The Big Bang Theory was a hit by anyone’s standards. The show, which ran for 12 seasons and racked up multiple Emmy wins, turned several actors into household names. The series, however, almost didn’t air. Chuck Lorre, famed for his ability to craft winning sitcoms, produced an unaired pilot of The Big Bang Theory back in 2006, the year before the show was picked up. The unaired pilot was a bomb with networks, forcing Lorre to go back to the drawing board and eventually develop the series that fans known and loved. The original, unaired pilot, shows just how different the series could have been.
Penny didn’t exist in the original pilot
The original pilot didn’t include Penny at all. Sure, there was a female character, but she was a far cry from Penny. A character named Katie was supposed to serve as Penny, but her darker nature and propensity to take advantage of both Sheldon and Leonard didn’t sit well with networks.
When Chuck Lorre was given a second chance to craft the series, after the original pilot wasn’t picked up, he chucked the character of Katie, and instead created the much sweeter Penny. Both Raj Koothrappali and Howard Wolowitz were added in the second incarnation of the series, as well. The new cast seemed to mesh better, and the show had a much different feel, leading CBS to pick up the show.
Katie was originally going to live with Leonard and Sheldon
Sort of like Three’s Company, the three were supposed to live together. The original plan was to have Katie live with Sheldon and Leonard after she is dumped by her married boyfriend. The duo, who in the original pilot, were both motivated by sexual attraction, were supposed to invite Katie to live with them in a spare bedroom. Presumably, much hijinx was supposed to ensue from there.
The character of Katie, portrayed by Amanda Walsh, was scrapped, and with it went the entire storyline. Penny replaced her, and while she had recently broken up with a boyfriend, he was not married. Unlike Katie, Penny had her own apartment and made the active choice to hang out with Sheldon and Leonard. Perhaps the most significant difference, however, was Sheldon’s character. Instead of being motivated by sexual attraction, Sheldon is entirely ambivalent about Penny’s good looks. In fact, Sheldon’s lack of sexual desire for anyone is a running joke throughout the entirety of the series.
The series was also supposed to include a female research partner
Raj and Howard were added to the cast during the aired pilot, but initially, Sheldon and Leonard weren’t in a male-only friend group. A female researcher partner named Gilda was supposed to fill out the series. Gilda, who Screen Rant suggests is an unpolished version of Amy Farrah Fowler, vanished when the aired pilot premiered.
Gilda, who was supposed to be played by Iris Bahr, was likely dumped from the series because she was, frankly, no longer needed. Gilda was supposed to serve as the polar opposite of Katie. When Katie’s character was swapped out for a sweeter version, Gilda’s role seemed unnecessary. It’s also possible that showrunners decided the friends’ social ineptitude would be more evident without an existing female friend. In the aired pilot, Penny is the only main female character. More women are obviously added later, but that was for the purposes of character development.