There’s a lot to love about The Big Bang Theory, from the humorous jokes to the complex friendship dynamics displayed by Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, Raj, Penny, Bernadette, and Amy. While viewers often enjoyed these, some moments in certain episodes that were played for laughs came off as more cringe-worthy than funny.
These range from jokes that didn’t quite land to storylines that viewers felt were rather uncomfortable and out of place in a show meant to celebrate friendship and nerdy jokes. Some Reddit users even found episodes with these cringe-worthy moments difficult to watch to the point of being skipped upon re-watching The Big Bang Theory.
10 The Cornhusker Vortex
Season 3, Episode 6
In the early stages of Penny and Leonard’s relationship, their differences in personalities was glaringly obvious and a source of insecurity for him. In an effort to rectify this, he learned technical details about football to impress Penny’s friends while they were watching the game together. Reddit user Zepanda66 picked that particular episode as cringe-worthy because it was “so painful to watch you can see Penny just dying of embarrassment the whole time.”
In his effort to fit in with Penny’s circle and feel like they belonged together, Leonard often pushed the boundaries and delved into things he wasn’t familiar or comfortable with. For the most part, these were a source of great comedy throughout the show, but also teachable moments about the lengths people go to make a relationship work.
9 The Gothowitz Deviation
Season 3, Episode 3
In this episode, Howard and Raj disguise themselves to fit in at a Goth club in the hopes of scoring some girls. The Redditor monomocessen chose the episode as the most cringeworthy and said, “the goth one…not that anyone cares…”
While the comment doesn’t go in depth about the cringiness of the episode, it does include one of the most memorable The Big Bang Theory quotes from a side character. The episode also serves to highlight how far Howard and Raj were willing to go just to get women, even to the point of lying and pretending to be people they were not. These were all defining traits of their characters in the earlier seasons of the show and a huge part of their character arcs.
8 The Misinterpretation Agitation
Season 8, Episode 7
The main storyline of this episode is one of Penny’s clients from her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep following her to her apartment because he believes she flirted with him. Reddit user imtchogirl commented their reason for naming the episode cringe-worthy as “no one points out that a strange man from her workplace stalks her.”
The whole thing is played for laughs and Penny even gets blamed for leading the man on by other characters. But taking a closer look at it, it’s dismissive of the creepy behavior of Dr. Lorvis and how uncomfortable the whole storyline actually was without the comedy TV show filter.
7 The Love Spell Potential
Season 6, Episode 23
After a trip to Vegas gets cancelled, Penny, Bernadette, and Amy join the guys in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. The Redditor Dalanard commented, “the cringe is strong when they’re playing D&D and Penny tells Sheldon and Amy to have sex in the game.”
It was common knowledge that by then Amy and Sheldon had not had intimate relations and the rest of the group often joked about it. However, this time Amy was offended by the joke, especially becayse it came from Penny whom she considered as her best friend, so the moment became rather awkward after that and uncomfortable to watch.
6 The Boyfriend Complexity
Season 4, Episode 9
When Penny’s dad visits for the first time, she lies that she and Leonard are back together. They spend most of the episode pretending to be a couple, even when Penny got uncomfortable, and Reddit user 1000furiousbunnies comments that they “hate how he treats her in the episode, it’s so gross.”
At first, Leonard played along with Penny’s request but started taking it too far even though it was clear she was getting uncomfortable and from the comments on Reddit, viewers also found it disturbing and cringe-worthy. Especially because both Penny and Leonard forced physical contact on each other throughout their act until she decided to come clean.
5 The Table Polarization
Season 7, Episode 16
In the episode, Sheldon gets in a fight with Leonard about buying a dining room table. Despite Penny pushing Leonard to buy it, when Sheldon remained adamant about not having it in their apartment, she advised on giving up the fight and letting Sheldon get his way, hence leading to the statement Reddit user wekris91 quotes as “sometimes the baby wins…that episode…ugh.”
Despite Sheldon’s assertion that he wins “sometimes,” this was only one of many instances where he gets his way, often to the disadvantage of the others. The quoted line is one of many quotes that prove Sheldon is the worst and oftentimes annoys viewers because of his behavior and quirks.
4 The Habitation Configuration
Season 6, Episode 7
One of the prominent storylines in this episode was the fight between Amy and Wil Wheaton during the making of an episode of Fun with Flags. Reddit user idknayoudecide commented on it and said “Amy gives me second hand embarrassment,” because of her behavior throughout the episode.
Amy fussed about Sheldon taking her side over Wil’s, simply on the basis that they were in a relationship even though her argument didn’t make sense. For a lot of viewers, that showed a terrible side of her, which ironically was a lot like Sheldon’s and actually further reinforced how alike they were.
3 The Fetal Kick Catalyst
Season 10, Episode 6
When Amy and Sheldon decide to host a brunch, they come up with the idea of doing a trial run with Stuart, Bert, and Mrs. Petrescu from their apartment building as their trial guests. Reddit user ShadesMLG commented “the one where Sheldon and Amy have a dinner party and they have that practice run with random people,” as the most cringe-worthy episode of the show.
During the brunch, Sheldon revealed that it was a trial run brunch to work out all the kinks before the real one with their real friends. Stuart was understandably upset as he believed himself to be one of their close friends but this highlighted how he was often considered by the rest of the group and neglected unless they needed something from him.
2 The Romance Recalibration
Season 10, Episode 13
By this episode, Penny and Leonard have been married for a couple of seasons, and she starts to feel like he’s taking her for granted and not making any effort like he used to when he was courting her. The Redditor throw_havingdoubts picked the episode as the cringiest and said “over the years Leonard has put so much time and effort into the relationship whilst Penny has always felt that because she’s pretty it’s justified.”
As the Redditor notes, for a long time Penny and Leonard’s relationship on The Big Bang Theory seemed so one-sided that her complaints appeared unreasonable because she barely made effort to reciprocate Leonard’s actions most times. In some ways, it painted her as being entitled to his complete adoration without making an effort to show him the same.
1 The Itchy Brain Simulation
Season 7, Episode 8
In the episode, Sheldon discovers Leonard lied about returning a rented video and when all attempts to return it fail, he makes Leonard wear an old itchy sweater, so he can understand how the act made him feel. Reddit user TMommy0040 commented “the itchy sweater episode. Skip,” on a thread about cringe-worthy episodes.
While some aspects of the episode are funny, it all boils down to showing the extreme lengths Sheldon will go to make a point, which was a key aspect of his character throughout the show. To Sheldon, his behavior was completely reasonable, but his elaborate revenge plot over a mere videotape went so far that it was embarrassing and, as Amy pointed out, diabolical.