Long-running series The Big Bang Theory has some of the smartest moments in sitcom history because of the professions of Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Leonard. Their passion for science didn’t just inspire their own endeavors but it inspired the show’s millions of viewers. But for every stroke of brilliance the characters had, there was a cringeworthy moment close behind.
Because of Sheldon’s lack of awareness of other people’s boundaries, needs, or sense of humor, he has had some of the most hard-to-watch scenes on the show — but Sheldon isn’t alone. His counterparts also had embarrassing moments that made fans cover their eyes or fast-forward as they rewatch the series.
Updated on May 9th, 2022, by Lynn Gibbs: If there’s one thing the characters of The Big Bang Theory proved it’s that no matter how smart a person is, they can still make cringeworthy mistakes. As brilliant as the core four were (along with Penny, Amy, and Bernadette), they made mistakes that were hard to watch for viewers. Whether it was Howard trying to pick up women at the bar or Sheldon’s lack of understanding of how to treat others in the workplace, these characters had some of the ultimate cringe-worthy moments.
Leonard had some of the smartest quotes throughout TBBT, but he didn’t always have the smartest actions. One action, in particular, fans found cringeworthy.
After Penny and Leonard broke up, they remained close friends and a part of each other’s lives. Because of this, he was surprised when Penny randomly kissed him in her doorway with her dad present. As it turned out, Penny never told her dad they broke up and wanted to continue the schtick that they were still together. Leonard loved the idea of kissing Penny without the title as much as he loved that Penny’s dad adored him. However, Leonard’s behavior was cringey and over-the-top. Penny was grossed by his affections and ended up telling her dad the truth.
When Leonard was lonely and single, Howard had Bernadette set him up on a blind date with a friend of hers. Leonard wasn’t sure what to expect but his date was unlike anyone he’d gone out with before.
She showed up to the nice dinner in gym clothes and said how she was sweating. She dabbed her armpits with the dinner napkins as she chugged water. Leonard has had his fair share of relationships and knew they weren’t going anywhere. Their lack of connection and her behavior were cringey for viewers. Before Leonard could leave the date early, she invited him to a wedding as her date and he awkwardly accepted because she hinted at sleeping with him afterward.
It was beyond cringeworthy when Penny and Raj had too much wine and woke up the next morning in bed together. It was presumed that the two slept together since they were naked, but due to Raj’s selective mutism, he couldn’t tell Penny what happened.
Considering Leonard was Raj’s best friend and Penny’s ex-boyfriend, their sleeping together was the ultimate betrayal. It only got cringier when Penny found that they actually didn’t sleep together, but Raj continued bragging about it because she was the hottest person he had ever been with.
When Howard and Bernadette hired Stuart to be an at-home caretaker for Debbie Wolowitz, it shocked them to find out how much Stuart loved his new gig. She was so demanding that they couldn’t find lasting help. He earned money, had a place to live, and got along really well with Debbie. However, Stuart and Debbie got along a little too well…
At the gang’s makeshift prom, it was cringey to find out that Stuart was in a complex relationship with Debbie. So much so that he ditched his date when he found out Debbie was bothered by him dating. Their relationship was cringey to fans because it was assumed he was sleeping with Howard’s mother in exchange for a place to stay. His unique lifestyle did, however, make fans wish for a spinoff.
Although Sheldon’s quotes proved he was the show’s smartest, he didn’t always make smart decisions. Sheldon did not have a good relationship with Janine Davis, Caltech’s Human Resources manager. In the few moments that Sheldon spent with Janine, fans were left cringing and wishing the scene would be over.
Janine has had to talk to Sheldon about his treatment of women in the workplace, topics that were off the table in an office, and his blatant lack of understanding of what’s acceptable. Sheldon was lucky that Janine didn’t fire him for his constant disregard for safety in the workplace. His scenes with her in the office were some of the cringiest.
When Howard had the opportunity to work with NASA and go into space, he warned his friends that an agent would be visiting them to give him background clearance. If his friends didn’t compliment his character, Howard wouldn’t be cleared to go into space.
