Young Sheldon, the prequel/spinoff of hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, scores the biggest comedy premiere in four years, proving that the brand is still going strong, more than a decade later. CBS' Young Sheldon chronicles the life of nine-year-old Sheldon Cooper, played by Iain Armitage, living with his family in East Texas and his high school shenanigans. Jim Parsons, who famously portrays the adult Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, is an executive producer on Young Sheldon and narrates the show.
The Big Bang Theory did not start off with a big bang when it made its debut in 2007. However, by the end of its fourth season, it was the highest rated comedy on television. Ten years later, The Big Bang Theory still has an average viewership of 18.99 million. The premiere of its 11th season, which aired right before Young Sheldon, averaged a 4.1 rating in its key demographic and 17.7 million viewers. Due to the success of the The Big Bang Theory, the three main cast members (Kaley Cuoco, Parsons and Johnny Galecki) make an astounding $900,000 each, per episode. Now, it seems like Young Sheldon is en route to becoming a huge success as well.
According to THR, Young Sheldon averaged a spectacular 3.8 rating among its key demographic (adults 18-49) and 17.2 million viewers. This spinoff is currently the most-watched comedy premiere since 2 Broke Girls in 2011 and the highest-rated since The Crazy Ones in 2013. Its arrival spelled bad news for NBC, which saw The Voice's viewership drop to a premiere low for the series. CBS is now hoping Young Sheldon can expand its "multiplatform reach" over the next month before new episodes start airing in November, becoming another programming staple for the network.
It isn't surprising Young Sheldon debuted to this kind of success. While reviews for The Big Bang Theory haven't been great as of late, its incredible retention highlights the level of interest fans have to this brand as a whole. The spinoff knew it had a built-in audience that would at the very least be curious to watch the first episode. Additionally, the generally-favorable critical response probably encouraged viewers to tune in as well. Even pundits who aren't fans of Big Bang have admitted to enjoying Young Sheldon, so the word-of-mouth likely helped the prequel find a broad audience.
That said, fans may not want to get too excited yet. Starting off strong is great, but Young Sheldon is going to have to keep this performance up if it is to warrant a lengthy run a la Big Bang. Case in point: 2 Broke Girls scored high ratings when it first aired, but it was eventually canceled after six seasons due to plummeting ratings. It's also worth pointing out that Young Sheldon is a very different kind of show from its predecessor, which begs the question of whether fans want something different or rather see more of the same. If things go in too much of a new direction, Young Sheldon runs the risk of losing part of its core demographic (Big Bang Theory fans), which could negatively impact it down the line.
Young Sheldon returns Thursday, November 2 on CBS.