The Big Bang Theory closed out its run as television’s top-rated comedy Thursday with an emotional series finale that saw some big changes for the show’s group of geeky misfits.
The long-running series on CBS concluded with two final episodes, The Change Constant and The Stockholm Syndrome, in an hour-long farewell.
The series exited the TV airwaves with the most episodes for a multi-camera series ever with 279 episodes. It edged past NBC’s Cheers, which aired for 11 seasons and 275 episodes.
Series finale: Sheldon Cooper [Jim Parsons] and Amy Farrah Fowler [Mayim Bialik] waited to learn if they won a Nobel Prize on Thursday’s series finale of The Big Bang Theory on CBS
The Big Bang Theory debuted in 2007 and overcame early doubts to become a cult classic after some questioned the show’s chances of survival.
The show was led by a crew of nerdy starring Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Mayim Bialik, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar and Melissa Rauch.
The final episodes were filled with a few surprises: a pregnancy, cameos and a speech about the importance of friendship in the series’ emotional conclusion.
After an anxious wait, Parson’s character Sheldon and Bialik’s Amy discovered they had indeed won the Noble Prize.
TV couple: Leonard Hofstadter [Johnny Galecki] and Penny [Kaley Cuoco] kept their pregnancy a secret to prevent upstaging Sheldon and Amy
Cuoco and Galecki’s characters Penny and Leonard learned they are having a baby. And in an amusing moment for fans, the final episode also highlighted the fate of the broken elevator, which finally started working again after being out of order for the whole series.
In a moving moment, the finale included a scene in which Bialik, who is a neuroscientist in real life, urges young girls to pursue careers in science.
‘Little girls who dream about science’ should pursue it as a career and ignore naysayers, she said.
Moving moment: The finale featured Amy, played by real neuroscientist Bialik, giving a moving speech that urged young girls to pursue careers in science
The first half-hour episode opened with a brief recap of the past 12 seasons.
Theoretical physicist Sheldon and his neurobiologist wife Amy were then shown at 2:45 am waiting to hear if they won a Nobel Prize for their Super-Asymmetry concept.
They were joined by experimental physicist Leonard and his wife Penny.
The call: Amy fielded a call at the start of the episode from the Nobel committee as Leonard, Sheldon and Penny looked on
Everyone drank coffee to stay awake except for Sheldon who then immediately dozed off.
Sheldon got a prank call from his rival Barry Kripke and a call from mechanical engineer Howard [Simon Helberg] and his microbioloist wife Bernadette [Melissa Rauch] checking to see if they won.
Amy then finally took the call from the Nobel committee.
Still asleep: Amy broke the good news but Sheldon was not sure if he was awake
‘Hello? Yes. This is Doctor Fowler. I see. OK, thank you. We won,’ Amy said in subdued shock after getting the official word.
‘Congratulations!,’ Penny exclaimed.
Sheldon wasn’t sure if he was dreaming and Leonard slapped him in the face to assure he was awake.
‘We won the Nobel Prize!,’ Sheldon declared.
Good times: Sheldon, Amy, Leonard and Penny celebrated after learning about the Nobel Prize win
Winning the Nobel Prize had its downside as Sheldon struggled with all the change, including Amy’s new haircut and makeover that she got at the urging of Raj Koothrappali [Kunal Nayyar].
Sheldon told Amy that he did not like her new look as she modeled for him in the living room.
‘It’s the last straw. I can’t take anymore,’ Sheldon said as he bolted from their apartment.
Penny at that moment surprisingly came out of the elevator that had been broken the entire series.
‘Can you believe it? They finally fixed the elevator,’ Penny said.
New haircut: Amy got a new haircut and clothes after winning the Nobel Prize and Sheldon said he didn’t like her new look
It works: The elevator that has been broken since the series premiered in 2007 was suddenly working
Fixed it: Penny was surprised that the elevator was fixed after being broken during the entire series
She chased after Sheldon and they had drinks together as he admitted the change was overwhelming him.
