Life After the ‘Big Bang Theory': How CBS is preparing for the end of its long-running sitcom

If you ask CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl, he’ll tell you how he really feels about the upcoming end of “The Big Bang Theory,” which will wrap its 12-season run in May.

“I can’t pretend I’m happy it’s going away,” Kahl told TheWrap. “I don’t know how many other comedies have had such an amazing and consistent run.”

When the series ends, it will finish as the longest-running multi-camera series in television history, with a total of 279 episodes, though Kahl had initially hoped it would go even longer. Last summer, he sounded optimistic that the show would return for a 13th season, but instead now has to figure out how to replace “Big Bang Theory’s” massive shoes. But Kahl believes they already have a ready-made replacement already in their own “Big Bang” universe in “Young Sheldon.”

The spinoff, which follows a younger version of Jim Parson’s Sheldon Cooper growing up in Texas, averaged north of 16 million viewers during its debut season, and was handed a two-season renewal last month, a vote of confidence that the series can become the new anchor for CBS’ comedy lineup. Kahl said no decision has been made just yet on whether “Young Sheldon” will inherit the “Big Bang” timeslot leading off Thursdays, but he’s bullish that it can be the same launchpad to lead into new series that “Big Bang” was for so many years.

“We’re fortunate to have another show lined up, a young show lined up and teed up to maybe take its spot. We hope its ‘Sheldon,’ but it’s not necessarily a given to go in that timeslot,” Kahl said, who predicted it will be the top-rated sitcom next season. “It’s good to have that and knowing you can use that to kind of build off of and still have some pockets of strength in comedy.”

But replacing “Big Bang” will still be a Herculean task, as few series have mattered more to CBS.

It’s been among the top 3 most-watched series on TV for the last seven years, earning 10 Emmy wins including four consecutive Best Actor in a Comedy wins for star Jim Parsons. “The Big Bang Theory” has also been a financial boon for CBS and studio Warner Bros., amassing anywhere between $125 million and $150 million in advertising revenue and more than $1 billion in syndication for studio Warner Bros. TV, according to the Los Angeles Times. (Reps for Warner Bros. and CBS declined to comment on those figures.)

“I don’t think the show has gotten anywhere near the credit it deserves for how good it is,” Kahl said.

During a set visit in February attended by TheWrap, the importance of the show was fully on display.

There was Warner Bros. TV group president Peter Roth walking around the show’s sound stage – Stage 25 – at Warner Bros.’ Burbank studio. Roth was giving giant bear hugs to cast members including Kunal Nayyar (Rajesh Koothrappali), Johnny Galecki (Leonard Hofstadter), as well as series co-creator Chuck Lorre, as each walked by him.

