We’re nearing the end of The Big Bang Theory on CBS. The final episode is taping next week and within that, we have to be prepared for an end of an era. Sure, it’s the end of the show’s era in that the story as we know it, but it may also be the end of a genre’s era.
Remember the days of huge, hit sitcoms? You can go all the way back to The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy if you’d like, but you can also leap forward into other generations. Think in terms of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, The Jeffersons, Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, or Two and a Half Men. These were shows that, at one point or another, were generating enormous live audiences and were effectively standbys for viewers week in and week out.
Now, with The Big Bang Theory leaving the air, we could be seeing one of the last TV titans riding off into the sunset. Think about the show’s heyday (around season 5/season 6), when it was pulling in over a 5.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic. What shows are doing that, or anywhere close to that, these days? There’s only one that comes close: Game of Thrones, which is currently averaging a 4.7 rating in its final season. These two shows, collectively, represent the last of a dying brand.
So how were they able to flourish while so others failed to get that same sort of attention? It’s a complicated formula, but there are a few different reasons for it.
A premise that’s easy to understand – With Game of Thrones, all you really had to do was talk about an epic fantasy with fighting, zombie-creatures, and dragons. That was enough to get people on board. With The Big Bang Theory, it was a show about nerds interacting with a woman who typically wouldn’t be seen with them. It’s all fairly simple.
Promotion – Both CBS and HBO did a great job making sure that these two series were constantly showcased well both in terms of television ads and elsewhere. They were also each of a certain quality so that they got nominations from the Emmys, the Golden Globes, and some other shows.
Timing – Back when these two shows first premiered, there was no HBO NOW or CBS All Access. It may have still been the DVR era, but Netflix binge-watching wasn’t as big a deal and the landscape was different. We’re used to watching these shows live, and because that habit was grandfathered in, we don’t do that with other shows anymore.
With The Big Bang Theory in particular, we’re not sure there will ever be another show quite like it, one that manages to deliver laughs on such a scale. This is a show that appealed to nerds, jocks, people of varying political preferences, and also people from different races and parts of the world. It’s a universal hit and in this era of competition, options, and viewing platforms, it’s hard to envision another show managing to capture so much to where there’s an “I gotta watch this NOW” demand. That’s why cherishing every moment of these final episodes is critical; it’s like seeing a part of TV history move towards the finish line.
Are there any other comedies capable of mega-hit status on the air?
The easiest one to look towards is obviously the spin-off Young Sheldon, given that it has performed very well through two seasons. However, it premiered long after The Big Bang Theory hit its ratings peak and it hasn’t come anywhere near those sort of numbers. Modern Family could’ve at one point been close to mega-hit status, but unless you’re counting Emmy wins, it was typically in The Big Bang Theory’s shadow. Last Man Standing on Fox deserves a lot of credit for being that traditional sitcom that has really come out and surprised people with its success this year, but even with its performance, it still isn’t coming close to touching what Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny once had. It was ratings, but it was also consciousness — think t-shirts, internet trivia, words like “bazinga” being a part of pop-culture lexicon, and repeats playing on about a hundred different networks at all times.
If another comedy can hit this level again, it’s currently not on the air. The Big Bang Theory created SUCH a big bang that it will take something revolutionary, creative, and worthy of being watched immediately to actually match it.
In our mind, the only thing that could is something that is shot and aired live. There has to be an added gimmick for viewers to watch things as they happen in 2020, and the right show with the right cast could produce this — at least for a few episodes. Even then, you’d still face questions about sustainability.
Take your bow, Big Bang Theory
You’ve earned it. You’ve ushered in a lot of great entertainment and beyond that, you’ve given us one last reminder of what a mega-sitcom looked like. Once you’re gone, we won’t be forgetting you.
For more news about The Big Bang Theory preparing to tape its series finale, be sure to visit the link here. Also, let us know if you think that there will EVER be a show like this again. (Photo: CBS.)
This article was written by Jessica Carter and you can follow her on Twitter here.