The now tenth season sitcom The Big Bang Theory on CBS, remains one of the best shows on television, despite having been on air since 2007. It contrasts sharply from creator Chuck Lorre‘s other major show, which started in the 2000s; Two and a Half Men. The latter was quite simply a filthy, raunchy vehicle for Charlie Sheen (and a damn good vehicle it was) while The Big Bang Theory places a group of socially challenged nerds into the spotlight; specializing in humor inspired by science-fiction and advanced level academics.
While the main male characters make up a hilarious and eclectic group in and of themselves, an all-male, all-intellectual show would be missing something. Penny, played by the stunning Kaley Cuoco, fills both of these potential casting holes, and is characterized as a physically tough, academically disinterested, street-smart, gorgeous former tomboy who plays a perfect foil to the weak, awkward yet brilliant scientists.
In much the same way as all four of the main male characters have captured the hearts of the audience, fans have also fallen in love with Penny. Women love her for her attitude and self-reliance (except for financial self-reliance, she doesn’t have that one down), while men love her because she’s beautiful and funny (what more do you need?).
Here are fifteen things you never knew about The Big Bang Theory’s Penny.
15. She Was Originally Katie
Before there even was a Penny, there was another piece of eye candy on Big Bang. This goes all the way back to the early days when the show was little more than a hopeful pilot. The original pilot did not feature Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco, but rather Katie, played by Amanda Walsh. Katie and Penny had some similarities, in that both would play the street-smart, tough woman to counteract the social graces of the scientists.
Katie however, was abrasive and mean to Leonard and Sheldon and the character was dropped after the first pilot. For the second pilot, they chose an equally tough and practical girl, but with a more pleasant demeanor: our beloved Penny.
14. Her Last Name
While she has been referred to as Penny Hofstadter since she and Leonard got hitched, we still have no idea what Penny’s last name is. Every so often, some website comes up with an eye-grabbing story claiming that Penny’s last name will be revealed in some upcoming episode, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Steve Molaro, one of the show’s producers, has said that Penny most definitely has a last name (now a maiden name) but also that it will never be revealed in the show. His rationale is that the name has not been revealed yet, and the show has been doing great, citing superstition to defend the creators’ decision to never reveal the name.
13. Only One Main Male Character Hasn’t Seen Her In The Buff
Penny is by no means modest, and is no stranger to showing off some skin. One of the funniest things about this show however, is that three of the four major male characters have seen her naked. Leonard is the obvious one, as they dated and got married, if he hadn’t seen all her bits and pieces that would be a terrible relationship.
Sheldon saw Penny with nothing on when she slipped in the shower and injured her shoulder. She had to call him into her washroom to get her dressed and get her to the hospital. He noted her lack of adhesive ducks (you know, for traction).
Raj of course saw Penny naked when they almost slept together. Hilarious. There is just one left over, and yes, Howard, the creepy, perpetually aroused wannabe ladies’ man is the only male character of the four who has yet to see Penny in the buff.
12. In Belarus, She Was Natasha
For a very brief period over five years ago, there was a nearly carbon-copy of The Big Bang Theory that was created in Belarus. It was exact: the male characters had almost the exact same names, the characters had the same personalities, and of course, each episode had a similar plot and script. The show did not last because when the actors realized they were participating in an act of plagiarism, they refused to work.
11. Her Dad Has Two Names?
About two months ago, we were fortunate enough to meet Penny’s mother, Susan. Played by Katey Sagal, the same woman who played Kaley Cuoco’s mother on Eight Simple Rules, Susan and Penny’s brother Randall, brought some new laughs to the wedding episode. But up until season ten, these people were only spoken of. Fans saw Penny’s father many years prior. Season four to be exact. His name is Wyatt and we know he raised Penny to be somewhat of a Tomboy and called her “Slugger” growing up. He cares for her a great deal but is chronically disappointed in her poor choices.
However, even earlier than his first on-screen appearance, he is mentioned, albeit by a different name. Late in the second season, after meeting Leonard’s mother, Penny talks about her father and mentions him by name “Bob”.
10. Kaley Cuoco Hasn’t Learned Much
We’ll give you an interesting tidbit about the beautiful actress who plays Penny for our number ten: Kaley Cuoco has said that she has learned next to nothing about science working on the show. This sounds weird: one has to assume that Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano, of The Sopranos) learned a thing or two about organized crime working on that show. Similarly, it is not unreasonable to think that the cast of Archer have learned a thing or two about espionage. Okay, that second one was a joke.
9. The Rumors About Her Leaving The Show Are Just Rumors (For Now)
Every time the actors on a popular sitcom are up for contract renewal, the rumor mill gets revved into full swing and everyone’s BS alarm seems to stop working. Since January of this year, various sources with varying levels of credibility saying everything from “there will be an eleventh season” to things like “Kaley Cuoco is hard to work with and she’s going to be booted from the show”. At this point though, it’s all nonsense, and rather than getting your metaphorical panties in a twist, just enjoy what season ten is bringing to the table. So far, everyone wants season eleven to happen and Chuck Lorre has said that it will. We’re glad!
