‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale Breakdown: Why Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik Became a Bigger Part of the Ending, Reba’s Return and When the Spinoff Will Pick Up (2024)

Spoiler Alert: The following interview discusses events from the series finale of “Young Sheldon” — the episodes “Funeral” and “Memoir” —streaming on Paramount+ as of May 17.

Bazinga! That’s a wrap on CBS’ “Young Sheldon,” as the hit comedy prequel to “The Big Bang Theory” bid adieu with its final two installments after seven seasons and 141 episodes on Thursday. Though a lot of details were known going into the series finale – that Sheldon’s (Iain Armitage) father George (Lance Barber) had died off-screen in last week’s episode, that “Big Bang” alums Jim Parsons (as adult Sheldon) and Mayim Bialik (as his wife Amy) would appear and that 14-year old Sheldon would be heading to Caltech – the episodes still delivered surprises and a slew of Easter eggs.

Predictably, the first episode, “Funeral,” is probably the heaviest, most dramatic episode in the series’ run, and as executive producer Steve Holland tells Variety, striking the balance between comedy and drama was “the most challenging thing” — he credits his usually funny cast for bringing the dramatic chops to pull it off. The show also had to navigate such things as finding a way to get the uber-busy Reba McEntire in for a quick cameo, and just how much they should show George in his funeral casket.

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‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale Breakdown: Why Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik Became a Bigger Part of the Ending, Reba’s Return and When the Spinoff Will Pick Up (1)

The challenges didn’t stop there, as the final episode, “Memoir,” not only had to include Sheldon’s final days before heading to Caltech, but also the much-hyped appearance of Parsons and Bialik that ended up being much more than the end-of-episode cameo one might expect. Instead, their part of the episode gave shape to the entire “Young Sheldon” series. Holland also provided insight into who’s responsible for naming the “Georgie and Mandy’s First Marriage” spinoff and roughly when that multi-cam series will pick up when it premieres this fall on CBS.

Here, Holland covers all those things — and more.

Given that George’s funeral is a big part of this episode, can you talk about tonally balancing drama and comedy?

Honestly, what we found getting into editing was we ended up pulling jokes out that felt out of tone. We were trying to be conscious of the fact that it’s a comedy, and also trying to be honest about this family and their emotions and not be glib about it.

The original script wasn’t jokey, but had more jokes in it than ended up. And as we were going through it and watching them and editing, they just felt tone deaf. They felt out of place for the seriousness of the moment. I still think there are some laughs to be had in there, but we were really fine-tuning that balance right up into the end. What we found was we had earned the right with this episode to not have to rely on jokes all the time. We could let the audience feel, and I think the audience who has lived with this family for seven years will also feel this loss. It’s OK to let people feel bad and feel genuine grief for a few minutes.

And everyone from Iain, Raegan Revord, Montana Jordan, Zoe Perry, Annie Potts — they all delivered on the dramatic moments.

I can’t say enough about this cast. I hope they get their due recognition at some point, because they are top to bottom, great. But to be able to be funny and then to be able to deliver an episode like this one — every cutaway to Raegan [Missy Cooper] in that funeral scene I find devastating. And Montana [Georgie Cooper] as a character and a person is definitely more stoic and controlled but his quiet pain when he’s talking to his dad’s casket is so real.

Then the moment where Zoe [Mary Cooper] breaks down, and Annie [Connie “MeeMaw” Tucker] has to get up and try to turn the funeral around with some humor. I think it’s just a masterclass that Annie Potts pulled off so amazingly. And those were such difficult days. We were in that church shooting the funeral for two full days, and it was two full days of genuine tears on and off camera.

Let’s back up to earlier in the episode when Sheldon plays out the different scenarios with that last moment with George, since he didn’t get to say goodbye.

