'Big Bang Theory' Writers on the Mystery They're Leaving Unsolved

THE BIG BANG THEORY S12E02 Still - Publicity - H 2018
Michael Yarish/CBS

CBS' The Big Bang Theory will wrap up its 12-season run on Thursday, May 16, but the writers are just starting to process that the end is near.

"In a lucky way, we knew it was the final season pretty early. … It gave us a lot of time to talk about where we wanted to leave these characters," executive producer Steve Holland said Saturday during the show's WonderCon panel, moderated by frequent guest star Wil Wheaton. "That [work] was able to push some of [the emotion] off. Now we're getting closer and closer, and it's [hitting us that it's] the last time we're going to do this or that."

Over the dozen years of the show, the recurring cast has ballooned, which has meant saying goodbye to them in the final year has been a gradual process — and those goodbyes have been hard, executive producer Bill Prady noted.

But the team got some guidance on how to navigate the emotions from someone with experience: Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman.

"A few of us were at an event and saw [her]," writer Tara Hernandez shared. When they told her they were writers from The Big Bang Theory, she immediately tried to comfort them about what they'd be going through as the show wrapped up. Her advice: "It's going to be so hard on you. But you'll fall in love with the next one. You have to fall in love with the next [show]."

A bonus of knowing the end is around the corner has allowed them to buckle down and tell lingering stories they had been trying to work out for a bit.

Executive producer Steve Molaro had been trying to work in "the death of a theory" since the first season, he revealed. His pitch was "Sheldon [Jim Parsons] or Leonard [Johnny Galecki] had a theory they had been working on forever [that is disproven] … and watch them go over the stages of grief." Added Prady: "You always pitched they would go to a funeral for it."

Big Bang Theory did an adapted version of the tale in December's "The VCR Illumination," when Sheldon and Amy (Mayim Bialik) were worried their asymmetry theory wouldn't pan out and became depressed.

Most of what the writers have wanted to get into the show has found its way to air — and they've pointedly kept some things off. When a fan questioned whether viewers would learn Penny's [Kaley Cuoco] maiden name, the scribes were clear it wouldn't happen. "[Eventually] we got nervous and superstitious about giving her one," Molaro said. Even though the show is about to draw to a close, "it will always be [her married name] Hofstadter."

Though the series is signing off soon, the franchise will continue on with the prequel series Young Sheldon. A fan inquired whether Big Bang Theory could continue on, to some degree, via flash forwards there. "I don't know the answer to that," Molaro admitted, noting it would be "cool" if it ever came up and Parsons was game to reprise his role as the adult Sheldon.

The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.