Big Bang Theory fans unearth “weird” unaired pilot with different Penny

Cameron Frew
Amanda Walsh as Katie in the unaired Big Bang Theory pilot and Sheldon

The Big Bang Theory fans have just discovered its cruder, meaner unaired pilot that featured different characters, an alternate theme song, and other weird changes.

With Young Sheldon ending last week, viewers have been revisiting The Big Bang Theory. The pilot is pretty simple: Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves into the apartment across the hall from Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki).

Leonard immediately has a crush on her, so not only does he invite her over for lunch, but he lets her use their shower and even offers to retrieve her TV from her Reacher-esque ex-boyfriend. He isn’t successful, but Penny appreciates his effort and takes them out for dinner alongside their pals, Howard (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar).

However, before it made it onto CBS, creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady had produced an earlier pilot that was tonally and aesthetically quite different from the eventual sitcom.

For example, it still opens with Leonard and Sheldon at the sperm bank, but Leonard pokes fun at Sheldon for having a “fetish” for big bums. In a later scene, it’s revealed that Sheldon had casual sex at a Star Trek convention. It’s also based in New York, rather than Pasadena.

Instead of Barenaked Ladies’ iconic theme, Thomas Dolby’s ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ is peppered throughout.

Penny doesn’t show up, nor does Howard or Raj. Instead, there’s Katie (Amanda Walsh), who’s basically the Waluigi to Penny’s Luigi, a nasty trainwreck who’s mean to Sheldon and Leonard. There’s also Gilda (Iris Bahr), a blend of Howard and Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert) who’s quickly threatened by Katie’s presence.

CBS liked the show’s foundation, so Lorre and Prady were encouraged to develop another pilot. Test audiences also hated Katie, who — by the creators’ admission — was “kind of rough.”

Leonard, Sheldon, and Gilda in The Big Bang Theory

“She’s dangerous in a way and wasn’t very nice to the guys. They hated her, but what was amazing was that they were defending Leonard and Sheldon so much,” Prady told EW.

“That’s why we rewrote Katie to become Penny and made her much more charmed by the guys and kind to them, as opposed to a woman who would take advantage of them.”

The pilot was posted to The Big Bang Theory subreddit, and while it’s a “cool” peak into an alternate universe, everyone is happy the show didn’t proceed in its first creative direction.

“It’s crazy how it went from so wrong to so right. I would never have watched this,” one wrote, while another commented: “Thank god, they changed it! Everything shown in this pilot doesn’t feel right!”

“The best thing about this unaired plot is that it was unaired. Not the same without Penny, Raj, and Howard. Never knew that I would miss Howard,” a third wrote. “Sheldon having casual sex is so weird,” a fourth commented. “This is so bad. TBBT is a true comfort show for me, so if they had stuck to this formula, I never would’ve been a fan, like at all,” a fifth wrote.

While there’ll be no Young Sheldon Season 7 Episode 15, you can find out what we know about Young Sheldon Season 8 and Georgie & Mandy’s First Marriage. You can also check out other new TV shows coming to streaming this month.

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