Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery, it all started with a Big Bang!
On September 24, 2007, that bang was actually the premiere of The Big Bang Theory on CBS. Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, the series recently wrapped its ninth season and has been renewed for a tenth. This show, which so many people have come to love, follows five main characters living in Pasadena, California. Featuring physicists Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hoffstadter, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz, astrophysicist Rajesh Koothrappali and waitress, aspiring actress and later pharmaceutical rep Penny, the characters have become household names crossing a wide range of demographic groups in their appeal. With many of the stories revolving around the four men’s social awkwardness, Sheldon’s obsessive quirks and rituals, their study of science plus their love for geek culture, there’s a lot of room for story growth here despite the age of the show. Over the course of the series, Leonard and Penny got married as did Howard and new character Bernadette Rostenkowski, a microbiologist and former waitress. Sheldon found a girlfriend in Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist, and Raj has dated several women since overcoming his woman focused selective mutism. The series currently centers largely on the characters relationships with each other.
As a show that deals so heavily with pop culture, there have inevitably been numerous items created to celebrate it as part of the associated merchandising and licensing campaign. Versions of the board games Monopoly and Clue were created alongside trivia and party games. Multiple cups, shot glasses, and travel cups were made with Sheldon’s prank catchphrase “Bazinga” and an absolute plethora of tee-shirts have found homes in the closets of many show fans. Some shirts are replicas of ones Sheldon wears every day and others are adorned with sayings and quotes from the show, including the “Soft Kitty” song and my current personal favorite “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.” There are also a wide array of accessories including belts with novelty buckles similar to those worn by Howard. There are even apron sets with “Knock, knock, knock Penny!” adorning the front. For this article though, it will be the figures, dolls, and toys depicting the cast that draw the bulk of our interest and there have been several versions produced over the years. Here are a few of the very best:
Sheldon In Flash T-Shirt released by Biff Bang Pow!
One of the early representation of the character from the show and the first in this size, the 3 3/4 inch action figure shows Sheldon Cooper in a t-shirt featuring the logo of the Silver Age Flash over a long sleeve blue shirt with the sleeves uncharacteristically pushed up. The feature also wears brown pants and brown shoes. The series that server up this figure includes all members of the cast in classic outfits. The packaging here stands out because it folds out into a diorama of Sheldon and Leonard’s living room, the key setting for the majority of the series.
The Big Bang Theory / Star Trek: The Original Series Amy released by Biff Bang Pow!
This figure (pictured bottom left) features Amy Farrah Fowler dressed in the uniform of a Sciences officer from the original Star Trek series. She famously wore this outfit to “play doctor” with the similarly dressed Sheldon. Here, the figure comes with the classic blue mini-dress, black boots, tricorder and phaser as well as her signature glasses. Amy is part of a set pictured which features the seven main characters in retro Star Trek uniforms.
Raj Q-Pop Figure released by Quantum Mechanix
This adorable small PVC figure from Quantum Mechanix features an uncharacteristically confident Raj giving a double thumbs up. He is dressed in his typically garish sweater vest over an untucked white shirt under his signature purple windbreaker. Khaki pants and white sneakers finish the ensemble. What makes this figure so appealing is Raj’s big brown eyes and his messy unkempt hair. It is a hopeful and happy rendition of the normally neurotic character. The unarticulated figure stands atop a bright logo button with the show’s title.
The Big Bang Theory Pixel Figure 4-Pack #1 released by SD Toys
This four pack set gives the Big Bang Gang an 8-bit make over and features cubed figures of Sheldon, Amy, Leonard and Penny. Sheldon wears a Green Lantern shirt over white long sleeves. His face has a sly smile that looks like it’s ready for a "Bazinga". Amy wears a single barrette in her hair and is fully covered in a striped cardigan and long skirt. She too is smiling and has rosy cheeks under her large glasses. Next to her is Leonard, looking typically worried about something. He wears his signature hoodie under a light jacket and light khaki pants. He has a double leveled hairstyle, unique to his figure. Lastly Penny is showing the most skin of this set in a cute short pink outfit and sandals. She also sports a sarcastic smile that is framed by her long blond hair. A second set was produced featuring Sheldon in a Flash shirt, Howard, Raj and Bernadette.
The Big Bang Theory Nesting Dolls released by Biff Bang Pow!