It felt really relatable to us, and it also felt very Sheldon to us that he would try to go back and maybe rewrite and figure out his alternate time timelines of what he had done. And it also was part of the conception when we were writing George’s last moments to give him no last moment with his dad so that he could have that little bit of regret.

For Sheldon, the way he processes emotions is a little bit differently, and I think he’s processing that regret by trying to go back and relive it in different ways and try to figure out how else it could have played out. And to the outside world, and to his sister especially, it looks like he’s being callous and heartless and not grieving — but it’s how he processes his grief internally. We sort of got to have our cake and eat it, too, a little bit. He gets to get up and give his eulogy, but he never actually got up and gave his eulogy. And that felt very real to us as well, that in that moment, at that age, he wouldn’t be able to process his grief enough to stand up in front of people and talk about his dad. But as an adult, looking back, he wishes he had.

You guys got Reba McEntire, who recurred as June, ex-wife to Craig T. Nelson’s Dale, back for one quick moment as she drops food off at the house, as people do after a major death. Was that tough to make happen?

Her schedule was crazy, and she was actually shooting her pilot [“Happy’s Place,” which NBC ordered to series last week] as was Rex Lin, who plays Principal Peterson and is in that pilot, too. But she really wanted to be a part of it, and was like, “If there’s anything I can do, and if we can make the schedule work out…” We said, “We can have you in this one little cameo,” and she was like, “Absolutely!” So she came and did that for us, which was great since they were shooting the pilot and then she was going back and forth to “The Voice.”

Going back to the funeral, seeing George in his open casket was effective, even if we don’t see his face too much. What did Lance Barber think about that?

Lance all along wanted to be a part of the funeral scene, so he wanted to be in the casket. And to lighten the mood, he did have a fart machine in the casket that he would fire off from time to time. And then we did have more footage of his face, but I think in editing, and it was [executive producer] Steve Molaro who was like, “I just don’t want to see his face that much. There’s something upsetting about it.” I think it was the right decision. Where you see him from the side, you see him from the back, you get glimpses, but we never really focus on his face in the casket and that actually turned out to be much more powerful than seeing him full on. And it’s really all about the family and their grief and their faces.

‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale Breakdown: Why Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik Became a Bigger Part of the Ending, Reba’s Return and When the Spinoff Will Pick Up (2)

Moving into the final episode, I was surprised Jim and Mayim were in it so much! I was expecting maybe them showing up at the very end. Was it always the plan to have them be such a presence in the episode?

It was. That was also a tricky balance. I think that was Chuck’s [Lorre] idea. It’d be great to have them both back — then, as we talked about it, it was finding the balance, because we also didn’t want their story to overwhelm the Coopers’ story. At the end of the day, this is a “Young Sheldon” finale, and we wanted to make sure that we gave our cast their proper send off.

We decided we wanted to use them as more than just a cameo at the end, because we figured that also might be a thing more people expected and it might be able to catch them off guard. Even though they know they’re in the episode, but then you cut to them right in the cold open. I think we found a really good balance for that. Maybe some people expected to see them, but is there a way to still do it and maybe surprise people a little bit? So that’s really nice to hear.

Are we supposed to assume the whole “Young Sheldon” series has been Sheldon writing his memoir, or is that just something for the last episode?

No, in our thought this is what Sheldon’s been doing the whole time, and that’s also why we’re seeing a slightly different version of his dad than he talked about on “Big Bang Theory.” And that last sort of voiceover in the funeral episode where he says he was unfair to his dad for a long time —we talked a lot about that. That’s also maybe some way of Sheldon dealing with his grief about his dad as a young adult is to focus on the bad things. But now that he’s older and has kids of his own, he realizes how unfair he’s been to his dad over the years. So that’s a little bit of the conception of the show —that older Sheldon with kids is looking back on his family in a slightly different light than he did in his early twenties.

