Like most sitcoms, The Big Bang Theory sees most of the action take place across only a few specific locations – largely because it makes filming easier, especially as this was a rarity among modern shows and still filming in front of a live studio audience. Because of that, having too many complex sets would be a logistical hassle, so most of the time, the gang hung out in a few specific places, and just talked about other spots.
But of those few spaces that the fans did get to see, which were the most important? Was it a workplace, or did the comic book store take center stage in this sitcom about nerds? Was Penny’s apartment more important than Sheldon and Leonards, or did the stairway turn out to be the most instrumental location of all?
By far, the least important of the homes of the main characters is Amy’s – and it’s only seen in a few episodes, for a few scenes. This isn’t a spot where the gang really hangs out, and it doesn’t get a lot of attention. When Amy eventually moves in with Sheldon, it just makes sense for everyone, and there was no real fan attachment to her original apartment. That said, there were definitely some major moments that happened here, especially with Sheldon taking their relationship to new levels, so it can’t be totally forgotten.
The broken elevator was a running gag on the series, with various characters commenting on it, trying to fix it, explaining in flashbacks how the gang managed to accidentally break it, and finally, with Penny able to use it, and a working elevator in time for the finale. Because of this, multiple scenes take place on the stairs, or dealing with getting things up and down the stairs, which makes this a worthwhile location in its own right. However, this was rarely the space for something truly important to happen – instead, it’s just a great spot for constant gags.
Raj’s apartment appears more than Amy’s does, but significantly less than the homes of the rest of the group – largely because he doesn’t live in the same building as Penny, Leonard, and Sheldon, and because he doesn’t really host others.
It’s actually something of a surprise that he doesn’t invite his friends around more often, given that he loves playing the host, putting on events and parties, and being the center of attention, but at the end of the day, not a whole lot of huge importance happens here.
Howard & Bernadette’s House
This home may belong to Howard and Bernadette at the end of the series, but at the start, it is Howard’s mother’s house, where he lives with her. This is where the fans get to hear her shouting at him from the other room, but of course, never seeing her in person. It’s where Howard’s relationship with his mother really gets fleshed out, and later, when Bernadette moves in, it becomes a different kind of family home. Later in the series, it also becomes home to Stuart, and Raj is always visiting too, making it almost a social center rival to Sheldon and Leonard’s place. However, as this is only much later in the show, it still isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory disappears in the final seasons of the show, as both Bernadette and Penny stop working here and move into pharmaceuticals, but it’s a huge location for most of the series, and definitely the early seasons. This is where Penny works, which is why it appears so often, as the guys go to eat there and the fans are treated to plenty of interactions between the four of them and Penny. This is also where Bernadette comes into the story, where Sheldon gets drunk for the first time and puts on an impromptu concert, where Penny does shots with Leonard’s mother, where the characters go on dates, where Sheldon briefly ‘works’ as a busboy, and where multiple guest stars make their appearances.
Because Caltech is where Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj all work, it’s slightly more important than the Cheesecake Factory, but only just – and once again, this is more important in the earlier seasons of The Big Bang Theory, and fades a little toward the end, especially as the characters take on other projects.
However, this is where many of the favorite secondary characters also come into play, including Barry Kripke and Leslie Winkle. This is also where fans get to see some of the cool experimental work that the characters are doing, which makes a difference in a show aimed at a more science-oriented audience.
The Comic Book Store
When the gang aren’t at work or at home, there’s a good chance that they will be at the comic book store – which is why it is such an important place for the series. This is also important for establishing the nerd cred of the series, but it’s more than that. The Big Bang Theory centers nerd culture, and this space allows for storylines around game tournaments, signings, comic book art, and so much more. And, of course, it is where the fans are introduced to Stuart, the secondary character who manages to make his way up to main character (or almost) by the finale.
Penny moving in is the catalyst that starts the whole show, so of course, her apartment is going to be one of the most important locations for the series. It’s also somewhere that the gang spends a lot of time, and over the course of the series, Penny, Leonard, Sheldon, and Amy have all lived here in some capacity. It’s where Penny, Amy, and Bernadette have girls night, and sometimes it’s where the whole gang hangs out, but most of the time it’s just important because it is across the hall from the actual most important location in the show.
Leonard & Sheldon’s Apartment
Could there be any doubt that the most important location in The Big Bang Theory is Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment? This is where the vast majority of the show takes place, whether that is one on one interactions, the whole gang hanging out for takeout and video games, or anything in between. Multiple people live here or stay here over the years, various girlfriends almost move in (or actually do, in the end), and all the biggest and most important scenes happen here. And of course, this is the center of the show’s universe, because Sheldon is the central character, and his spot is the center of his own world – and that spot is in the middle of this living room. “if [his] life were expressed as a function on a four-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, that spot at the moment [he] first sat on it would be 0,0,0,0”.