July 19, 2019

Hit Sitcom Goes Out With a ‘Big Bang’

Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch, Simon Helberg of "The Big Bang Theory." Photo by Warner Bros.

After 12 seasons, 279 episodes, 10 Emmy awards and countless cartons of takeout Chinese food, “The Big Bang Theory” is coming to an end. The beloved show about misfit geniuses and the women who married them is TV’s No. 1 comedy and the longest-running multi-camera comedy in television history. 

Reflecting its influence on both science and pop culture, there’s a “Big Bang Theory” scholarship endowment at UCLA, a bee species, jellyfish species, a monkey at the Columbus Zoo named in the show’s honor and the cast’s handprints are immortalized outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

On April 30, the series taped its last episode, which will air on CBS in an hourlong finale on May 16. Later that night, a special retrospective titled “Unraveling the Mystery: A Big Bang Farewell” will share clips, reminiscences and memorable moments from the series.

Why quit while it’s still very much a success? 

“This feels like a wonderful way to take a bow and get out before they start throwing fruit,” creator Chuck Lorre joked in February at the official dedication of Warner Bros.’ soundstage 25 as “The Big Bang Theory” stage. But the truth is that Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon Cooper, didn’t want to do another season. 

The cast and creators have been planning for the end for the past few months, but that didn’t make saying goodbye any easier. “Most of us on the show have managed to compartmentalize so we can work,” Lorre said in February. “It’s going to be difficult. But I just love that people have made the show part of their lives. It’s a pretty rewarding thing when somebody tells me that their family watches the show and has watched it for years. It makes it worthwhile.”

“This feels like a wonderful way to take a bow and get out before they start throwing fruit.” — Chuck Lorre

Asked why he thinks “Big Bang” has been successful, Lorre made comparisons to other classic sitcoms including “Roseanne,” “Seinfeld” and “Cheers.” “The thing all these shows have in common is an underlying theme of family and affection,” Lorre said. “Whether it’s biological or friendships, there’s a strong bond between the characters.” 

He added, “Even on ‘Seinfeld’ where the characters were abrasive, they ate together, went on adventures together, got in trouble together. I always wanted to sit at the bar in ‘Cheers’ with Cliff and Norm. On [‘Big Bang’] you want to be at the comic book store. Even if it’s not a real family, it approximates one.”

Lorre has kept that winning formula in mind in creating such hits as “Two and a Half Men,” “Mike & Molly,” “Dharma & Greg,” and “Cybill.” Even with “Big Bang” ending, he currently has three other shows on the air to keep him busy: “Young Sheldon” and “Mom” on CBS and “The Kominsky Method” on Netflix, all of which have been renewed for next season. 

The Journal also caught up with several Jewish members of the cast. Melissa
Rauch, who plays Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz, didn’t know she’d be a cast member when she auditioned, the day after visiting the unemployment office. “When I came in it was as a guest star. I thought I was just going to be here for a week,” she said. “The writers added my character so organically, little by little. I was a fan of the show so I would have been really annoyed if they forced me in and ruined the show that I loved. I never would have thought I’d be here in the
final season.”

Mayim Bialik, who plays biologist Amy Farrah Fowler, also began her “TBBT” journey as a guest star in the third season. “We saw where we’d fallen short and added a female scientist,” Lorre said, and made her a regular the following season. Amy, the perfect foil for the idiosyncratic and often impossible Sheldon, married him in the Season 11 finale. “This is where we show up every day, this is our family,” Bialik said. “We’re going to miss each other.”

Kevin Sussman, initially a guest star as comic book store owner Stuart Bloom, was made a recurring cast member halfway through the run. The role wasn’t a stretch, because he used to work in a comic book store. “I’ve never had to think, ‘How would someone do this?’ My greatest joy is when the director asks me, ‘What would you be doing over here?’ Or ‘What would you do with these?’ It’s my moment to man-splain. That’s been nice.”

Nevertheless, Sussman would like to do something different for his next role, “whatever is furthest from this,” he said. “I always like to do the opposite of what I’ve been doing.” With writing partner John Ross Bowe (Barry Kripke), he has written and sold TV screenplays, “none that have made it to air. But I’ll continue doing that and auditioning. I’ve got to thread that needle and hope people will accept me as I inch my way into doing something else.”

Bialik has a few irons in the fire. “I’ve got a lot of things that I’m in the process of working on,” she said. “I wrote a screenplay that I’m hoping to direct in the fall. I want to act but not in that. Nothing else I can talk about now.” She was also looking forward to spending more time at home. “My boys are 10 and 13 and they need more mom time,” she said.

Rauch has an upcoming movie comedy called “Ode to Joy,” about a man (Martin Freeman) who passes out when he experiences joy. “I play a very boring girl he dates because she doesn’t excite him in any way,” she said. 

Asked if they planned to take home any souvenirs from the soundstage, Rauch wanted Bernadette’s owl salt-and-pepper shakers and Sussman had his eye on the pinball machine. “I lost my yoga mat and I saw one on the set,” Bialik said. “I’ll probably snag that.”  

“The Big Bang Theory” finale airs at 8 p.m. May 16 on CBS.