Penny pointed out how much Sheldon has changed over the years and he acknowledged that ‘inevitability of change might be a universal constant’.
The second episode titled The Stockholm Syndrome picked up two months later and showed the group traveling to Sweden for the Nobel Prize awards ceremony.
Feeling overwhelmed: Sheldon admitted to Penny that he was overwhelmed by all the change in his life, but she reminded him how much he has changed
Leonard and Penny were keeping their pregnancy a secret to avoid stealing the limelight.
Sheldon on the airplane flight wondered if Penny was sick because of her frequent trips to the bathroom.
‘That’s the fourth time she’s been to the bathroom in the last two hours. …She clearly has some sort of stomach distress. If it’s viral, we’re all susceptible. ..What if we infect the King of Sweden? That’s how wars start,’ Sheldon told Amy.
He confronted Leonard with his suspicion that Penny was sick and he was going to catch it.
Pregnancy secret: Leonard and Penny kept their pregnancy a secret
Plane flight: Sheldon got suspicious on the plane when Penny kept going to the bathroom
Candid conversation: He confronted Leonard about Penny being sick and his fear that he would catch it
Penny came back to her seat and allayed Sheldon’s fear by sharing the secret.
‘I’m pregnant, Sheldon,’ she told him.
‘You’re right. I can’t catch that,’ Sheldon said and returned to his seat.
Pregnancy announcement: Penny told Sheldon that she was not sick but was actually pregnant
He told Amy the ‘good news’ that Penny wasn’t sick but ‘just pregnant’.
Leonard chided Sheldon for not congratulating them and told him how they were keeping it a secret so they wouldn’t upstage his Nobel Prize win.
‘Oh, please. You couldn’t upstage us. We won the Nobel Prize. Any idiot can have a baby,’ Sheldon said.
Good news: Sheldon told Penny the good news that Penny wasn’t sick but was ‘just pregnant’
Leonard called him a ‘selfish jerk’ and declared he wasn’t going to the awards ceremony.
‘To hell with you and your Nobel Prize,’ Leonard said.
Howard and Bernadette also said they were leaving to take care of their sick children.
Leonard had a change of heart and Howard’s children were feeling better so they all went to the ceremony.
Sick children: Bernadette and Howard decided to leave Sweden as their children were sick
Sheldon complained that everyone was being selfish and Amy told him that he was the master of the subject.
‘They are abandoning us because you broke their hearts,’ Amy told him.
‘I didn’t mean to,’ Sheldon protested.
Feeling abandoned: Sheldon said his friends were being ‘selfish’ by abandoning them
The expert: Amy told her husband that he was the expert on being selfish
Amy said that was the only reason that people tolerated him, including herself at times.
Hopeless romantic astrophysicist Raj [Kunal Nayyar] met Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar on the flight from LA to Sweden and she accompanied him to the awards ceremony as a plus-one.
Sheldon ditched his ‘somewhat self-centered’ acceptance speech and at first thanked his family and then spoke of his second family of friends.
The winners: Amy and Sheldon accepted their awards and gave emotional speeches
‘Is that Buffy the vampire slayer?,’ he asked as Raj was shown with the actress.
She nodded yes and he gave her a small wave.
‘I have been encouraged, sustained, inspired and tolerated not only by my wife, but by the greatest group of friends that anyone ever had,’ Sheldon said as he continued his speech.
Plus one: Sarah Michelle Gellar made a cameo and was Raj’s plus-one for the awards ceremony
He then asked all of his friends to stand up as he introduced them to the audience, calling Penny and Leonard his ‘two dearest friends in the world’.
He said their baby would be ‘smart and beautiful’ as Leonard predicted when they first met.
‘Thanks, Sheldon, I haven’t told my parents yet,’ Penny said.
