'Big Bang Theory' to End With Season 12

The Big Bang Theory S11E01 Still - Publicity - H 2017
Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The end of the road for CBS' The Big Bang Theory has arrived. 

Producers Warner Bros. Television announced Wednesday that the comedy's previously announced 12th season will be its last. 

“We are forever grateful to our fans for their support of The Big Bang Theory during the past twelve seasons. We, along with the cast, writers and crew, are extremely appreciative of the show’s success and aim to deliver a final season, and series finale, that will bring The Big Bang Theory to an epic creative close," WBTV and Chuck Lorre Productions said in a joint statement. 

Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, Big Bang Theory will wrap its 12-season run in May as TV's longest-running multicamera comedy in history, with what will be a record 279 episodes. The series finale will air in May. The decision arrives as CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told reporters Aug. 5 that the network was in preliminary discussions to renew the show for a 13th season with WBTV. 

Big Bang Theory is heading into its 12th season in the fall after WBTV inked the cast to new deals last year that sources said were worth $900,000 apiece, plus lucrative points off the show's backend and overall deals. The series' five original stars — Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar — all took $100,000 pay cuts to help bring co-stars Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch to parity. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that the decision to wrap the series would likely land on the shoulders of its Emmy-winning star Parsons and the entire cast would return if he wanted to do more as well. The timing of the final-season announcement comes the morning after the season 12 premiere filmed before a live studio audience on the show's Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. 

"One could easily presume [season 12] would be the end of the series," Lorre told THR in August 2017 while acknowledging that producers never imagined they'd get to season 11. The season 11 finale featured the wedding between Parsons' Sheldon and Bialik's Amy in what many viewers presumed would be the end game for the show. The episode teed up a 12th season to explore the couple's big scientific breakthrough.

In May, sources told THR that WBTV and CBS had some conversations about potentially continuing Big Bang Theory beyond season 12, which would require signing the stars to new mega-deals to return to the comedy from Steve Molaro and showrunner Steve Holland. The show continues to be a ratings cash cow, with the network using it to launch prequel spinoff Young Sheldon last season. (The latter series, which Molaro oversees as showrunner, has already been renewed for the 2018-19 season after becoming a top 10 comedy this season among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic.) 

Producers, including Lorre, Molaro and Holland, have all been adamant that they know in advance whether they would be writing toward a series finale or a season finale. Big Bang Theory, unlike other shows, does not plot out season-long arcs but rather writes episode to episode to follow what they see before them on tape nights. Knowing that the series will end ahead of the show's Sept. 27 final season premiere will certainly help the creative team plot out a fitting end to the comedy. 

During its run, Big Bang Theory earned 52 Emmy nominations with 10 wins, though never for outstanding comedy series. It had ranked as TV's No. 1 comedy up until the 2017-18 broadcast season, when ABC's Roseanne revival bumped the veteran comedy to finish second overall.

"The Big Bang Theory has been the defining comedy of its generation,” Kahl said Wednesday in a statement. "All of us at the network take exceptional pride in this series that uniquely combines creative genius, commercial ratings success, cultural influence and characters who became so popular, they are easily known by just one name. We’re incredibly grateful for our partnership with Warner Bros., Chuck Lorre Productions and a brilliant cast and crew that has made such a ‘big bang’ and lasting legacy on the television landscape.”