The Big Bang Theory’s swan song was an image that sums up not only the reason why we’ve followed the series for so long, but also why we’ll miss it: the warm and cozy domestic vibe created by the group of friends who share their lives with a sense of humor. Gobbling up food at home and joking non-stop. The show’s been inviting audiences to be participants in these moments for twelve years, and although it has inevitably lost freshness compared to its highlights, audiences has always found the time to spend with Sheldon and company. And it was the latter which the series finale focused on, coming full circle on a character who, as Penny reminds him, has changed immensely since the first episode. We’ve watched as he became less robotic and more human, less rigid and closer. And winning the Nobel prize was the litmus test for the Sheldon who only cared about his career finally giving way to the Sheldon who cares about his friends.
In the end, his friends, the “only constant” throughout his life, were those he paid tribute to above all else, along with Amy, at the Nobel Prize ceremony. The idea is consistent with the character and also with a show that was the final bastion of friends’ sitcoms, a subgenre that’s been waning in popularity since its golden age in the 90s, with Seinfeld (1989-1998) and Friends (1994-2004). In the former, they never hugged each other, and, in the latter, they hugged constantly, but in spite of being polar opposites in many ways they did have one thing in common; the fact of allowing viewers to be part of a group of friends who were much more fun than their real-life counterparts. Well, it’s TV for something. The genre had a popular benchmark since then with How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014), which took over from Friends, and The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019), which has extended the genre’s life to today. The latter didn’t manage to find a successor, since other friends’ sitcoms released in recent years have, in terms of popularity, been a far cry from these major titles.
It’s as if the world of television fiction, which in recent years has become more complex, serious and pretentious, had completely forgotten that we also need a good laugh. As if the lighter genres designed to seek audiences’ comfort have lost their appeal among viewers who prefer to be shocked by unanticipated scenes and challenged by cynical and uncomfortable characters. In the television menu of this viewer, there’s room for everything. From the unexpected demise of Game of Thrones characters to the drama of The Leftovers, but also for a few punchlines ensured to cheer me up. From corrupt politicians and drug dealers to nights with Halo and adventures in an elevator that is eventually repaired. Perhaps what’s taking place is not so much a change in tastes, but that now this subgenre is considered somewhat a lesser achievement. Au contraire. Producing a sitcom that works is highly complicated and, The Big Bang Theory managed to be just that, despite the obvious wear and tear after twelve seasons. You’ll be sorely missed.