CBS’ long-running comedy juggernaut The Big Bang Theory has come a long way since its premiere in 2007 when it was presented as a half-hour look at four super-nerds and their struggles with social lives, women, and a particularly fetching lady next door named Penny. With the show now in Season 9, even the nerdiest of the nerds had to have matured somewhat. Instrumental in the maturing of Raj Koothrappali has been girlfriend Emily Sweeney, who first appeared in Season 7. Fans of Raj and his romance with Emily have reason to celebrate: actress Laura Spencer has been promoted to series regular.

Spencer has been promoted as a fractional series regular, specifically, according to TVLine. It may or may not mean she shows up in every episode as Emily, but the update does mean that her availability will be guaranteed for the show.

Emily Sweeney first appeared in Season 7 as a taker on Raj’s dating site. She’s a dermatologist with a quirky sense of humor that definitely slants toward the macabre, notable for being Raj’s longest-running girlfriend throughout the series.

Any girlfriend of Raj Koothrappali is notable even in Season 9. Despite his job as an astrophysicist, a hefty chunk of Raj-centric plots throughout the first six seasons revolved around his selective mutism that rendered poor Raj unable to speak to women outside of his family. He did discover a few ways to counteract the effects of his mutism, but both had negative effects on his personality that were admittedly funny enough in small doses. Actor Kunal Nayyar has perfected the art of playing a drunk in Raj’s first remedy for his inability to talk to women, and a memorable stint with experimental anti-anxiety drugs is always worth a rewatch. Starting in Season 7, however, the mutism was no longer in play.

Of course, it was only fair that Raj start to become more competent – and reliably continent – around women considering the states of his nerdy best friends’ love lives. Leonard had been on and off with Penny for much of the series, Howard was the first of the four to marry, culminating his relationship with Bernadette, and even Sheldon managed a long-term relationship (although now on hiatus) with Amy Farrah Fowler.

The other three love interests have certainly managed to gain prominence as characters and have expanded pretty far outside of their romantic boxes. The ladies in the love lives of the men are more than just their roles as girlfriends or wives. With Laura Spencer being promoted to fractional series regular, it looks like Emily Sweeney may have the chance to develop more as a character as well as perhaps get more serious in her relationship with Raj in the rest of Season 9 of The Big Bang Theory.

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