After 12 seasons, The Big Bang Theory has come to an end. The last episode of the series is sandwiched between the series finals of Veep and Game of Thrones, and while I spent a few days downtown catching up with the final season of Big Bang, I felt like I was expertly rolled up in a wet , cushioned blanket. The discussions of the show, as well as those about the show, are not boisterous or urgent.
High stakes are few, and even those that are demonstrably high (win the Nobel Prize or are pregnant) are considered trivial events. The Big Bang Theory ending is huge – at its peak, 20 million viewers watched the show every week – but it’s also strangely quiet compared to the Game of Thrones ending.
The final seasons of the Big Bang Theory are less culturally significant than the show’s first two seasons, in part because the future the show predicted, one where everyone knows who Thanos is, has essentially come true. The credentials and cultural benchmarks that set it apart are now shared by everyone.
– Mark (@ warmachine31480) March 30, 2021
Another reason the big bang theory ends with a wail instead of a bang is that while the show has always consumed a lot of pop culture, pop culture has never been answered.
The Big Bang Theory is a sponge for pop culture references, and those references serve as the backdrop to the show’s nearly plotless stories. The communication of these characters focuses on nerdy horror films, comic books, TV shows and video game metaphors. They serve as guides and benchmarks for how these characters navigate life.
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With a few exceptions, such as the slogan “Bazinga”, the opposite has never been true. The Big Bang Theory is about culture, but it was never about The Big Bang Theory in the same way that the Marvel universe, debates about The Last Jedi or anything about Game of Thrones was about culture.
The president does not use Big Bang Theory fonts in his department’s memes. There aren’t many papers on Sheldon’s success as a baby name. There will be no petitions asking the producers to remake the finale next week, or if there are any, it will be jokes.
The two other shows in the graduation class of this week’s TV shows have tilted like mirrors against the Zeitgeist during their runs. While Game of Thrones and Veep have their own fictional universes, they are often asked to comment on ours.
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They reflect in a way that The Big Bang Theory has not been, and their finals felt like referendums about where we are now, not just about themselves.