Of all the secondary characters on The Big Bang Theory, Zack Johnson may be the one that gets the least appreciation – even though he most deserves it. A frequent on-again, off-again boyfriend of Penny’s, Zack is classically handsome, sweet, kind, financially stable… and dumber than a box of rocks. Zack would look like a bit of an idiot in a room full of average people, so compared to Leonard and Sheldon, he is comically stupid, and he acts as comic relief (and as the anti-Leonard).
But while fans and the gang love to laugh at Zack, he’s actually a pretty fantastic guy, who deserved a lot more love, and screentime, than he got. He may not be a genius, but he’s basically the blueprint of a decent human, and when some of the main characters are actually pretty awful people, that’s nice to see.
He’s Incredibly Kind
Zack is always there to help out, to be nice, and essentially allows Penny to walk all over him a lot of the time. He follows her to celebrations with Leonard and his friends, even though the two had plans as a couple, he’s constantly complimenting her, he offers her a job, he’s always pleased to see people that he’s met before and remembers their names (and takes pride in doing so). Overall, he’s just a decent guy, and that’s surprisingly rare in the sitcom world.
He’s Always Enthusiastic And Up For Anything
This goes hand in hand with his kindness, but while most of the main characters can be found whining about what they want to do, Zack really doesn’t care. He’s incredibly low-maintenance and willing to go along with what the group wants, which is refreshing. When they want to get him to dress up as Superman, he does it. When he comes in to find Stuart in a towel singing karaoke? He joins in. And he always does it with sincere enthusiasm.
He’s Actually A Good Boyfriend
Unlike most of the men Penny dates, Zack doesn’t really seem to do anything wrong. They don’t have any huge dramatic breakup storylines – unlike others, he’s not mean, he doesn’t cheat on her, he just seems to like her and want to see her and help her out. He’s not jealous, either, and seems secure in himself and in their relationship. In fact, the two even got (semi-accidentally) married – so they had to be doing something right! In a show filled with less-than-fantastic romantic partners, Zack is one of the few exes that is actually lovely.
More Successful Than Most
It can be hard to root for Zack on this one, because he’s not successful on his own merit. His father owns a company that prints restaurant menus, including for The Cheesecake Factory, and it’s made the family extremely rich. Zack later sells his share and retires, and seems to be taking surprisingly good care of his money, too.
He ends up wealthy, retired young, and happily married – and while it may be easy to say that he doesn’t deserve it, he also doesn’t seem to be the kind of spoiled rich kid that just wants to throw money around. It’s not until he retires that he really reveals how wealthy he is.
Calls Leonard Out On His Bullying
For the most part, Zack is happy to accept the ‘teasing’ from the gang about his stupidity. Either he doesn’t pick up on a comment, or he just smiles and accepts it as teasing among friends, instead of mean-spirited bullying (which is probably closer to the truth). However, when they take things too far one day, he does actually call them out on it. And he does it in a bit of a sulky way (played up for laughs), but he still tells them that it’s not fair and leaves without flipping out or being passive aggressive – after which they actually apologize and start to change their behavior.
A Good Husband
At one point, Zack and Penny accidentally get married – believing that Vegas weddings aren’t actually legal. However, that’s not the marriage we’re referring to, as later on he gets married again. This time around, he reveals that he’s also a good husband, as he offers Penny a job when she is down on her luck, but then rescinds the offer (very apologetically) when it is revealed that this would upset his wife. Later, she appears on the show, and fans get to see what a doting and considerate husband he really is.
Charming To Everyone
What Zack lacks in brains, he makes up for in charm. He’s always charming, even when he barely knows someone (like when Amy first sees him, and goes up to try and ask him out). He tries to remember faces and names, joins in on what everyone is doing, and always has a smile on his face. It’s a nice change from most of the characters in a show that goes out of its way to make people painfully socially awkward.
Doesn’t Judge Any Of Their Friends
Given Zack’s appearance, the people he likely spends time with, his money, and his overall easy life, it would be easy for him to be the kind of person to look down on others. However, even with people as arguably off-putting as Howard, Stuart, Barry, and Sheldon, he is his usual charming self.
He doesn’t judge them for going to a comic book store, but gets excited as he, too, enjoys comics (Archie and Jughead). He doesn’t judge them for their hobbies, but tries to join in on conversations about their interests. Overall, he’s shockingly non-judgemental, in situations where most viewers would probably struggle to be.
Has A Good Relationship With Penny (Despite Their History)
One of the nicest things about Zack is his relationship with Penny. Despite the fact that they have dated multiple times, they still have a great relationship, and stay friends for the entire series. He even says, later on in the series, that he has always liked seeing Penny and Leonard together, showing that while Leonard feels the need to act like a sulky child around him, he’s just plain happy for her. Compared to the jealousies and rivalries of everyone else, Zack is one of the most emotionally healthy characters on the show.
Zack may be played as the dumbest guy on the show for laughs, but he’s actually surprisingly perceptive. He does know when the gang are making fun of him, and calls them out on it (as previously mentioned). He takes credit for the idea of laminating menus for restaurants, which is made as a joke (he comes up with the idea because he threw up on something), but it’s actually incredibly smart and probably led to a lot of money for his company (lamination and complete replacement isn’t cheap!). He even pointed out to the guys that their guidance system could be used in war, which they seemingly hadn’t considered, despite their collective ‘brilliance’.
Not Just A Joker
Zack is consistently played as pure comic relief, but by the end of the series, he’s shown to have more depth than that. He and his wife want to have kids, and he is willing to approach Leonard (and then Sheldon) to be sperm donors – and shows surprising sensitivity. Between this, his healthy relationship with Penny, and his kindness to Leonard (despite Leonard’s jealousy toward him), under the jokes can be seen a sensitive, loving, kind guy, who just wants to be good to people – and given all that, who cares if he doesn’t have a Ph.D.?