What happened to Penny's other friends on 'The Big Bang Theory?'


When we first met Penny, the pretty and street-smart across-the-hall neighbor from the ever-loveable, but oh so nerdy Leonard and Sheldon, she was new to Pasadena from Nebraska and was working as a waitress/actress.  The unlikely friendship started right away as she is sweet-natured and at least curious about the guys' lives and leisure activities, but in the past eleven seasons, her social life seems to have dwindled somewhat.

Growth is important and every member of the gang has come a long way, but not all of Penny’s changes seem to be that healthy.

Photo: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2016 WBEI. All rights reserved.

Penny wasn’t in a great spot financially, career-wise or when it came to relationships in the early days of the show, but she was shown to have a rather large circle of friends.  We haven’t gotten an inkling of her personal life outside of the septet for years.

She used to throw parties.  She used to go dancing.  Not all of her leisure activities were spent nerding out with the boys and the women who love them.  She had outside interests.  She doesn’t seem to anymore.

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Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Now, as we mature, most of us weed out some people during our 20s and 30s.  There are many reasons this happens.  We move.  Jobs change.  Interests change.  We have kids—the kiss of death for many friendships. Sometimes we are smart enough to get rid of people who may not be the most positive influences in our lives, but not all of Penny’s former friends must have sucked and where are they now?

She got engrossed in the beautiful nerdy world of comics, Star Trek, video games and academia and seems to enjoy being part of that world, but doesn’t she miss some aspects of her old life?

Penny met Bernadette at work at The Cheesecake Factor, whom she reluctantly set up with Wolowitz.  The women seemed to bond easily despite their disparate interests.  Bernadette easily fits into the group.  She is a microbiologist, so she shares the guys scientific interest (though she isn’t a physicist, which is not at all impressive to Sheldon, though she has a Ph.D. unlike Wolowitz and Penny), but she is grounded enough in the real world to not be too socially awkward and likes girl time with a glass (bottle) of wine.

It wasn’t as easy a transition in regards to Amy Farrah Fowler.  While Amy and Sheldon seemed to be made for each other from their first meeting—granted in one of the slowest moving courtships in TV history—but she and Penny didn’t quite hit their stride until a bit later.  As Amy was relishing being friends with the popular and pretty Penny, Penny wasn’t always at ease with the awkwardness and learning curve associated with befriending Amy.

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Photo: Monty Brinton/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2016 WBEI. All rights reserved.

Something amazing about Penny (and a reason why the show works) is that she is the only one of the group who sees them all the way we do.  She is sometimes shocked and appalled by their cluelessness. She has found wonderful friends and a loving husband in this group.

But, is it enough?

Now, we never got to know any of her old friends.  We met quite a few ex-boyfriends and heard some tales—especially when she bribed Wolowitz to get Leonard to a surprise birthday party by promising to tell him which girls were vulnerable or hot to trot—so we saw her with friends, but we didn’t get to know any of them.

That could be a reason why people haven’t been asking the question, what happened to Penny’s friends? However, she used to have a wide circle of them and now she doesn’t.  We see her polishing off quite a bit of wine these days.  Perhaps that is to compensate for something missing, but to be fair she was always up for a tipple.

As Penny confessed last year that she really didn’t like her job, maybe she will soon realize that as wonderful as her new friends are and as much as she loves them, she may need something more?

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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