Say goodbye to the nerd herd as 'The Big Bang Theory' calls it quits

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Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS

"The Big Bang Theory" is about to be torn apart by the forces of entropy. And yes, in retrospect, that appears to have been as inescapable as the second law of thermodynamics.

Per a joint statement released Wednesday by Warner Bros. TV and Chuck Lorre Productions, the upcoming twelfth season of "The Big Bang Theory" will be its last. The creative forces behind CBS's popular sitcom confirmed that the series will end its run in May with a final tally of 279 episodes, edging Warner/Lorre's "Two and a Half Men" as the longest-running multi-camera comedy in TV history.

"Two and a Half Men" ended its 12-season run in February 2015 with 262 episodes under its belt.

The move to close out "Big Bang" comes just a few weeks after CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl told the audience at the TCA summer press tour that the network was "in preliminary discussions to renew the show with Warner Bros." Kahl's assertion that CBS was looking to bring back "Big Bang" for a thirteenth season elicited a few rather terse tweets from series executive producer Bill Prady, one of which simply read, "Huh."

"Big Bang" in March 2017 was renewed for two additional seasons, a pickup that many observers believed would give the creators ample time to wrap up any and all loose ends. And as much as the show's ratings helped generate a bundle of ad sales revenue for CBS—at the time of that final renewal, "Big Bang" was TV's top-rated scripted series, averaging 14.2 million live-same-day viewers, of whom 5.4 million were members of the network's core adults 25-54 demo—the cost of producing the comedy were not insignificant. At an estimated pay rate north of $1 million per episode per actor, "Big Bang" principals Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar alone commanded some $125 million in salary over the course of a season.

While CBS shoulders much of the cost of the show's upkeep by way of the license fee it pays to the studio and Lorre's team, "Big Bang" ratings are consistently stellar, which has allowed the network to squeeze more than $1 billion out of advertisers over the life of the series. According to Standard Media Index estimates, the average unit cost for a 30-second ad in a first-run episode of "Big Bang" in the second quarter worked out to a sturdy $295,138 a pop. That marked a $10,000 premium compared to the rates media buyers negotiated for "Big Bang" inventory during the 2017-18 upfront bazaar.

Warner and Lorre also make a killing on the back end, thanks in large part to a lucrative 2011 deal to syndicate "Big Bang" on Fox broadcasting stations and via the cable net TBS. The latter deal alone is valued at $1.5 million per episode, and TBS isn't exactly shy about running the sprockets off the show. According to Nielsen data, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of TBS's gross ratings points are generated by "Big Bang" repeats, which can run as often as six times in a given day.

At its first-run broadcast peak, during Season 7, "Big Bang" averaged 17.7 million viewers per week, of whom more than 8 million were members of CBS's target audience.

If it won't be easy for CBS and "Big Bang" fans to bid farewell to Sheldon, Leonard, Penny and the rest of the nerd herd, all parties concerned appear to have identified a nifty replacement for the show in the spinoff/prequel "Young Sheldon." Yet another Warner/Lorre co-production, the affable family comedy closed out its premiere season ranked second among all TV sitcoms with an average draw of 12.3 million viewers and a 3.3 in the adults 25-54 demo, thereby improving on CBS's year-ago performance in its Thursday 8:30 p.m. time slot by a whopping 43 percent.

The "Big Bang" swan song season will debut Monday, Sept. 24 before moving to its regular time period on Thursday, Sept. 27. As was the case during its freshman run, "Young Sheldon" will continue to air in the coveted lead-out slot following "Big Bang."

"We are forever grateful to our fans for their support of 'The Big Bang Theory' during the past 12 seasons," the joint statement read. "We, along with the cast, writers and crew, are extremely appreciative of the show's success and aim to deliver a final season, and series finale, that will bring 'The Big Bang Theory' to an epic creative close."

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