“The Big Bang Theory” was an enormous hit during its twelve-season run on CBS. Over the years, fans watched Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), and Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) transform from dateless dorks to nerdy, distinguished men in serious relationships. Well, everyone except Raj, who ended the series single. In part, they accomplished this by making friends with wannabe actress Penny (Kaley Cuoco), who served as a waitress. She wound up on Leonard’s arm, pregnant with his child, and working as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Howard’s wife, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch).
However, very few viewers of the show were privy to a dark scandal lurking just beneath the surface. It lingered in the American court system for many years while the show was still airing. This “Big Bang Theory” secret scandal is one for the books and started with a Season 1 episode.
Soft Kitty caused serious problems for Warner Bros.
In the Season 1 episode “The Pancake Anomaly,” Penny sings a song called “Soft Kitty” to Sheldon in an attempt to soothe him while he’s sick. The song became a staple on the show and was sung several times throughout its run. However, it was “Soft Kitty” that caused some sticky legal problems for the series.
According to The New York Times, in 2015, Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry sued CBS and its parent company Warner Brothers. The sisters accused “The Big Bang Theory” of lifting the words and music for “Soft Kitty” from their mother, Edith Newlin. They said the elementary school teacher had a poem published called “Warm Kitty” in a 1937 book titled “Songs for the Nursery School” with remarkably similar phrasing and claimed the show’s producers had engaged in copyright infringement.
In an interesting twist, Willis Music —which owns the copyright for “Songs for the Nursery School” — claimed at the time that it had hammered out an agreement to use the poem with the media giant before “The Pancake Anomaly” aired. “The writers wanted the song because one of them remembered it as a child. They also wanted to slightly change the words and I’m really not sure of the reason for that change,” read a statement on the company’s website.
According to Reuters, the lawsuit made its way through the legal system for two more years before being dismissed in 2017. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald determined that Chase and Perry had failed to prove they owned their mother’s copyright on “Warm Kitty.”
Though the issue has long settled, it’s definitely “The Big Bang Theory’s” most interesting and largely unheard of scandal.