Baby on board: Sheldon during his acceptance speech said that Penny and Leonard would have a ‘smart and beautiful’ baby
Sheldon then apologized to his friends if he ever hurt their feelings.
‘I want you to know that in my way I love you all,’ he said.
‘And I love you,’ he said turning to Amy. ‘Thank you.’
The series ended with the group eating together in the apartment living room as Sheldon and Amy wore their Nobel Prize medals and the theme song by the Barenaked Ladies played.
Final scene: The sitcom ended with the friends sitting in the living room eating and laughing together
The finale was followed by a retrospective looking at some of the most memorable moments over the last 12 years.
The Big Bang Theory began in 2007 and went on to win 10 Emmy awards, four of them for Parsons. Five years later, it was the No. 1 comedy on U.S. television with an audience of some 20 million people, and as far afield as Russia and France.
‘We´re a show about ‘the other people.’ And I think everyone has a little bit of ‘not belonging’ in them,’ said Bialik, explaining the show’s popularity.
Over the years, the show’s ‘Bazinga!’ catchphrase, used by Sheldon when playing a prank or telling a joke, entered pop culture and inspired the name of a species of bee found in Brazil and a jellyfish found in Australia.
The series also saw cameos by the likes of British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, Apple Inc co-founder Steve Wozniak, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, ‘Star Trek’ actors William Shatner and George Takei, and Marvel comics legend Stan Lee.
HOW THE BIG BANG THEORY BECAME AN UNLIKELY RATINGS HIT THAT RIVALS GAME OF THRONES
When The Big Bang Theory debuted in 2007 with a cast of mainly socially awkward geeks and jokes centered around physics references, it seemed destined to appeal to a niche audience.
But as the show reaches its conclusion, it has become one of the most-watched series in the world.
The show, which airs on US network CBS, has carved its place at the top of American television, with more than 12 million live viewers for much of the most-recent season (17 million when including delayed watchers) – similar levels to Game of Thrones.
In fact last week The Big Bang Theory beat the HBO juggernaut with 12.6million in live viewers against GoT’s 12.5million according to Nielsen.
It was the second week in a row that the CBS sitcom beat the dramatic series on premium cable.
The Big Bang Theory’s characters have amused fans for 12 seasons. Pictured from left: Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco)
Big Bang was one of the five most popular shows in the world last year, according to research firm Parrot. It was a streak CBS would have been happy to continue – were it not for Sheldon actor Jim Parsons having announced he would leave the show after the 12th season.
For producer and writer Stephen Engel, who worked on it at the beginning of its run, Big Bang owes much of its success to the annoying-but-loveable character.
‘It was a serendipitous blending of a character and an actor that was just magic,’ he told AFP.
Depicting a brilliant scientist who is socially clueless, Sheldon’s portrayal was ‘just a perfect marriage of point of view, jokes, voice and actor that made that character jump off the screen,’ Engel said.
Rise of geek culture
But Sheldon’s charm alone can’t explain how a series that wasn’t critically acclaimed or even breaking into the top 50 most-popular at the end of its first season went on to run longer than American sitcom classics like Friends, The Cosby Show and Seinfeld.
According to conventional wisdom, it was The Big Bang Theory’s depiction of characters like Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj as proud geeks – obsessed with TV series, video games and obscure sub-genre interests – that allowed for its longevity.
Back where it all began: The show debuted in 2007 with a cast of mainly socially awkward geeks and jokes that centered around physics. Couco’s ditzy Penny and Parsons’ brainy Sheldon proved comedy gold
Long associated with niche interests, geek, or nerd, culture has made its way into the mainstream, thanks to sagas like The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Game of Thrones and others, meaning there was a growing audience that could feel an affinity with The Big Bang Theory’s characters.
‘There was a tendency in the wake of Friends to just to put as many good looking people in a room as possible and just hope people would look at them and just want to watch the show. Big Bang Theory just decided because they were nerds, we can get the funniest actors we can find,’ Engel said. ‘They don’t have to be handsome.’
