'Big Bang Theory' Sheldon Prequel Series in the Works at CBS

Big Bang Theory - Jim Parson - Still - Photofest - H - 2016

CBS is looking to keep TV's No. 1 comedy series going — with a twist.

The network is developing a spinoff of The Big Bang Theory, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Sources say the comedy, from Big Bang co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady and overseen by showrunner Steve Molaro, will center around the young version of Emmy winner Jim Parsons' Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Insiders describe the project as Malcolm in the Middle but with a young and potentially teenage version of Sheldon. None of the Big Bang Theory cast are said to be involved in the potential prequel series outside of Parsons, who will executive produce.

CBS and Big Bang producers Warner Bros. Television declined comment. The project, which is said to have landed at CBS with a sizable penalty attached, will be a single-camera comedy — a shift from Big Bang's traditional multicamera format. Additional details about the project are being kept under wraps.  

The spinoff comes as Big Bang is in its 10th season and has not yet been renewed beyond that. The show ranks as TV's most-watched comedy among the all-important adults 18-49 demographic.

The show's cast — Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch — are all currently negotiating new deals for a likely 11th season and beyond. Sources say the cast are all seeking pay raises from their historic contracts reached two years ago when the show was picked up for a three-season renewal.

"We are very confident that everyone involved wants more Big Bang past year 10 and I know Warner Bros. will make those deals," CBS president Glenn Geller told reporters in August at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco last negotiated together in 2014 and were seeking big salary increases. Sources at the time told THR that the trio secured about $1 million per half-hour with an increased cut of the show's backend from 0.25 percent to 1.25 percent. The deals are said to bring the three into the Friends region, with that cast negotiating together and locking in $1 million per episode with studio WBTV. (Big Bang Theory is a massive hit in syndication, with TBS' repeats regularly topping the weekly syndication ratings.) The pacts also included overall deals and more. Co-stars Bialik and Rauch previously inked new deals with WBTV, with both earning big raises two years ago when the cast's contract talks began but before Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco's rich deal.

Talking with THR in 2013, producers Lorre, Molaro and Prady joked that they could never envision doing a spinoff of Big Bang. "I can't imagine doing that. I couldn't imagine taking any part of this show and separating it; it's all one piece to me. I can't wrap my head around splintering someone away from this show," said Lorre. Prady, meanwhile, joked he'd like to do a one-hour spinoff with Stuart from the comic book show. For his part, WBTV-based Molaro seemed the most open-minded about an offshoot. "I'm so head-first and knee-deep into these characters and so in love with this show and the characters that are on it," he told THR in 2013. "We're just scratching the surface of a lot of these relationships. I can't even think about a spinoff. The show is a priority and I love it as a writer and as a fan. That's just so far away, it's too far off the radar for me to even give you an honest answer about that. I live the show, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it and want it to be great. Maybe someday, but right now this is the focus."

During Big Bang's 10-season run, many references have been made to Sheldon's childhood, growing up as a gifted youngster in Texas with a religious mother. A potential Sheldon prequel would likely have to involve Laurie Metcalf, who has recurred throughout the show's 10-year run as Mary Cooper, Sheldon's mom. A prequel series would also give the writers a lot of material to work with given Sheldon's history — as well as a structure to follow. Big Bang, unlike most series on TV, does not plot out its arcs and seasons ahead of time but rather the writers take it episode by episode.

If the Big Bang prequel were to move forward, it would give WBTV-based Lorre at least two series on the air next year, joining his Netflix pot comedy Disjointed, starring Kathy Bates, and likely three series should contract talks move forward on Big Bang. He also is teaming with Amazon for a Bonfire of the Vanities miniseries.

Lorre is repped by UTA, Prady is with Rothman Brecher, and Molaro is repped by WME.