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The Most Pause-Worthy Moments In The Big Bang Theory

The mid-to-late 2000s was a time of great change for the television industry. The stratospheric success of shows like "Breaking Bad" and "Game of Thrones" was reinventing the concept of a television series. Studios started growing bolder and moving away from the traditional sitcom format that had dominated the media landscape for decades. 

Today sitcoms no longer hold the cultural sway they once did. One of the last offerings from the genre to enjoy widespread popularity was "The Big Bang Theory." The series examines the lives of four geeky scientists who are too caught up in their work and nerdy habits to have any time left for romance. That is, until a pretty waitress moves into an apartment near them and turns their lives upside down. 

"The Big Bang Theory" is modeled after classic sitcoms like "Friends," which rely on the chemistry between its cast members for much of the show's comedy. Over the years, the series has given audiences a number of memorable moments to laugh at, reminisce about, and, as is the trend with everything in the internet age, turn into a meme. Let's take a look at some of the moments fans keep coming back to again and again.

Sheldon tries a friendly smile

"The Big Bang Theory" started out with its primary focus on physicist Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and his hopeless crush on Penny (Kaley Cuoco), the waitress and aspiring actress who lives in a nearby apartment. However, it soon became clear that the most interesting performance was being turned in by Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper, Leonard's persnickety roommate and best friend.

A confirmed genius and one of the most arrogant people you could ever meet, Sheldon rarely has any use for people outside of his select circle of friends. Due to this, Sheldon's interpersonal skills are rusty — to say the least. However, there are times when even the great Sheldon Cooper must stoop to the position of trying to ingratiate himself with another human being.

One such moment occurs in the Season 2 episode "The Griffin Equivalency." Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is celebrating a big achievement, and his friends try to show him they are happy for him. For Sheldon, that means trying to pull off a congratulatory smile as Leonard instructs him to do. The resulting grimace, with wide eyes and bared teeth, is — quite frankly — terrifying. It makes Sheldon look even more like an alien mimicking human behavior than he usually does.

Sheldon screams Wil Wheaton

Sheldon Cooper is a complicated man who lives his life by a rigid set of rules that not only he but also everyone else must also adhere to. Flouting those rules, or crossing Sheldon in any way, is an easy way to earn his wrath. Those whose actions hurt Sheldon on a deeper level can also expect a spot on his elaborate "arch-enemies" list that Sheldon has been working on since childhood.

One person on the list who keeps popping up on "The Big Bang Theory" is Wil Wheaton. Sheldon used to adore Wheaton as a child, thanks to his role as Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." However, after Wheaton disappoints him at a fan convention, Sheldon swears a life-long vendetta against him. This has led to Sheldon often trying to find a way to "defeat" Wheaton when the two meet on the show. 

The only problem is Wheaton is far too wily and not afraid to make underhanded moves which often catch Sheldon off-guard. Every time Wheaton manages to get the better of Sheldon yet again, Sheldon roars out "Wil Wheaton!" in classic comic-book-style rage. What makes these moments even more hysterical is that, as Leonard once pointed out, Sheldon is only one lab explosion away from becoming a full-on supervillain.  

Penny dressed up as an ape

One of the longest-running plotlines on "The Big Bang Theory" is Penny's quest to move on from her job as a waitress to become a true Hollywood star. Unfortunately, the pickings are quite slim, either because Penny is not a very good actress or simply due to sheer bad luck. However, there have been times when Penny has found herself a part in minor film projects.

The most prominent example is "Serial Ape-ist." As the delightfully schlocky title suggests, the film is a low-budget horror flick about a genetically engineered gorilla who goes on a murder spree. Playing a role in the "Serial Ape-ist" franchise as a girl who gets killed in the shower by the ape is one of the first jobs Penny manages to land after moving to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of acting. 

That particular film fails to make much of an impact outside of horror circles, but over the years, it builds up enough online buzz to warrant a sequel. When that sequel comes around, Penny plays a prominent role as a human who turns into a murderous gorilla. Thus, in Season 7's "The Gorilla Dissolution," audiences are treated to the memorable sight of Penny in a cage in full makeup and costume as a woman in the midst of turning into a gorilla, complete with hairy arms and giant monkey hands. 

Sheldon turns into Gollum

Aside from his great love for science, his great love for rules, and his great love for punishing people who break those rules, Sheldon Cooper also has a great love for fantasy pop culture. As a lonely kid growing up in Texas with a mind far more advanced than his peers, fantasy became a comforting refuge for Sheldon in his formative years. 

Later on, Sheldon's friendship with Leonard, Raj, and Howard (Simon Helberg) is also shown to hinge heavily on their mutual love for all sorts of fantasy. One of the most prominent franchises that the guys love and follow is "The Lord of the Rings." That is why the foursome is beside themselves with excitement after coming into possession of the actual One Ring prop used in the  "The Lord of the Rings" films in the Season 3 episode "The Precious Fragmentation."

