Although “The Big Bang Theory” premiered in 2007, it took a few seasons for audiences to latch on to the brainy sitcom. After initial mixed reviews, the series hit its stride and became an awards-season staple, in part due to Mayim Bialik joining as neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler at the end of Season 3.
While Amy ostensibly joined “The Big Bang Theory” as a love interest to the similarly awkward, hyperrational Sheldon (Jim Parsons), her relationship with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) quickly emerged as a highlight of the series. More so than with the rest of the bookish crew, Penny serves as a personable, gregarious foil to Amy. Over the course of the series, the pair become unlikely friends, their relationship going from borderline discomfort to genuine affection. In Season 5, Amy gives Penny a huge painting of the two of them to commemorate their blossoming friendship. Here’s how fans really feel about the gift.
Fans agree that the painting isn’t that bad
When Amy gifts Penny a massive portrait of the two of them in Season 5, Episode 17, “The Rothman Disintegration,” Penny’s discomfort is palpable. She and Bernadette are quick to lay into the unflattering painting. “[It’s] so ugly,” they assert. Adds Bernadette, “Do you like pictures of yourself where you look like a man?”
Fans on Reddit were decidedly less critical of the painting. “She doesn’t look like a man,” wrote u/SkatingGeek. “They oversold how ugly the photo is.” Similarly, u/TooBusyforReddit didn’t knock the artistry, adding, “The painting itself isn’t as bad as the show would have you believe.” Fans agree that the gift’s outlandishness comes from its enormous size, not to mention the grandiose frame that’s fit more for a museum than a Pasadena apartment. Amy boasts that the portrait is 12 square feet, adding a sight gag that outweighs the ugliness of the painting itself.
Redditors also agree that the cringe factor comes less from the contents of the painting than from the gesture itself. “I think the painting itself is quite nice,” wrote u/BodaciousToad. “But I do think it’s kind of a weird gift to give to someone.” Amy adds to the absurdity of the gift when she admits that it cost $3,000.
While the painting is an unnecessarily garish gesture, it does accurately portray the relationship between Amy and Penny – the former confident and oblivious as she drapes her arm over Penny, who in turn is overwhelmed with unease. At least Penny can take solace in the fact that the portrait’s subjects are, thanks to some touch-ups, no longer nude.
Kaley Cuoco was partial to another piece of on-set artwork
While the giant gag painting made only a couple of appearances after Season 5, other prints and tchotchkes filled the apartments on “The Big Bang Theory,” making them some of the most fun and intricate sets on primetime. “It’s like a theme park walking onstage,” Kaley Cuoco told CNN. “I like how the prop department lines the hallways with all the things we’ve used.”
When “The Big Bang Theory” wrapped up in 2019, Cuoco took one souvenir from the set — and it wasn’t the cumbersome painting from Amy. Rather, it was the print of two robots fighting that has hung on the back of Sheldon and Leonard’s door since the pilot. “It’s always in my eyeline from where I sit [on] the living room set, so I’m glad I’m going to put it in my own living room so I’ll see it forever,” Cuoco said during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour (via People).
Mayim Bialik, meanwhile, appealed to the sitcom’s intense fandom when she posted an Instagram selfie with the famous painting in October 2020. While Bialik didn’t reveal her true feelings about the painting, she did use it as a backdrop to remind fans to vote in the 2020 election. “Visited some old friends today at WB!” reads the caption, indicating that at the end of the day, neither Bialik nor Cuoco wanted the 12-square-foot piece of art in their home.