8. “Soft Kitty” Song Origin
We’ve mentioned Penny’s interesting place within the character dynamic of the show. One minute she is a cute blonde crying over her most recent scumbag boyfriend, the next she is a tough girl from Nebraska, and later in the same episode she may well be caring for a sad/sick Sheldon Cooper. She’s a character with many layers and a very complex backstory. This is a major part of her charm.
With regard to her mother-figure role for Sheldon, one of her most notable running gags with him is the song “Soft Kitty”. According to producer/creator Bill Prady, he got the idea to include the song in the show after hearing his daughter sing it. Apparently her teacher had heard the song in Australia and brought it back to the United States.
7. Her Purse
Most of you will not have noticed this, but a keen eye and an interest in fashion may have tipped some of you off to a couple of Penny’s trademark accessories. One of these is her burgundy dark red leather jacket, which has been seen quite a few times over the course of the popular series. More impressive however, is her purse, which has been her go-to bag since the second episode of season one. It is a Lucky Brand Slouch Hobo, and its use over so many seasons may be indicative of the fact that throughout the series, Penny has been a broke waitress living outside of her means; and while money may have been there for some clothes and booze, the purse worked so she didn’t really need another.
6. The “I Love You” Scene
We’ll get all mushy and lovey-dovey for our number six entry.
Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco have great chemistry on and off the screen. They dated for a few years earlier in the series when Penny and Leonard were just friends/on and off, and remained close friends even after Cuoco got married. This of course brings us to the big “I love you” scene. For those who don’t remember this, Leonard had said those words to Penny prior, and she never said it back, which caused some turbulence in their relationship. Eventually, they had to write a script that would include Penny finally saying these words. She loved the scene, and according to all those present, it was so well written, and she and Galecki were having a great day, and filming the scene only took one take.
5. Why She Briefly Became A Bartender
Back in season four, Cuoco was fully written out of two episodes after a severe accident that left her in the hospital for two weeks. She was riding her horse (who she has called “the love of her life”) and he got spooked, throwing her off. She took the fall like a champ, but the horse went to jump away from her and ended up landing on her leg. Fun fact: horses are heavy. Her leg snapped like a twig.
Upon entry to the hospital, she was told that amputation may be necessary, but thankfully she just underwent surgery and doctors were able to insert some metal bars, rather than resorting to the ol’ chop. She returned to work shortly after her required hospital stay, and had to be filmed from the waist up and with limited movement. Hence her stint as a Cheesecake Factory bartender.
4. Her Car (Early Seasons)
A recurring gag in early seasons was that Penny was terrible at caring for her car, and that the “check engine” light was constantly on, much to the dismay of Sheldon Cooper, whose thinly veiled terror at this fact was hilarious. Further to this, Penny is a pretty bad driver. It is not so much that she isn’t capable, but more so that she doesn’t really pay attention. This caused some contention between her and Leonard when she found out that he was freaked out by her driving.
3. The Show Got Sued Over “Soft Kitty”
We talked about the origin of the use of “Soft Kitty” earlier, but that song actually became the basis of a lawsuit about a year ago. In short, and without too much legalese, the song was adapted from a nursery rhyme written back in the 1930s by a woman named Edith Newlin. Her daughters have claimed that they are entitled to money for their mother’s work having been used in the show.
According to Deadline, Willis Music, the company that owns the rights to the book the song was published in, said that the song was licensed and used by Warner Bros. in accordance with the law. However, there is another issue based on the fact that the show has gone on to produce merchandise from shirts to mugs with phrases from the song. This case hasn’t been solved yet, and it’s copyright law so it may take a while.
2. Her Age And Birthday
Her birthday was confirmed by Leonard in the episode The Platonic Permutation, in which he reads Penny’s diary: she was born on December 2nd. Howard’s card trick in The Prestidigitation Approximation (back in season four), helps us to determine Penny’s birth year: based on the card she picked, her only possible birthday is December 2nd, 1985, which is just three days away from Kaley Cuoco’s actual birthday; November 30th, 1985. The numbers match up perfectly, for example, early in season one she tells Leonard and Sheldon that she is 21, and given that it was September 2007 at the time, it makes complete sense. Penny is the youngest character on the show, and Kaley Cuoco is the youngest member of the main cast.
1. Embarrassing Acting Career
Anyone who has religiously watched and rewatched the series may be familiar with this, but Penny has an entire list of comically embarrassing acting gigs from before she started as a pharma rep. Her first role was a topless one in a terrible horror flick called Serial Ape-ist about a genetically modified gorilla going on a rampage. Another of her jobs was in the sequel to this movie, Serial Ape-ist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill in which she played a human-ape cross. Her one part on an episode of NCIS was cut, and her several parts in various theatrical productions (including a part in The Diary of Anne Frank, on a stage above a bowling alley, which was used to simulate artillery) were all of very low production value. Probably her highest paying gig is the hemorrhoid medication commercial from which she later claims that she still gets residual checks every so often.