This is a unique set featuring the seven main characters. Modeled after Russian nesting dolls, also known as matryoshka dolls, the set features from largest to smallest: Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Howard, Raj, Amy and an adorable tiny Bernadette. Each character is wearing their typical show outfits, with Sheldon sporting a Green Lantern shirt, Leonard in in a hoodie and jacket, Penny in a cute and sporty pink outfit, Howard in a button down over a dickie, Raj with a garish sweater vest under a purple jacket and Amy and Bernadette in sweaters and skirts. Each stack into the one before it with all the dolls fitting inside Sheldon. An interesting metaphor for the show.
#75 Howard Wolowitz (Mid-Transport Version) released by Funko in 2013
No list of pop culture characters is ever complete without a look at what the Funko folks have up their sleeves. They’ve dapped in The Big Bang Theory world a few times, but this series featuring the four main male stars of the show is something special. A San Diego Comic-Con 2013 Exclusive, this one featured Howard in an original series Star Trek “red shirt” Engineering/Security uniform holding a phaser. What adds interest here is the fact that the figure appears to be in the midst of being teleported away to a mission. Parts of his body are sparkly and nearly transparent in a manner that mirrors the visual effects from the original series. The figure features Howard’s side-swept hairstyle and the big eyes and triangular nose that are common to the Funko Pop! vinyl figures.
LEGO 21302 The Big Bang Theory released by LEGO in 2015
This amazing set is a must-have for any Big Bang Theory fan. It is a comprehensive recreation of the couch area of Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment depicted in LEGO. The set includes the couch, chair, carpet and coffee table of the often used set. It also includes mini figures of each of the seven principal actors and includes a pizza box, Chinese food, utensils and a cup. It even includes Sheldon’s whiteboard and a Star Trek captain’s chair. What sets this set apart is the painstaking detail to the back wall and the side area of the set. It includes books, a globe, a telescope and LEGO representations of the various figures and knickknacks that the pair decorate their home with. It also has the desk and file cabinet from the rarely used step-up area of the apartment. The walls are adorned with pictures, posters, and wall sconces. The floor is two-toned to designate the areas and the whole set is so detailed that it makes you want to shrink down and climb inside.
Sheldon Cooper Stress Doll released by Dark Horse Deluxe in 2014
Leonard would undoubtedly need one of these after living with Sheldon and now you can also call it your own. This figure of Sheldon is made of rubber and it can be squeezed as a way to alleviate stress then it returns to its normal if somewhat smug shape. Here Sheldon wears his Green lantern shirt over a red long sleeve shirt and brown pants and shoes. It is part of a set of anti-stress figures featuring the four male leads and Penny in rubber figure form.
The Big Bang Theory Renaissance Action Figure Set released by Biff Bang Pow! in 2014
This unusual 2014 San Diego Comic Con exclusive set features the four male leads in Renaissance fair costumes as worn in the episode “The Codpiece Topology”. One of the standouts features of this set has to be the fact that the clothes are made of cloth, harkening back to the much beloved Mego figures of the 70s. In the set, Leonard is dressed like a knight with a gold fleur de lis crest over a blue tunic with a white hood and outfit underneath. He is also uncharacteristically smiling. Sheldon is dressed as a classic monk outfit with a brown hooded tunic and a golden rope belt tied at his waist. Raj is dressed as a gentleman, with a high collared brown shirt, green tights and thigh high boots. He also has a large Italian style hat covering his normally tasseled hair. Lastly, Howard is dressed as a fool in a harlequin style checkered and striped blue and red outfit. He is also wearing a black and white belt that seems out of place with the outfit. Finally, he wears the floppy Jester style hat with a sarcastic smirk on his face. I’d go with these four to the event anytime!
Parting Thoughts On The Show
While the show has its detractors that claim it is simply making fun of nerds and geek culture, I like to think that the series has broadened the general public’s perspective on those of us who enjoy, study and discuss a mix of passions that have been deemed “geeky”. I think that it has helped to show people that those thought of as nerds are just regular people with hopes, fears, feelings and aspirations just like everyone else. Some people like sports, some people like cars and some people like comic books and sci-fi films. It is all linked to passion and having those things that we care for and get passionate about making us all a little bit happier and a little bit more interesting human beings.