Unfortunately for him, Howard, Leonard, and Sheldon all butchered their interviews. However, Leonard’s was the cringiest. Instead of keeping things professional, Leonard tried being suave and sweet-talk the agent. The agent tried doing her job and later told Leonard that she was married and anything but interested. Leonard was embarrassed by his actions and sad that he upset his friend. His unnecessary flirtations were uncomfortable to watch.
Amy, Bernadette, and Penny had some of the best girls’ nights on TBBT. But before Amy was in the group, a girls’ night was a foreign concept to her. When Amy found out that Bernadette and Penny were having a girls’ night she became intrigued. Not only was she not invited but she didn’t know how these girls’ nights worked.
At the time, she was newer to the group and had never hung out with Penny and Bernadette without Sheldon. When the night came along, Amy’s behavior was incredibly awkward. She thought “girl talk” meant only talking about the female body and issues women faced. She also tried getting handsy with Penny, which was unwarranted.
When Amy was in New Jersey for work, Sheldon flew from Los Angeles to surprise her. That night, he joined Amy and her colleagues for dinner. Her colleagues were thrilled to meet Sheldon because they adored Amy and wanted to talk about Amy’s work in neurobiology. While Amy was new to the team, she had a strong worth ethic.
Sheldon, however, wasn’t used to the spotlight being on anyone else. He turned the conversation off of Amy and onto his own studies, which made Amy look bad. Sheldon acted like a little kid who couldn’t support his partner’s achievements, which made the scene hard to watch.
Raj’s selective mutism made it difficult for him to speak to women in any environment without alcohol. By sipping alcohol, it was like a potion that allowed Raj to speak to those around him.
But before he found out that alcohol helped him, he tested a new medication that was supposed to help with shyness. He thought everything was going okay when he approached a beautiful woman at a cafe, but things took a turn for the worse when he took off his clothes robotically. The scene was cringey because of how inappropriate Raj’s actions were. Thankfully, Raj matured throughout the series after this interaction.
When Sheldon needed more help at work, he hired an assistant named Alex. Alex was a great supporting character on TBBT and was bright and capable. But when Alex subtly flirted with Leonard in the cafeteria, Sheldon felt the need to talk about her behavior in the workplace.
Ironically, it was his behavior in the workplace that was inappropriate. He talked about her ovaries and compared her to an “egg salad sandwich.” While humorous, the conversation was uncomfortable and landed him back in HR.
Raj and Lucy seemed like the perfect pair at the start of their relationship. The two had a wholesome first date and were honest about their anxieties and fears. Lucy, however, was more anxious than Raj.
When the two started dating, she wasn’t ready to meet his friends but he pressed the issue. Raj invited Amy over to meet Lucy one-on-one first but ignored the fact that it was him making Lucy uncomfortable, not Amy. Raj’s pushiness was enough to push Lucy away and it was cringy for fans to watch it happen without him realizing it.
Mary Cooper is a hilarious and loving secondary character but she’s also incredibly offensive. Growing up in Texas and being a devout Christian, Mary blamed her insensitive language and views on just that — Texas and her religion.
When Mary came to visit Sheldon for the first time, Leonard warned Mary that her words and views were seen as insensitive in the modern day, which surprised her. Seeing how dated her viewers were was hard to watch for fans in that scene.
Howard had some smart quotes on TBBT but he didn’t always make smart decisions. As a “horny engineer,” Howard flirted with any woman that walked by. He didn’t care if he was crossing the line because if he didn’t try, he’d never have a chance.
Howard tried to kiss Penny without her consent, put a webcam in the teddy bear he gifted her, and even spied on her and Leonard in the hallway after their first date. It took Penny punching him in the face for Howard to realize how offensive he was.
Leonard’s youth affected his entire adulthood. His mom Beverly was a psychiatrist and his father was an anthropologist, thus, his childhood consisted of unknown experiments that altered his perception of reality.
Beverly tested Leonard and wrote books on him that later haunted him. Each trauma was accompanied by a laugh track but they were incredibly cringeworthy. Their mother-son moments were some of the worst on TBBT.
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