It all stated with The Big Bang Theory pilot on September 24, 2007, which earned 9.52 million viewers. The CBS sitcom just ended its run nearly 12 years later with an even bigger bang on May 16, 2019. The series finale, "The Stockholm Syndrome," earned a whopping 17.99 million viewers and a 3.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic.
That 18 million is the most viewers The Big Bang Theory has had since the Season 9 premiere in 2015, which had 18.2 million viewers. The glory years of TBBT saw viewership above 20 million and ratings above 6.0, but it's still incredibly impressive for a 12-year-old show in 2019 to get that many night-of viewers.
The 3.1 rating was up from last year's The Big Bang Theory Season 11 finale, which had a 2.9 rating from 15.51 million viewers. And we don't know how many more viewers will be catching the one-hour series finale later this week, boosting the DVR numbers.
People watch TV much differently in 2019 than they did even a couple of years ago. Gone are the days of 100 million people watching the same thing at the same time, ala the MASH finale in 1983.
That said, Deadline shared some comparisons to a couple of CBS' previous series finales:
Here are some of the most-watched series finales of all time, via Business Insider:
• MASH, 1983: 105.9 million
• Cheers, 1993: 84.4 million
• The Fugitive, 1967: 78 million
• Seinfeld, 1998: 76.3 million
• Friends, 2004: 65.9 million
Roots is a miniseries, but you could also add its 1977 finale to the list with 100 million viewers.
Those are huge numbers, but it doesn't take anything away from The Big Bang Theory's series finale accomplishment. If anything, it highlights how close-to-impossible it is for shows to still get anywhere near 20 million same-day viewers these days. Plus, TBBT was on for 12 seasons. Even MASH and Cheers "only" had 11 seasons.
Three days after The Big Bang Theory series finale, Game of Thrones is airing its series finale. We'll have to see how that May 19 finale does in the ratings on Monday.
There's how many people watched a finale and then there's how many people liked what they watched in the finale. One day out, it looks like The Big Bang Theory stuck the landing for many emotional fans. That's worth a lot more than a number on a sheet.