The end of the sitcom?
The Big Bang Theory is officially the longest-running multicamera series. Parsons, Helberg and Cuoco seen here in season one
Though The Big Bang Theory differs from most shows in its popularity and subject matter, the series still relies on a variety of tried-and-true sitcom conventions: the episodes, shot on multiple cameras, are made up of a series of punchlines interspersed by a laugh track, some of it edited in later (the show is filmed in front of a studio audience).
The end of the series, which coincides with the end of ABC’s Modern Family, which will finish with its 11th season next year, marks the end of an era for the genre.
Sitcoms on traditional networks, such as Big Bang spin-off Young Sheldon, and Mom, also the work of Big Bang creator Chuck Lorre, just don’t bring in the same audience numbers.
And Netflix has tried its hand at the format, with Fuller House and One Day at a Time, though neither will be returning after the end of the year. By 2020, the classic sitcom will be absent from nearly every major streaming platform, including Amazon and Hulu.
‘I’ve lived in many periods in this business where people have said: the sitcom is dying,’ said Stan Zimmerman, who worked on Roseanne’ as a producer and writer. ‘And then it somehow comes roaring back.’
Coupled with the decline of the traditional sitcom, the fragmentation of audiences means there is concern that universal series, capable of capturing the attention of large swaths of the public, like The Big Bang Theory or even Game of Thrones was able to do, is gone.
‘I think it’s wonderful that we are being so diverse in the programming and the voices that we are hearing and we just need to have more of that,’ said Zimmerman, who is working on a show called ‘Silver Foxes,’ a comedy centered on aging gay men.
But he says he wouldn’t count out water-cooler series just yet.
‘There’s still room for a big, general-audience show that everybody could sit and watch and laugh and talk about the next day at work,’ he said. ‘There’s room for everything now.’
With reporting by AFP
WHY THE BIG BANG THEORY IS OVER: INSIDE JIM PARSONS’ DECISION TO QUIT EMMY-WINNING SHELDON COOPER ROLE
So long, Sheldon Cooper: Jim Parson, pictured in New York on Thursday, decided last year to quit the role. His decision lead to the show coming to an end
The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons shocked fans – and his co-stars- when he revealed his plans to quit his role as Sheldon Cooper last year.
While the show is an ensemble, Parsons’ character was central to the key story-lines and beloved by fans. His decision ultimately lead to the show coming to an end after 12 season. Series creator Chuck Lorre admitted he considered continuing without Sheldon, but ultimately decided against it.
The Big Bang Theory began in 2007 and went on to win 10 Emmy awards, four of them for Parsons, 46. Five years later, it was the No. 1 comedy on U.S. television with an audience of some 20 million people, and as far afield as Russia and France.
When asked about his decision to quit the show, Parsons told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month: ‘It was the first time in my life of doing this show that it occurred to me that I might want to not do another contract after [Season] 12 was up,’ he explained. ‘I don’t know if it’s because I’m an Aries or just because maybe I’m in touch with myself. Whatever it is, once I had that thought, I was like, ‘Well, that’s your answer.”
‘There was no factor; there was no situation that I was like, ‘Well, I’ve had enough of that.’ No. There was nothing like that. It was just…when you know, you know. And you’re susceptible and thrown around by the whims of your own existence and getting to a certain age and your life changes and suddenly you just think different,’ Parsons continued.
‘It has been fascinating to think about who I was 12 years ago. And sometimes when I have trouble learning a line or saying a line of Sheldon’s right now, it’s hard to know why specifically. But it’s like, you’re not the same person you were. There is a possibility that this actually became more difficult for you in a way. And I don’t know what that means but it’s like you just change.’
Back in August, he wrote an emotional message to fans about the end of the show: ‘It is hard (nearly impossible, actually) to really accept that this is a picture of the first of the final 24 episodes we will shoot for The Big Bang Theory,’ Parsons wrote. ‘I feel very fortunate that we have another 23 episodes to shoot this season because I am hopeful that with each and every one, my level of REALLY accepting this fact will sink in.’
