‘Young Sheldon’ Is One of TV’s Most Popular Shows. So Why Did It Just End?

This article includes spoilers for the “Young Sheldon” series finale.

In last week’s episode of the CBS sitcom “Young Sheldon,” a laid-back, beer-drinking Texas high school football coach named George Cooper (Lance Barber) says goodbye to his family and goes to work. He never comes home: George dies of a heart attack later that day. The tragedy sets up the series’ last two episodes, which premiered Thursday night on CBS: They are about what happens when someone so steady, so reliable and so unassuming is just … gone.

A spinoff of “The Big Bang Theory,” the long-running CBS hit, “Young Sheldon” has been steady, reliable and unassuming over its seven seasons. This warm family sitcom, which fills in the back story of the “Big Bang Theory” breakout character Sheldon Cooper — played by Jim Parsons in the original and Iain Armitage in the prequel — has quietly been one of TV’s most-watched shows since it debuted in 2017.

And now it, too, is gone. The series finale takes Sheldon from the small town of Medford, Texas, where he attended high school at 9 and college at 11 as his family tried to understand and accommodate his genius, to the California Institute of Technology, where “The Big Bang Theory” is set. The episode included appearances by Parsons and Mayim Bialik, whose character, Amy, marries Sheldon in the original show.

The franchise will continue this fall with another spinoff: “Georgie & Mandy’s First Marriage.” It will follow Sheldon’s good ol’ boy older brother George Jr. (Montana Jordan) and his wife, Mandy (Emily Osment), as they raise their baby daughter.

“Young Sheldon” was a smash from the start, and while its network TV audience has shrunk (just like most every other show’s), its episodes elsewhere have drawn newer, younger viewers. Reruns air on the cable network TBS almost daily. Netflix licensed the show late last year, and it has since appeared regularly on that service’s self-reported Top 10 most-streamed TV series.

Yet despite its pervasiveness in TikTok memes, “Young Sheldon” has never been much of a cultural phenomenon. Television critics rarely write about it, and the Emmys have ignored it entirely — it has yet to get a single nomination. “The Big Bang Theory,” one of TV’s most-watched shows for much of its 12-season run, which ended in 2019, had a mixed critical reputation. But it did get press coverage, and was a legitimate Emmy contender, earning four nominations for best comedy series and picking up four wins for Parsons.

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