The biggest comedy series on television is getting an offshoot. I’ve learned that CBS is in negotiations for The Big Bang Theory spinoff titled Sheldon, after one of the main characters on the original series played by Emmy winner Jim Parsons.
Details of the new series are being kept under wraps, but I hear it is a prequel, described as a Malcolm in the Middle-esque single-camera family comedy centered on the child prodigy Sheldon character at age 12. I hear the project, which is yet to be written, is getting a pilot order, though sources suggest that it is considered a shoo-in for a series pickup for next season. I hear Sheldon is produced by Big Bang co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre, executive producer/showrunner Steve Molaro and Parsons. Big Bang co-creator/exec producer Bill Prady also is expected to be involved in some capacity.
On Big Bang, there have been clues about Sheldon’s childhood in Galveston, TX, with his older brother George; fraternal twin sister (Missy); their mother Mary Cooper, an overtly devout Evangelical Christian, played frequently on the mothership series by Laurie Metcalf; and father George Cooper, an alcoholic who was never around. Sheldon also had a grandmother, Meemaw, and grandfather, Pop-Pop, who died when Sheldon was 5.
Sheldon will be looking to join The Big Bang Theory on the CBS schedule next season. Big Bang is in its 10th season, the last under the current three-year pickup at CBS. The negotiations for Sheldon are said to be intertwined with the license fee talks between CBS and Warner Bros TV for future seasons of the original series. The two series are said to be designed in a way that allows them to co-exist, much like a movie franchise where a prequel like Rogue One is released alongside new Star Wars films.
The network and the studio also need to secure new deals with the veteran comedy’s stars Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, who currently make about $1 million per episode in addition to a piece of the series’ lucrative backend.
In its 10th season, The Big Bang Theory remains the biggest comedy series on television. What’s more, it ranks as the most watched program on broadcast TV, ahead of NCIS and Sunday Night Football, averaging 18.15 million viewers in most-recent ratings and regularly drawing more than 14 million live viewers. Among adults 18-49, it is the No. 2 broadcast scripted program (behind Empire’s 5.4) and No. 3 overall (behind SNF), averaging a 4.9 rating.
The Big Bang Theory has been a rare hugely successful comedy series not to pursue a spinoff. Friends — the NBC comedy hit that I’ve often compared Big Bang to because of their similar setup as an ensemble of friends living in across-the-hall apartments, the same Thursday 8 PM slot and very similar ratings success — was followed by short-lived spinoff Joey. Fellow NBC comedy series Cheers spawned the very successful spinoff Frasier. Of the Big Bang contemporaries, ABC’s Modern Family actively explored a spinoff centered on a recurring character played by Rob Riggle.
CBS and WBTV had no comment.