Big Bang Theory pilot with missing stars leaves fans baffled

Cameron Frew
The cast of The Big Bang Theory

Before Leonard met Penny in that fateful pilot, The Big Bang Theory was quite different — there were other characters, some of the cast are missing altogether, and it was initially rejected by CBS.

In the first episode, Penny moves in across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon, two socially awkward physicists (one more so than the other). Soon enough, she becomes part of their takeout-munching friend group alongside Raj and Howard.

But Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady’s original vision of the sitcom feels like a world apart from the series we got, as discovered by fans on The Big Bang Theory subreddit.

Sheldon and Leonard were part of the original cast, but Penny, Howard, and Raj were nowhere to be seen. Instead, there were two other women: Katie (Amanda Walsh) and Gilda (Iris Bahr).

In the unaired pilot, it’s clear Katie is a proto-Penny; blonde, street-smart, and a bit chaotic (she slept with her stepdad before her mom married him). She’s also quite off-putting, mocking the main duo immediately rather than finding their geeky quirks charming.

As it turns out, test audiences didn’t care for her either. “They hated her, but what was amazing was that they were defending Leonard and Sheldon so much,” Prady told Entertainment Weekly.

Gilda fills the void of Raj and Howard, but she’s more like an early version of Leslie Winkle and possible love interest for Leonard. “They recast me. I was bummed… [but] the same week I was told they were adding two guys instead of me, I got my one-woman show off-Broadway,” Bahr told Broadway World.

You can check out the unaired pilot below:

Reacting to the photo of the original cast, one user wrote: “This looks like it would have been such a failure. Leonard knows that and you can see it all over his face.”

“I think if you watch the unaired pilot, you can pretty easily judge what grouping was going to work better. But the differences went beyond that, the first pilot had a grungier and rather depressing look — completely opposite to the bright cheerful set they went with on the next pilot,” another commented.

There is something worth noting: if they went with this cast, it would’ve been a bit more balanced. “One thing that it eventually got right was balancing the sexes a bit. Which it looks like they originally planned,” one user wrote, pointing out that it’s mainly four men and one woman before Bernadette and Amy come along.

“Howard was extra creepy with women in the beginning & making sexual comments to Penny didn’t help. I’m glad that didn’t last long & once Penny put him in his place, the group was able to vibe better,” another argued.

You can also check out our Young Sheldon Season 8 and Georgie & Mandy’s First Marriage guides, our breakdown of Young Sheldon’s ending, and other binge-worthy TV shows to add to your watch list.

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