In terms of live viewership, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory is the most-watched show on all of television, with a weekly audience still hovering around 13 million viewers (!) even after more than a decade on the air. Thanks to its popularity, the main cast earns somewhere in the vicinity of $1 million per episode. Love it or hate it, the sitcom’s endurance is one of the more impressive small-screen feats we’ve seen, especially in today’s age of fractured viewing. But on Thursday night, the long-running sitcom aired its final episode, with The Big Bang Theory calling it a day after 12 seasons and 279 episodes.
Why would the series wrap up when it still gets all those eyeballs? Why would anyone turn down a $20 million paycheck? It seems star Jim Parsons, who plays main character Sheldon Cooper, was behind the decision not to return after this season. Now we know why.
“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 told The Hollywood Reporter. “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.'”
Thursday night’s finale scored 18 million live viewers, the show’s best total since 2015, per Deadline.
Though The Big Bang Theory is ending, Parsons will still have a place in the show’s universe with his voice-over role in its popular prequel spinoff, Young Sheldon. If CBS knows anything, it’s how to franchise a popular concept.
“There was no factor; there was no situation that I was like, ‘Well, I’ve had enough of that,'” said Parsons. “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.”
He 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.”
In any case, 12 seasons is a helluva run. Goodbye, Sheldon Cooper.