The Big Bang Theory finale: After 12 years, geekdom bids farewell as Sheldon and Amy take home the Nobel
Through its run, The Big Bang Theory did not turn out to be a weekly mockery of scientists. Rather, it showed that in their own way, these guys were pretty cool.
The Big Bang Theory made nerds look good. It paid homage to all things nerd — Star Wars, Star Trek, superheroes and Comic Con. Over its 279 episode-long run, the CBS sitcom established that above-average intelligence was cool and smartness does not have to be boring.
More than a decade ago, two socially awkward physicists from Pasadena, California, Dr Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Dr Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) ran into free-spirited Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a struggling actress who was moving into the flat across the hall from their apartment. Fumbling and mumbling, they attempted to make small talk with this ditsy girl. Later, Dr Hofstadter muttered, "Our children will be smart and beautiful."
That is where this story began.
Now, 12 seasons later, creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady rounded off the stories of these quirky friends. On 16 May, fans across the world (some 18 million of them) tuned in to catch for one last time all that had ‘started with the Big Bang.’
The utterly moving acceptance speeches by Sheldon and Amy on receiving the Nobel Prize in the series finale had even the not-so-regular followers of the show in tears. The win came for their paper on ‘super asymmetry,’ and in her speech, Amy gave a shout-out to ‘all the young girls out there who dream about science as a profession,’ to go for it and not let anyone dissuade them, because it was "the best job in the world".
Sheldon was far from his usual self-centered and clueless-to-social-cues-self to a man who declared that this achievement was not his alone, but belonged also to his friends who had tolerated him all these years. “I apologise if I haven’t been the friend that you deserve. But I want you to know, in my way, I love you all,” he said, and the inevitable waterworks followed.
But more importantly, they finally fixed the elevator.
These surprises are reaching another level. Literally! pic.twitter.com/q6YOPNFNXl
— The Big Bang Theory (@bigbangtheory) May 17, 2019
With each passing season, evolving storylines were written for every character and the show, which had kicked off as your run-of-the-mill three camera set-up, live-audience series, became the longest running sitcom in the history of American television. So much so that Stage 25 in the Warner Bros studios in Los Angeles is now officially known as The Big Bang Theory Stage.
Through seasons one and two, The Big Bang Theory induced great laughs with material that depicted the shenanigans of the four scientists – Sheldon, the know-it-all theoretical physicist, Leonard, the lovestruck experimental physicist, Rajesh (Raj) Koothrapalli (Kunal Nayyar), the astrophysicist unlucky in love, Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), the overtly sexual MIT engineer and astronaut (not a PhD), and freeloader Penny.
Towards the fourth and fifth seasons, new regulars, in the form of microbiologist Dr Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch) and neurobiologist Dr Amy Farah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), balanced the numbers in the gang. And through the years, the characters experienced some amazing things. Howard went to space, gave up trying to score with every girl, settled down, and fathered two children. After years of persuasion, Leonard finally made Penny fall in love with him and married her. She gave up acting, became a successful pharmaceutical sales rep, Amy’s best friend, and the proud owner of a painting (which became a long-standing joke in the show) that captured their friendship.
Sheldon’s character arc was notably the sharpest, from giving up his pursuit of string theory and moving on to dark matter and then returning to string theory, from his aversion to any form of physical contact to falling in love and marrying Amy in a ceremony officiated by Luke Skywalker/Mark Hamill.
In the seasons before Bialik and Rauch came on as regulars, the savvy, street-smart Penny was the only girl stuck with this group of awkward, nerdy boy. She dealt deftly with each one of them. Some of the choicest moments were undoubtedly the ‘Shenny’ sequences: Sheldon changing the internet password to ‘Penny get your own WiFi,’ or driving her to the hospital when she breaks her arm and their stunning battle of wits which forces Leonard to give Penny Sheldon’s Kryptonite (his mother’s phone number) and shorten their war by many, many years. As well, Sheldon’s childlike generosity when Penny needs money and her ‘oh sweetie!’ lamentations made for an unlikely friendship between two opposite forces.
In an excellent article by Noel Murray on The Verge, the writer noted that the show jumped up a few ratings when more girls were added to the mix, but also garnered general criticism over not being as funny anymore, and many viewers were happy-sad when the makers announced that the end was neigh.
In the final episode, per usual, everyone got into a row with Sheldon. He dismissed Penny’s pregnancy on the basis that she did not want it to begin with, and argued with Howard and Bernie when they were worried sick about leaving their children alone for the first time. Yet they all stuck around somehow and were joined by Sarah Michelle Geller (guest-starring), whom Raj met on the flight to Sweden. Buffy the Vampire Slayer also found a mention in Sheldon’s speech.
Over the years, The Big Bang Theory has, in fact, had some stellar cameos. Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Bob Newhart, William Shatner and Mark Hamill were some of the exceptional people to have been on the show. In an open letter on Instagram, Wil Wheaton, who played himself, wrote, “I think it’s fair to say that if I built a tripod out of my career, the main legs would be Stand By Me, Star Trek, and The Big Bang Theory.”
He made his last appearance on the show in The D&D Vortex, along with a host of other stars. “It is remarkable to me that I have gotten to have all of these things in my life, when honestly just ONE of them would be more than anyone could hope for on his or her resume,” he added.
The characters’ weekly visits to the comic book store also led to Stuart Bloom (Mark Sussman), the owner of the joint, becoming a recurring character with his own story.
Bathroom schedules, the infamous Roommate Agreement, soft kitty, and lots of takeout complete with a set of Sheldon’s instructions are some of the regular quips on The Big Bang Theory. Each episode stands alone, and one who does not follow this hangout sitcom, could randomly watch any episode and still enjoy what it is all about.
Through its run, contrary to the so-called nerds’ opinions, the show did not turn out to be a weekly mockery of scientists and all things nerdy. Rather, it showed that in their own way, these guys are pretty cool.
And as the camera moved away in the closing shot of the finale, a slower rendition of the Big Bang Theory theme played in the background and the curtain drew at last on the gang: Sheldon in his spot on the sofa, and all of them sitting together eating takeout like every other night.
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