The Big Bang Theory first aired in 2007, and since then it has run for more than ten seasons. The sitcom has also garnered in excess of 50 awards and received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Comedy twice. However, behind the scenes things perhaps haven’t always been quite so rosy.
Initially, the sitcom focused on a group of four nerdy guys – Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard – who eventually befriend Penny, a waitress and wannabe actress. Through the course of the seasons, though, other characters have become more prominent. So, now the likes of Amy Farrah Fowler and Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz – portrayed by Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, respectively – play vital roles in the show.
In fact, although Amy and Bernadette originally figured far less in the sitcom, fans now consider them to be two of the best characters in the show. And to top it off, for her work on the sitcom Bialik has won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series on two separate occasions.
Despite the actresses’ popularity, however, reports have begun to emerge about the controversial treatment that Bialik and Rauch have apparently received on the show. And given the series’ success, some viewers have been surprised to learn about these allegations. Still, Bialik and Rauch at least seem to have had their castmates’ support.
That said, The Big Bang Theory is no stranger to controversy. The show has, in fact, had its share of scandals – and one of the most high-profile cases actually involved Bialik. On this occasion, though, she seemed to be in the wrong.
You see, back in 2017 Bialik came under fire after she wrote an article for The New York Times. Her opinion piece discussed the subject of feminism and Harvey Weinstein among other issues. The actress’ comments didn’t go down well, though, and she ultimately apologized.
This wasn’t the first time that Bialik had found herself in hot water, either. In 2009 she faced criticism after revealing that she had chosen not to vaccinate her children. In an interview with People magazine, the actress said, “We based our [decision] on research and discussions with our pediatrician, and we’ve been happy with that decision.”
And even though several years later the star retracted her statement, it seems as if her comments had already damaged her reputation. The end of the saga? Not by a long shot. You see, a few years after Bialik’s debacle, her co-star Kaley Cuoco found herself shrouded in controversy.
Just as with Bialik, Cuoco’s comments on feminism seemingly rubbed people up the wrong way. After Redbook magazine asked the star if she would consider herself a feminist, the actress responded, “Is it bad if I say no?” And although some news outlets supported Cuoco’s comments, she still received considerable criticism online.
So, Cuoco posted an apology on Instagram accompanied by an image of the aforementioned article. Some people were quick to condemn this too, however, as they didn’t believe she should have had to apologize. And it isn’t just the show’s stars who have received criticism, either; no, the sitcom itself has been the center of controversy down the years.
For example, one of The Big Bang Theory’s creators, Chuck Lorre, claimed that a program in Belarus titled The Theorists had plagiarized the U.S. show. And audiences, too, were quick to point out the similarities between both the series’ characters and their plots. However, an apparent unwillingness to upset the Belarusian government seemingly prevented any legal action from being taken.
In the end, in fact, any such action wasn’t needed. After The Theorists’ cast and crew got wind of the allegations, they all reportedly jumped ship, and production of the show ended. And yet Lorre and The Big Bang Theory’s cast soon found that it was their turn to face criticism.
Although The Big Bang Theory is shot in front of a live audience, some viewers have accused the sitcom’s producers of using fake laughter – something the cast, especially Johnny Galecki, have strongly denied. It isn’t the only show to have faced such allegations, though; the successful long-running comedy Friends was the subject of similar criticisms.
And The Big Bang Theory has faced other controversies, too. For instance, the show’s focus on four intelligent guys hasn’t always been well received. Some websites have even gone so far as to claim that the sitcom mocks geek culture and so reinforces the negative stereotypes surrounding the people who are part of it.
Nerds aren’t the only people whom the sitcom allegedly pigeonholes, either. Viewers have also accused the program of racial stereotyping, anti-Semitism and mocking disability. That said, in more recent years, it appears that it’s The Big Bang Theory’s portrayal of women that’s caused the most controversy.
In fact, some audience members, including journalist Bobby Palmer, have slammed the show for its depiction of women. According to Palmer, Cuoco’s character, Penny, is represented as “a blonde airhead whose main purpose in the show is to be belittled and patronized by the male characters before she eventually falls in love with one of them.”
Meanwhile, some viewers have made even more serious claims about The Big Bang Theory. One reddit user, in particular, alleged that the show “lightheartedly condon[es] rape.” And yet the sitcom’s most recent controversy surrounds the treatment that Bialik and Rauch have apparently received off-screen.
What’s the story? Well, the actresses were reportedly receiving $200,000 per episode – allegedly around $700,000 less than their co-stars were pocketing. The five original cast members who portray Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, Raj and Penny are reportedly standing by their TV friends, however.
Indeed, the original quintet are each apparently sacrificing 10 percent of their wages in order to bump up their co-stars’ paychecks. And although this might be a small increase by comparison, if true, it’s definitely a significant improvement. That said, other reports have emerged claiming that Bialik and Rauch are looking to gain parity with their colleagues.
When People magazine quizzed Bialik about reports of pay disparity, she batted the question away, however. “I think in general, don’t believe everything you read,” the actress responded. And yet shortly before the start of the show’s 11th season in May 2017, she had allegedly agreed to a deal of $500,000 per episode. So, maybe it won’t be until after the sitcom ends that we find out for sure what’s really gone on behind the scenes.