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LOS ANGELES - APRIL 19: 'The Line Substitution Solution' -- Pictured: Trevor (Blake Anderson), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar). Sheldon hires Stuart to spend the day with Amy when he'd rather go to a movie screening. Also, Leonard's mother, Beverly (Christine Baranski), comes to town and Penny struggles to make a connection with her, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, May 5 (8:00-8:31, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Michael Yarish/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 19: 'The Line Substitution Solution' -- Pictured: Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Stuart (Kevin Sussman) and Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg). Sheldon hires Stuart to spend the day with Amy when he'd rather go to a movie screening. Also, Leonard's mother, Beverly (Christine Baranski), comes to town and Penny struggles to make a connection with her, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, May 5 (8:00-8:31, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Michael Yarish/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 19: 'The Line Substitution Solution' -- Pictured: Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) and Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki). Sheldon hires Stuart to spend the day with Amy when he'd rather go to a movie screening. Also, Leonard's mother, Beverly (Christine Baranski), comes to town and Penny struggles to make a connection with her, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, May 5 (8:00-8:31, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Michael Yarish/CBS via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 16: (L-R) Moderator Alie Ward, executive producers Chuck Lorre, Steven Molaro, Bill Prady, actors Mayim Bialik, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar attend The Paley Center For Media's 33rd Annual PALEYFEST Los Angeles ÃThe Big Bang Theory' at Dolby Theatre on March 16, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 09: (L-R) Actors Jim Parsons, Melissa Rauch, Kunal Nayyar, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Mayim Bialik and Johnny Galecki perform onstage during the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images)
MUST SEE TV: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE TO JAMES BURROWS -- Pictured: (l-r) Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 2: 'The Positive Negative Reaction' -- Bernadette is concerned when Wolowitz freaks out over her pregnancy announcement, and Wolowitz is convinced he must make more money to provide for the baby, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, Feb. 18 (8:00-8:31 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 19: 'The Valentino Submergence' -- Sheldon and Amy host a live Valentine's Day episode of Fun with Flags, Leonard and Penny grapple with getting older, Howard and Bernadette find a surprise in their hot tub and Raj is torn between Emily and the cute girl he met at the Comic Bookstore, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, Feb. 11 (8:00-8:31 PM, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Jim Parsons and Kunal Nayyar (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: 'The Celebration Experimentation' -- After more than nine years together, the gang finally celebrates Sheldon's birthday, surprising him with a special guest, on the 200th episode of THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, Feb. 25 (8:00-8:31 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Jim Parsons, Kunal Nayyar, Sara Gilbert, Kevin Sussman, Adam West, Simon Helberg, Melissa Rauch, John Ross Bowie, Wil Wheaton, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 2: 'The Positive Negative Reaction' -- Bernadette is concerned when Wolowitz freaks out over her pregnancy announcement, and Wolowitz is convinced he must make more money to provide for the baby, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, Feb. 18 (8:00-8:31 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 30: 'The Pulled Groin Extrapolation' -- Sheldon and Penny wonder how they'll get along when Leonard goes to a wedding as Amy's date. Meanwhile, Howard (Simon Helberg, left) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch, right) spend the weekend with Mrs. Wolowitz, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, Sept. 29 (8:00-8:31 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 23: 'The Workplace Proximity' -- Howard (Simon Helberg, left) finds himself sleeping on Raj'™s couch after a fight with Bernadette, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, Oct. 17 (8:00 -“ 8:31 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Also pictured: Johnny Galecki (right) (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 15: 'The Gorilla Dissolution' -- Howard (Simon Helberg, left) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch, right) struggle to care for Mrs. Wolowitz, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Thursday, May 8 (8:00-8:31 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Kaley Cuoco is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on September 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Kaley Cuoco is seen in Los Angeles on September 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Kaley Cuoco is seen in Los Angeles on September 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 25: Actress Kaley Cuoco (R) and husband Ryan Sweeting (L) attend HBO's 2014 Emmy after party at The Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Rihanna, Steve Martin and Jim Parsons are all guests on 'Good Morning America,' 3/13/15, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 25: Actress Kaley Cuoco arrives to the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/Getty Images)
BURBANK - JULY 23: Gallery Promo Coverage of CBS' THE BIG BANG THEORY, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 18: Actress Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting arrives at The PEOPLE Magazine Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 18, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - MAY 18: CBS announces their new fall schedule. (Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images) *** CBS presented its 2016-17 prime time schedule today (May 18) at Carnegie Hall, where many of the Networks new and returning series stars were in attendance. Pictured L-R: Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik, Simon Helberg, Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, and Johnny Galecki from THE BIG BANG THEORY *** Melissa Rauch;Mayim Bialik;Simon Helberg;Kaley Cuoco;Jim Parsons;Johnny Galecki
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 9: 'The Hook-Up Reverberation' -- Raj's honesty about his past comes back to haunt him after his girlfriend, Emily, is cold to Penny. Also, the guys consider becoming part-owners in Stuart's comic book store, on THE BIG BANG THEORY, Monday, Oct. 6 (8:00-8:31, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Laura Spencer, Simon Helberg, Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)
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The cast and crew were getting ready to do the run-through for the episode titled, “The Conference Valuation,” which airs this Thursday. This was the first time they would go through the script on the set. The crew of roughly 50-60 people followed the cast around from scene to scene, huddling around as a stand-in for the studio audience, to help the actors know when to pause for laughs.

After the run-through, the cast and grew gathered so Roth could officially re-name the Stage 25 as “The Big Bang Theory Stage,” only the fifth time Warner Bros. has dedicated a specific studio (and the second time for Lorre, who experienced the same thing with “Two and a Half Men”). The room was filled with tears, hugs and everything else you could imagine from a group that’s spent the last 12 years together, which is a lifetime in the entertainment business.

There was a time when the series wasn’t sure it would make it past Season 1, but it can thank the Writers Guild of America Strike in 2007 to 2008 for inadvertently giving it a second chance. “We didn’t know if we would get a second season,” Chuck Lorre, who co-created “The Big Bang Theory” with Bill Prady, told reporters during the set visit. “We shot eight shows before the strike and they ran those shows over and over and over again, and it built a following.”

In between the show’s first and second seasons, Lorre said he noticed the show was building a following. He recalled when the cast went to their first Comic-Con that summer in 2008, and saw that “thousands” of people were waiting to get into the show’s panel: “That was the first indication that something was happening that we had never anticipated.”

“We were very much on the bubble,” Galecki remembered about that strike-shortened first season. “When something is taken away from you like that, like they say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. We returned [after the strike] with a renewed pride and appreciation for being here.”

After drawing 8.3 million viewers for its first season — ranking No. 68 on TV — “The Big Bang Theory” added nearly 2 million viewers in season 2, moving up to No. 44. It would eventually average more than 20 million viewers by season 7, and was the most-viewed entertainment series during the 2017-2018 season with 18.9 million. Its final season currently is averaging 17.5 million viewers to maintain the top scripted spot on TV, according to the most recent numbers from Nielsen.

Once considered a relic from an older TV era that was chock-full of multi-cam sitcoms like “Seinfeld,” “Frasier” and “Friends,” the multi-camera format is now experiencing a renaissance that “The Big Bang Theory’s” longevity is now tied into. Currently, there are 11 multi-camera comedy pilots (with a few more hybrid splits of single/multi-cam) in contention for next season.

Lorre argues there’s still a lot of life left in the format, even though he himself has a single-camera comedy, “The Kominsky Method,” at Netflix. “There’s a different energy when you’re performing in front of an audience,” he said. “When it works it’s fantastic. And it’s worked, over and over again.”

Read original story Life After the ‘Big Bang Theory': How CBS Is Preparing for the End of Its Long-Running Sitcom At TheWrap

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Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik, Simon Helberg, Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, and Johnny Galecki. 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
Jim Parsons, Melissa Rauch, Kunal Nayyar, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Mayim Bialik and Johnny Galecki. 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons.
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
A scene from "The Big Bang Theory." 
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