The main concern becomes deciding who gets to keep the ring. A long game of chicken ensues as the four friends compete to see who can hold on to the ring the longest. After winning the game, an obsessed Sheldon takes the ring to the washroom. While cleaning it, he starts muttering to himself just like the character Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings." The icing on the cake is when Sheldon looks up and imagines himself transformed into a version of Gollum, complete with pointy ears, sparse wispy hair, and rotting teeth.

Raj and Penny get together

Sitcoms like "The Big Bang Theory" with a strong romantic element thrive on pairing up main characters at random to shock fans. Unfortunately, "The Big Bang Theory" could not do a whole lot in this regard since the main male characters on the show are defined by their awkwardness and inability to get into romantic relationships, at least during the early seasons.

That is why, even though Penny is shown to have been in plenty of relationships, the only significant romantic liaison she enters into among the four main male characters is Leonard. After all, Sheldon has no interest in romance, and Penny finds Howard's Don Juan attitude completely repulsive for a long time. However, there was a time when it seemed like Raj and Penny had hooked up.

In Season 4's "The Roommate Transmogrification," Penny is feeling depressed over Leonard's new relationship with Raj's sister. Penny and Raj sit alone together, drinking and sharing their sorrows. The next day Penny wakes up in the morning in bed with Raj. The look of shock on Penny's face amply mirrors the audience's reaction to such an unexpected pairing, even though it is later revealed that Penny passed out before she and Raj could consummate their hookup.  

Sheldon is a hunky train engineer

Sheldon Cooper is a pretty unique character in the world of romantic sitcoms due to his complete disinterest in the opposite sex. It is a running joke across "The Big Bang Theory" that Sheldon is physically incapable of being intimate with anyone, and there is no point in even trying to put him in any sort of a romantic setting. 

However, this changes with the arrival of Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik). Not only did Sheldon like Amy enough to accede to being called her boyfriend, but Amy is also shown to have a healthy libido that more than once swept up Sheldon in its wake. For her part, Amy tries to take an active interest in Sheldon's hobbies, even as her mind veers off in different directions. 

Case in point, in the Season 10 episode "The Locomotion Reverberation" Sheldon is beside himself with excitement while training to become a train engineer at a locomotive museum. When Sheldon won't stop talking about trains, Amy drifts off into a fantasy where a shirtless and surprisingly hunky Sheldon is getting all sweaty performing his duties as a train engineer. Out of all the weird getups that Sheldon has worn on the show, this was one of the most surprising.

Time travel

Since "The Big Bang Theory" deals so closely with the main characters' love of fantasy pop culture, the show gets to occasionally indulge in some hilarious flights of fancy that wouldn't make sense anywhere else. For instance, there's the sequence in which Sheldon imagines himself as the Flash racing to the Grand Canyon to yell aloud his frustration at Leonard.

Another memorable scene occurs in the Season 1 episode "The Nerdvana Annihilation," which deals with Leonard and his friends coming into possession of a time machine film prop. Naturally, the guys are absolutely thrilled to be able to say they each own a part of the time machine and waste no time in playing with the life-sized prop with the joy and imagination of school kids.

After Leonard sets the machine to take them into the future, his friends start moving very quickly around the room to mimic time being fast-forwarded. There is something rather sweet about watching these grown men, all highly respected professionals in their field of work, taking part in their imaginary make-believe with so much enthusiasm.

Howard floating in space

Howard Wolowitz sometimes feels like the odd man out among the main group of guys on "The Big Bang Theory." This is because, as Sheldon loves to remind him, Howard is merely an engineer while the other three are physicists. Still, Howard has arguably the most exciting job among the four of them as it involves actual applications of the latest scientific breakthroughs.

One of the most memorable phases of Howard's job as an engineer was aboard a space station. At least, it was supposed to be memorable. However, Howard is terrified at the prospect of going into space and only agrees to go as a final option after desperately trying various ways to get out of the arrangement. At long last, Howard does blast off into space as part of a mission.

After trying to keep his cool for a time, Howard begins to grow increasingly unhinged as the oppressive nature of outer space starts to get to him. To calm him down, his crewmates dose Howard with anxiety-relieving medication in "The Higgs Boson Observation" — which works a bit too well. When Bernadette calls Howard via a video feed, she is scandalized to find him floating in space, after which he takes off his pants to float around in his underwear. 

A big Bollywood number

Raj is one of the unluckiest people on "The Big Bang Theory" because of his constantly frustrated attempts to find a romantic partner. It does not help that Raj has spent a lifetime being afraid of even talking to women. This has resulted in him developing a slightly weird idea of romance that can often come across as deeply inappropriate. 

One major example of this was the huge crush Raj once developed on Bernadette, despite the fact that she was dating Raj's best friend, Howard. After Bernadette makes the mistake of acting warm and sympathetic towards Raj in Season 4's "The Thespian Catalyst," he quickly develops his crush and proceeds to imagine all sorts of scenarios in which Howard is out of the picture and Raj is left to take care of Bernadette. 

Things come to a head at the end of the episode when Raj imagines a full-on Bollywood musical number with himself and Bernadette singing and dancing in the role of star-crossed lovers, complete with cheesy lines including "Like the wild elephant, I am trumpeting my love for you," and "Like a hidden flower, my sweet fragrance comes into view."

