‘The Big Bang Theory’ is ending after it’s 12th season, which premieres September 24.
We’re all going to miss the antics of Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Howard, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette. They were an important part of making the geek community more visible and less looked down upon as the last refuge of losers. They made us laugh, and sometimes they even made us cry. All in all, it’s been a good journey, one even casual fans can say they enjoyed taking with the characters. But now it’s time to say goodbye, and that might not be as sad of a thing as it seems.
No TV series can last forever, and in a world where ‘The Simpsons’ seems to be trying to prove that statement false on a weekly basis, it’s important writers and producers realize when it’s time to turn off the lights. There are few die-hard fans out there that actively want to see the show they love come to an end, but it’s better to end gracefully than by jumping the shark, a theme with many popular shows since ‘Happy Days’ literally did just that so many years ago.
One of the examples I’ve used several times today in discussing the end of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ has been the medical drama ‘ER.’ Do you remember when we used to eagerly await Thursday night’s Must-See TV to find out what would happen next to the doctors and nurses at County General? I do. Because of one episode, I still can’t hear the calypso version of “Somewhere Under The Rainbow” without getting teary-eyed.
During the first eight seasons, ‘ER’ was visceral, entertaining, suspenseful and beautiful. Then, shortly after the departure of Anthony Edwards, things started going downhill. Unfortunately, the producers and NBC seemed to be the only ones who didn’t notice the show’s declining quality, ultimately keeping it on the air for 15 seasons. It may still be celebrated as one of the best medical dramas of all time, but one gets the sense that pulling the plug earlier might have helped the show’s legacy.
It’s almost too easy to point at ‘The Simpsons’ as another example of hanging on too long, but it has to be said. I was 7-years-old when the show debuted, so I had a front-row seat to the making of the cartoon phenomena. It seemed to cause controversy with every episode the first few seasons, and a lot of the conversations that resulted were surprisingly intelligent for a cartoon. But then, it just kept going. And going. And going. And it’s still on TV, but I’m honestly curious who is still watching. No one I know has seen it in at least five years.
‘The Simpsons’ been stretched out so far that it’s just a punchline now. Is that really a fitting ending for a show that changed our expectations for cartoons and inspired an entire genre of adult-aimed animation?
Thankfully, there are shows that get it right. ‘The Golden Girls’ is showing a resurgence in popularity, with collectibles from Funko and Neca being released and a lot of online chatter from fans of all ages. Besides being a smart, savvy, and all-around well-written show, ‘The Golden Girls’ also knew when it was time to retire. (With the exception of the single-season spin-off, ‘The Golden Palace’, but let’s just pretend that never happened.) If you watch the series now, you don’t see a decline in quality or constant repetition of storylines. That just might be why the show still garners an impressive following.
‘Breaking Bad’ is a more recent example of knowing how to tell a story and then put it to bed. It had the popularity to double its audience if it went beyond the original 5 season run, but writers and producers didn’t give in to that temptation. While it’s too early to see if it will still have a cult following in twenty years, it will very likely be remembered as one of the most innovative dramas to air after the turn of the century.
So while we get ready to say goodbye to the characters that made ‘The Big Bang Theory’ such a hit, let’s keep in mind there are much worse fates for a television series than to have a 12 season, highly successful run. Given the pop culture phenomena it has been, there’s little doubt it will go on to be a cult classic. Plus there’s always streaming and DVD box sets, so no one really has to say goodbye to any show they love after the credits roll on the final episode.
And for crying out loud, producers and writers, please let ‘The Big Bang Theory’ end with Raj finally having found a long-term relationship! It was sad enough wondering how long Joey Tribbiani was left alone after the rest of his ‘Friends’ had paired up.