Director Mark Cendrowski reveals how Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) lack of emotions actually made The Big Bang Theory better. CBS’ popular sitcom bowed out last May after 12 seasons with a special one-hour finale. The outing was surprisingly satisfying on varying fronts despite a rather uneven final year. Three months after it officially wrapped up, Cendrowski talks about the creative process behind pulling off a high-stakes send off for the Pasadena gang.
The longest-running multi-camera sitcom surpassing NBC’s Cheers bowed out with a back-to-back offering that’s full of nostalgic moments – the cut of it all was Sheldon finally winning a Nobel Prize. After a tumultuous road to nomination, Sheldon and wife Amy (Mayim Bialik) nabbed the coveted academic accolade that brought all seven friends to Stockholm for the ceremony. Between Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) getting pregnant and Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) constantly worrying about their kids, the trip started rocky, made worse by Sheldon’s signature indifference to his friends’ woes. Fortunately, things got better when the socially-inept genius acknowledged how much his friends meant to him during his acceptance speech.
It was a highly emotional send off for The Big Bang Theory, and Cendrowski tells THR that much of it came from viewers knowing Sheldon’s struggle expressing or processing any kind of emotion. This is why even his slightest display of sentiment was always a big deal, especially during the show’s final episode.
Sheldon’s non-emotion amplified everyone else. You could get frustrated with Sheldon, but then you saw how it affected Leonard (Johnny Galecki) when he’d be upset. That’s what I’d lean into. That universe spinning around him had to be real and honest. I felt a lot of pressure because it had been building up all year. The episode had a lot of great challenges — we had 300 extras and had to shoot an auditorium scene to make it look like 3,000 people attending the Nobel Prize ceremony. That was a vast scene that also had to play emotionally and close to the heart.
Knowing the characters well, it was smart for The Big Bang Theory to utilize Sheldon’s social struggles to set up what would arguably the nicest thing that he’d done for his friends – acknowledge that without them, he would be lost. Over the years, he had few moments of tenderness shown toward his gang, but he remained snooty and high brow, especially in terms of his intellect compared to them. And while there’s a good chance that he can still be dismissive and self-centered following the sitcom’s ending, there was significant progress to his characterization from the time the viewers met him more than a decade ago.
Sadly, while The Big Bang Theory‘s finale (and the whole of season 12) effectively utilized Sheldon and his quirks, it forced the remaining characters to the side. Much of the criticism of the series final few season was the fact that it focused too much on Sheldon, stagnating his friends’ arcs. The sitcom’s early seasons did a great job doing a balancing act when it comes to shining a spotlight on all key players, but as Sheldon grew too popular, it felt like the whole narrative almost always revolved around him.