The Justice League contest

While later seasons of "The Big Bang Theory" see the main characters engaging in more mature pursuits, the early seasons are often very much about Leonard and his three buddies getting ridiculously excited over childish things. This is in line with their characterization of essentially being grown-up man-children with crippling emotional problems.   

One of the best episodes dealing with this theme is Season 4's "The Justice League Recombination." While Leonard is struggling to come to terms with the fact that Penny has moved on from their relationship and has a new boyfriend named Zack (Brian Thomas Smith), his friends are more interested in the cosplay contest being held at their favorite comic book store.

The episode soon becomes about convincing Zack and Penny to join Leonard and his friends in dressing up as the Justice League, which would be a sure-fire way for them to win since it's doubtful any of the other groups dressing up as the Justice League would have an actual girl on their team. The grand finale of the episode sees Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, Howard, Penny, and Zack dressed up as the Justice League in all their glory and winning the contest.

Celebrity cameos

Although starting out on a low-key note, "The Big Bang Theory" soon exploded in popularity thanks to its canny mix of humor and references to geek pop culture that general audiences could also enjoy. By its middle seasons the show was highly successful, with fans among audiences and celebrities alike.

It soon became a badge of honor for celebrities to appear on "The Big Bang Theory," especially those connected to geek culture. Take, for instance, former "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star Wil Wheaton, who ended up playing a version of himself across several episodes as Sheldon's long-term nemesis. Or Mark Hamill, who was preceded by fellow "Star Wars" actors Carrie Fisher and James Earl Jones (via Cinema Blend). 

It wasn't just actors getting in on the action. "The Big Bang Theory" also proved a hit with the scientific and technical crowds, and people like Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson have played versions of themselves in various episodes. However, perhaps the most iconic appearance was the one made by renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. It was this particular cameo, more than any other, that Jim Parsons found nerve-wracking to film. "It was an intimidating [experience]," the actor told CBS News. "I'd be lying if I said I was comfortable. ... To get to finally meet him was, it was just overwhelming."

Shots of Howard's mother

"The Big Bang Theory" doesn't really go in for a lot of mystery elements. But there are certain questions that have never been answered satisfactorily on the show. For instance, what is Penny's last name, and how can she afford to live alone in a building where Leonard and Sheldon have to live together to make rent?  

Another enduring mystery on the show is in regards to Howard's mom. The running gag is that audiences are never able to see Mrs. Wolowitz (Carol Ann Susi). All you hear is her booming voice coming from a room as she argues with Howard over various matters. Her voice has become one of the most loved aspects of the show, but fans are still not sure what Mrs. Wolowitz actually looks like. 

If we are to take Howard and his friends' word for it, his mother is grossly obese to the point where it threatens her health. Still, fans have scoured various episodes to see any hints regarding Mrs. Wolowitz's dimensions in fleeting moments. One shot of a wall decorated with pictures of Howard's family shows his mother looking perfectly normal-sized. Further, Howard and Bernadette's rooftop wedding also shows Mrs. Wolowitz for a brief second, where she once again doesn't seem nearly as obese as Howard keeps insisting. 

The magic trick that broke Sheldon

Although he goes on a significant journey of self-discovery across all seasons of "The Big Bang Theory," two things about Sheldon remain consistent throughout. The first is his supreme confidence in his own towering intellect that mere mortals cannot comprehend. The other is Sheldon's contempt for Howard's intelligence since the latter is a mere engineer instead of a physicist.

Both these beliefs are shaken to their core in the Season 4 episode "The Prestidigitation Approximation." As a longtime practitioner of magic, Howard shows his friends a trick where he is able to guess the card they pick from a pack. Sheldon scoffs at such a basic trick until Howard challenges him to figure out how the trick was pulled off. 

This sets Sheldon on a downward spiral as he tries to figure out how the trick was performed. The audiences also play along with Sheldon as they try to see how Howard keeps guessing the right card. Some hilarious moments include Raj secretly signaling Howard the identity of the selected card, as well as Penny figuring out how the trick is done, to the complete bafflement and fury of Sheldon.

The impromptu fashion show

Early seasons of "The Big Bang Theory" were often criticized for showing female characters other than Penny in a shallow light as mere prizes that need to be won rather than as three-dimensional characters with their own agency. Things start to change after the introduction of Bernadette and Amy into the main group of friends. 

Not only are Bernie and Amy smart, accomplished women who have a life outside of their romantic relationships with Howard and Sheldon, respectively, but their arrival also gives Penny her own group to go on adventures with separate from the guys. While Bernie and Amy are not usually shown in clothing that accentuates their physical appeal, unlike Penny, the three did get the chance to strut their stuff together in Season 6's "The Santa Simulation."

After the guys decide to spend a night playing a holiday-themed version of "Dungeons & Dragons," Penny's posse takes the opportunity to have a girl's night of drinking and partying. Before leaving for the night, the women hold an impromptu fashion show to remind the guys what they are missing, where Bernadette and Amy get to act like fashionistas alongside Penny for once.