August 13, 2022

The Big Bang Theory: 10 Most Recurring Tropes From The TV Show

The Big Bang Theory Feature

Like most sitcoms, The Big Bang Theory relied on tropes throughout most of the seasons to carry the story forward. These were either iterations of characters common in similar shows like Penny, the bright, fun girl-next-door, or repetitive plots, like Raj’s unsuccessful attempts to find love. After a while of showing the same thing over and over again, the show became predictable, making it too easy for fans to guess where the story was going.

RELATED: The 10 Most Overused Plots In Sitcom History

While The Big Bang Theory avoided some tropes and cliches, there were a few that happened over and over again throughout the show. Some of these are common in the world of sitcoms, but others are unique to the show, yet still majorly overdone.

10 Master’s In Disastrous Engineering
Howard was the Engineer in the group, with a Master’s Degree in the field from MIT. While he was proud of this achievement, Sheldon always taunted him over being the only one without a doctorate in their group. Based on Howard’s engineering track record throughout the series, it’s no surprise this taunt became a recurring thing.

Every time Howard mentioned having a Master’s degree in Engineering, it almost always ended in disaster. From the faulty toilet he built for the International Space Station in “The Classified Materials Turbulence,” to the drone he took apart and accidentally turned into a killing machine in “The Graduation Transmission.” The show continued to validate Sheldon’s taunt, with the only exception being when Howard went to space.

9 Fight, Breakup, Kiss, Makeup
In addition to highlighting the character’s careers on The Big Bang Theory, the show also focused on their respective love lives. Although the characters and their love interests were unique, there were some glaring similarities in the way their relationships evolved. Almost to the point of becoming repetitive with very slight variations.

Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, and Raj all met women (albeit at different times), had a relationship, fought over something, and broke up—some more than once—only to kiss and makeup at the end of the day. This plot repeated with each of the guys enough times to establish it as a pattern, even though the exact circumstances were unique.

8 Sheldon Getting Away With Being Annoying
In some ways, the show felt like a story about Sheldon’s growth through the seasons. It focused a lot on his career, life, quirks and so much more that it was easy to consider Sheldon as the main character of The Big Bang Theory. However, this “growth” was overshadowed at most times by the show’s tendency to undo any progress he’d made character-wise and take him back to square one.

In an episode, Sheldon would do or say something annoying, his friends would get mad, then he’d realize the error of his ways and apologize—only to do it all again in the next episode. It almost felt like he was going around in circles, especially since this exact sequence of events happened even in the series finale, despite all the good ways Sheldon had changed over the seasons.

7 The Bad Parent
From time to time, the main characters were visited by family members—their parents in particular. Some of these were the best and worst relatives on the show on account of their strained relationships with the main characters, even with just an appearance or two.

RELATED: 10 Of The Best & Worst Relatives On The Big Bang Theory 

One recurring theme amongst these was the terrible parents. From Leonard’s mother and father to Bernadette’s father, the show kept reinforcing the bad parent trope. There were a few exceptions, like Sheldon’s mother, Mary, who was loved by most of the characters, but she wasn’t without her flaws.

6 Falling For Every Woman They Meet
Whenever a new woman came on the show, the guys fell over each other to try and win her affections—apart from Sheldon. It happened in the very first episode with Penny when she moved in and again with Alicia from the episode, “The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition.”

While their antics to win the women’s affections were usually funny, especially when they were fighting over Sheldon’s sister—Missy—the recurring plot painted them as fickle, with their attention going from one woman to another. When Leonard and Howard settled down with Penny and Bernadette, that trope still continued with Raj and to some extent, Stuart, when they started fighting over Ruchi, one of Bernadette’s co-workers.

5 Back Burner Friends
At its core, The Big Bang Theory was a story about a group of friends navigating life, love, and work together. Their friendship was often put to the test, most times by Sheldon and his terrible behavior, but they stuck together for the most part. However, one common recurring theme in the friendships, especially perpetuated by Raj, was the back burner friend, who was usually Stuart.

Even though Stuart was part of their lives from the first season, the group mostly treated him as an afterthought. Raj only started hanging out with him more when Howard was in space and their friendship gradually fell apart once he was back. He did it again when Howard was now in a serious relationship, with Bernadette and the two of them worked on their online dating game.

4 Complicated In-Laws
The consequence of bad parents on the show was complicated relationships with in-laws, which is something common in TV shows. As a result of the friction between Leonard and his mother, it took a while before she and Penny developed a relationship.

Bernadette’s father also didn’t care much for Howard, no matter how much he tried to get close to his father-in-law. There were barely any scenes showing a positive relationship with in-laws, even though there were quite a number of them.

3 Unlucky In Love
Early on in the show, Leonard, Raj, and Howard engaged in sad attempts to find love, although Howard’s attempts were mostly creepy. After a while, Leonard started dating Penny, Howard had Bernadette, but Raj still struggled to maintain anything long-term.

RELATED: 10 Of Raj’s Relationships On The Big Bang Theory, Ranked

Over the seasons, while everyone else had somewhat steady relationships, the show established Raj as the one unlucky in love. Even when he got a girlfriend, the relationship never lasted, leaving Raj to constantly complain about being alone and lonely. It actually became something of a character trait for him that Howard even once joked that Raj was bound to screw up any relationship in some way.

2 Socially Awkward Nerds
Leonard, Howard, Sheldon, and Raj were shown to be socially awkward as a consequence of their love of comic books, video games, and their high intellect. On the show, it was mentioned several times that they didn’t go out much, which resulted in their difficulties in interacting with people outside their circle.

Penny’s presence improved their social lives and subverted this trope for the most part, but the show continued to introduce it from time to time. Apart from the guys, it happened with Amy as well when she first joined the group and her awkwardness in fitting in at her first girl’s night was played for laughs.

1 Sheldon Always Being Right
A lot of TV shows usually have the main character as someone who can do no wrong and is always right. The Big Bang Theory followed this formula with Sheldon who was never wrong (even when he was) simply because he didn’t fully understand the nuances of social interactions or emotions.

Other than that, he was always academically correct too since he was established as the smartest one in the group. That trope only resulted in an arrogant character whom some fans found hard to like and most could only tolerate.

NEXT: 10 Moments That Prove Sheldon Was Misunderstood On The Big Bang Theory

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About The Author

Tricia Mawire
(91 Articles Published)

Tricia is a List Writer for Screen Rant with a background in creative writing and a love for all things film and TV. She fell in love with reading at the age of 10 after discovering that her favorite movie, Matilda, was based on a novel. That led to her first in-depth analysis of literary work to her mom and anyone who’d listen. If she’s not reading or writing stories with crazy plot twists, she’s bingeing a new series and ranting about character arcs and plot holes. Or she’s eating French fries.

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