How 'The Big Bang Theory' Scored Record Ratings After 6 Years

Its newly promoted showrunner credits TBS repeats for contributing to the CBS hit's recent rash of big numbers.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The nerds have inherited the earth -- or at least primetime TV.

In its sixth season, CBS' The Big Bang Theory is hitting ratings highs, with the Jan. 3 episode luring a series-best 19.3 million viewers and a whopping 6.1 rating in the key 18-to-49 demo. The Emmy-nominated sitcom -- which after a slow start reached "hit" status in season three -- is now primetime's No. 1 comedy (topping Modern Family by about 5 million viewers) and remains tops in syndication, meaning the exploits of Sheldon (two-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons) and his supersmart pals are Warner Bros. TV's biggest hit on the air.

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes of 'The Big Bang Theory'

Executive producer Steve Molaro, who this season quietly was handed the reins after co-showrunner Bill Prady took a step back to teach TV writing at USC, credits TBS repeats (which regularly beat broadcast fare) for boosting new episodes. "That's certainly helped us," says Molaro, 45, a Queens native who joined the show for its second episode and was promoted to co-EP and Prady’s No. 2 during season three. He also believes the show’s familiarity, at a time when other series (Homeland, The Walking Dead) unfold at breakneck speeds, helps contribute to its appeal.

While Prady is on set two or three times a week and co-creator Chuck Lorre remains actively involved, Molaro -- a former geek blogger at a site called The Sneeze -- now oversees the 10-person writing staff and has changed its approach slightly. “There’s a different flavor in the writers room -- not a better way, just a different way,” he says. For instance, “there are some small arcs we’ve been playing with, which is new for us.”

The tweaks are welcome to Lorre. “Besides being a great comedy writer, Steve has an incredible sensitivity to these characters. He’s very protective of them,” Lorre tells THR. “He also happens to be a really nice guy.”

Adds Lorre, “Of course, after running a network show for a few years, that probably won’t last.”

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