Beloved character: Parsons won four Emmys for his portrayal of Sheldon Cooper. He will continue his voice-over role on the prequel spin-off Young Sheldon, which stars Iain Armitage
‘And while I know that they already know it, it bears repeating again and again: I am so terribly grateful for the cast in this picture and the cast members who aren’t pictured here — whether they were in one scene or many episodes along the way; you are all my playmates that I have fallen in love with and who have become a part of my life on set and off,’ he continued. ‘You are my playmates when we don’t feel like playing but have to because it’s our job to get out there and communicate and pretend we’re these other fictional people and we look into each other’s eyes and say these words and end up creating this weird, other reality that has enriched my life more than I will fully ever understand. I will miss all of you and all of this more than I can say and more than I can know at this time.’
Lorre explained he couldn’t envisage a Big Bang Theory without Sheldon, telling The Hollywood Reporter: ‘I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of going on without the whole ensemble — and the whole ensemble is why we succeeded.
‘In pulling it apart and re-approaching it as a fraction of what it was just never felt right to me. I’ve seen other shows try and fail to take a character out of their realm and carry on. And maybe Frasier is the only thing I could think of off the top of my head where it really did work, thanks to the lightning strike of David Hyde Pierce.’
Parsons, who married his long-time partner Todd Spiewak in 2017, will continue his voice-over role on the prequel spin-off Young Sheldon, which stars Iain Armitage.
Next up, he’ll reprise his Broadway role in the Netflix adaptation of The Boys in the Band.
SO WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE BIG BANG THEORY CAST?
With The Big Bang Theory ending after 12 seasons, viewers can comfort themselves with reruns. The cast has those – and residuals – but not the reassuring workplace rhythm and camaraderie.
During the closing days of taping the hour-long finale Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Mayim Bialik, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar and Melissa Rauch opened up about what they’ll do next…
Jim Parsons: ‘I’m still very focused on continuing to seek out work as an actor almost exclusively. I’m not finding anything like writing or directing or anything else that’s overtly calling me. I’m just trying to keep moving and active as I can so that the right next thing will speak loudly when I see it.’
Kaley Cuoco: ‘For me, producing. I’d love to continue to work as an actor but I love the development process, and I just started dipping my toe into it a year ago. I enjoy putting pieces together.’
Simon Helberg: ‘I picture myself growing a beard, and waking up at noon and sitting at the piano playing music, or trying to get into photography. Sounds kind of romantic. My favorite thing to do is act, so I’m going to do a play in the fall.’
Coming to terms with life after the Big Bang: Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch pictured at Handprint Ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre last week
Kunal Nayyar: ‘When we started “Big Bang,” there weren’t a lot of opportunities for South Asian actors. And now what’s happening you’re getting the best of both worlds (here) and in India. We make 900 movies a year in Bollywood. Now you have Netflix India, you have Amazon India. There are many beautiful, big novels that are being made for this cross-cultural platform, and they’re looking for talent and I hope I can help fill some of those roles.’
Mayim Bialik: ‘I have a couple of projects that I’m looking to produce for other women, and obviously the science space is somewhere that I live in always. But I think I’ve never been at a place in my career where I could have more of a voice.’
Johnny Galecki: ‘I really enjoy being more a part of the storytelling. I made the same mistake a lot of actors do, assuming that the process starts with your first day on set and ends with the wrap party. To be in the room when the seminal idea is hatched and nurtured through to the end is really exciting for me.’
Melissa Rauch: ‘My husband and I write together, and we have our production company here at Warner Bros. And also just spending time with my kiddo is a good thing to do.’
With reporting by AP
‘The last supper with my TV family’: Kaley Cuoco shared this picture with her fans on Wednesday ahead of the finale