep with Leonard on a no strings attached basis (at least until they briefly became a couple in season 2). With her dry sense of humor and straightforward attitude, Leslie offered a refreshing counterbalance to the guys and their endless relationship woes.

Before Amy and Bernadette were added to show, The Big Bang Theory was sorely lacking in female characters — especially female characters who weren't there simply to serve as love interests to the guys. In the first two seasons, Penny was the sole primary female character, and she rarely interacted with other women in a meaningful way. It was a frustrating era for the series, but Leslie was always a bright spot whether she was taking Sheldon's place on the quiz team or using university equipment to warm up her soup.

Leslie was a quirky, self-assured, and funny character who straddled the line between being friends with the boys and being an antagonist for them at work. It's a shame her appearances dwindled after season 2, because Leslie truly was one of a kind — and it seems clear the writers didn't fully appreciate just how interesting she was.

What happened to Leslie Winkle on The Big Bang Theory?

After being upped to series regular status in season 2, Gilbert's role was reduced to recurring in season 3 (a season where she only appeared in a single scene in the finale). Then she wasn't seen again until the show's 200th episode in season 9. In the meantime, the show introduced Amy and Bernadette — both terrific additions to the cast — and finally gave Penny some female friends to hang out with.

However, Leslie's absence was definitely felt. Unlike Amy and Bernadette, Leslie wasn't a true romantic interest for one of the male characters. Yes, she was involved with Leonard and Howard on a casual basis, but she was first and foremost the guys' co-worker. Over the years, Kripke seemed to step into the antagonistic role Leslie originally occupied at Caltech, but he was a one-note character who lacked the dimensions Leslie possessed.

In a 2009 Entertainment Weekly report a CBS insider revealed Gilbert was let go because "producers weren't able to generate enough story for her character." The insider also added, "They couldn't write for her, so they changed her status to recurring. It's a little mystifying."

There's certainly no shortage of interesting characters on The Big Bang Theory, but Leslie was by far the show's most underrated character. And knowing she was written out because the writers didn't know what to do with her is simply baffling. She was the perfect foil for Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj, and her exit represents an opportunity missed for the sitcom.