“Just a few hours ago, you were completely distraught about the end of your relationship, but now you want to party?” asked Leonard Hofstadter, in the unaired pilot of The Big Bang Theory. The problem in this equation was apparently “Katie.”
In the original pilot episode, a pre-Penny female lead named Katie was meant to be the fifth wheel on The Big Bang Theory. Katie, played by Amanda Walsh, runs into Leonard and Sheldon when she’s dumped and left on the street.
Overall, the character is brash, unsympathetic, and less confident than Penny.
Original The Big Bang Theory Mean And Mocking
The Fandom Wiki site writes, “The audience did not like the way Katie was mean and mocking Sheldon and Leonard, so she was dropped for the second pilot and replaced by Penny who is sweet and caring.”
Katie reminds us of a one-dimension character, like Samantha James (Anna Farris) in Just Friends, or Brandi (also, Anna Farris) in Observe and Report. Penny can be mean, but her mocking traits often come from anger, not from self-loathing.
It’s not fair to say Amanda Walsh isn’t a good actress, but she wasn’t right for this role. In many ways, this is the reason why networks film a pilot.
The Pilot Is Meant To Be Improved Upon
Pilots can often make things complicated for television shows. As a writer, they’re generally more difficult to write. Not only do you need to conduct a solid story, but you have to introduce every potentially vital character in a 22-page script. Then, things change and characters develop.
On Fox’s New Girl, for example, Damon Wayans Jr. was originally cast as the fourth roommate. In 2011, Wayans found himself on two pilots (New Girl / Happy Endings), but he either picked the wrong horse in the race or got caught up in a contract and had to leave Fox for ABC.
This led to creator Elizabeth Meriwether picking up Lamorne Morris (Winston) as the fourth roommate. Meanwhile, Happy Endings was canceled during Season 3, while New Girl is still on the air (Wayan’s character “Coach” occasionally comes back to visit on New Girl, so it wasn’t a complete re-write like with Katie and Penny).
Even after Penny landed on the improved pilot, there are still a few glitches from the early season. The most notable, perhaps, is that Sheldon Cooper also appears to be attracted to their new, “hot neighbor,” Penny.
On IMDB, the unaired pilot has a 6.9 rating, while the aired pilot has an 8.4 rating.
Can you picture The Big Bang Theory working without Penny?