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

Big Bang Theory Ratings - H 2013

Big Bang Theory Ratings - H 2013

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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