Keeping a sitcom running for 12 seasons requires more than just a cast of popular main characters. It also needs great secondary and recurring characters to help fill the stories out. That was certainly the case with Stuart on The Big Bang Theory, who graduated from recurring to main over the years, but that’s not the only way he changed as the version of Stuart fans got in his debut was a far cry from who he became.
At the core of The Big Bang Theory were the nerdish leanings of Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard. While they were all successful scientists and engineers, their real passions were science-fiction, comic books and gaming, so they needed a spot to explore all of that for a majority of the year, and that place was the Comic Center in Pasadena, California.
Making its debut in Season 2, Episode 20, the Comic Center was owned and operated by Stuart Bloom. A friend of the guys, Stuart was an aspiring comic book artist who made a day-to-day living running his store. In many ways, Leonard and company were quite envious of him, as Stuart was deeply connected to so much of the entertainment that they were so passionate about.
Over the seasons, Stuart’s life was revealed to be much different than what the guys thought it was. Running the comic shop and being an artist put him in touch with interesting people like Wil Wheaton, James Earl Jones,and Stan Lee, but the shop was perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy ,and his personal life was lonely. He hit a new low when the Comic Center burned down in Season 7, Episode 24, an act many people assumed Stuart did intentionally.
The down on his luck and awkward Stuart was vastly different from the version of him fans initially met in Season 2, Episode 20. That version of Stuart successfully managed to pick up Penny and take her out on a date. Sheldon may have unintentionally ruined the date, but Stuart still managed to get a second chance with her in Season 2, Episode 22. He was far more successful than Leonard had been with her up to that point.
However, things changed for Stuart rather quickly. His descent into poverty and sadness happened in the background of the series, becoming somewhat of a running gag on the show. The last couple of seasons actually gave him a bit of a redemption arc, though. Season 11, Episode 21 saw the Comic Center become a success thanks to a tweet from Neil Gaiman, and Stuart finally found a healthy relationship with Denise in Season 12.
For any long-time fans who met Stuart in his Season 2 debut, seeing who the character became must have been a bit of a shock. He was much more confident at first, enough so that he was able to woo Penny. Watching him fall apart over the years was an odd direction to take with the character, one that no one saw coming. While it worked on some levels, Stuart deserved some better luck much sooner in the series.