Can we assume it’s 2024 when we see Sheldon and Amy or…

I think it’s not. It’s a vague time. We were very careful to be vague and not have anything too specifically dated in the thing. They didn’t have kids at the end of “Big Bang,” so they wouldn’t have had kids till the following year. We’re probably five or six years in the future from now, but it’s a little vague. And we don’t say how old the kids are specifically for that reason also. But it’s probably a few years in our future.

‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale Breakdown: Why Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik Became a Bigger Part of the Ending, Reba’s Return and When the Spinoff Will Pick Up (3)

We heard Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) name when they say that she babysat their daughter. Were there big discussions about who should be mentioned from “Big Bang?”

We didn’t want to go with the whole cast. And we also wanted to keep it on Sheldon and Amy and their kids’ relationship, so it just seemed like a nice coda at the end. And the Sheldon-Penny relationship was always so strong on “Big Bang,” it seemed like a nice way to do it.

And that set [of Sheldon and Amy’s home] was actually super fun, because we actually went through the “Big Bang” set. The original “Big Bang” set is in the museum here at Warner Bros., so we went and raided the museum and took pieces back out of it. We loaded the set with little nods and Easter eggs and things from the apartment and things from “Young Sheldon” and from “Big Bang.” We didn’t want it to distract from the scene that’s going on but maybe if people go back and freeze-frame afterwards, there’s a lot of little hidden things decorating that set. It was really fun and emotional, actually, to pull those things back into our world.

What’s one thing that you’re proud of that’s on that set?

There are so many items. But for one thing, and this is Sheldon’s office in his house in Pasadena, the couch [from “Big Bang”] is there. We barely focus on it, but if you’re eagle eyed, it’s there in the background. The DNA molecule from their apartment is there in the corner. His Nobel prize is framed on a wall behind him. There are probably 20 or 25 little things that we pulled from either “Big Bang” or “Young Sheldon” that we placed. But hopefully, if [viewers] go back and watch it a few more times, see how much they can spot.

Jim Parsons walking through the ‘Young Sheldon” set was really powerful. Did you guys know that that would have a big emotional punch?

No. There was a lot of talk from the writers about “is there a way to see him in this world?” It’s tricky, because there’s a time gap so there really wasn’t a way to see him in this world —and then the pitch of “what if he’s remembering his last moments there, but he’s remembering it as adult Sheldon?” That just seemed really surprising, because, again, people know Jim’s in the episode at that point, but is there a way you can do something still surprising? I think him walking out of his younger self’s bedroom in a way where you don’t fully know what’s happening at the moment, and then that hard cut from him to Iain. Just watching the two of them share a frame —that casting is so crazy to me because I still believe that Iain grows up to be Jim Parsons. They just feel like the same character.

‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale Breakdown: Why Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik Became a Bigger Part of the Ending, Reba’s Return and When the Spinoff Will Pick Up (4)

The story with Mary wanting to get Sheldon and Missy baptized, what was the meaning behind that?

We were talking about after the funeral what happens. We know from “Big Bang Theory” that Mary [then played by Laurie Metcalf, who is the real-life mother to Zoe Perry] is even more religious than her younger self, who was already pretty religious. So it felt like after the funeral, it would be very natural for Mary to throw herself into church even more. And that was sort of the beginning of her road to “Big Bang Theory” Mary. When we were talking about what could happen in the episode involving Sheldon getting ready to go [to Caltech], it felt really real that Mary was dragging her kids to church and in the wake of George Sr.’s death, was really worrying about their souls and their family.

And Connor Kilpatrick, one of our writers, had pitched that, because in the Baptist church you don’t get baptized until you’re a teenager and can choose it for yourself. That would be very important to Mary especially before she sent Sheldon off to college knowing that his soul was safe. It felt like a really believable drive to her. It felt like it gave you a moment at the end where Sheldon could echo the pilot or the early episodes where he said, “I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in you.” And Missy’s anger and disillusionment at Dad dying, leaving her in a slightly more broken place, which is also a thing we know is true from “Big Bang Theory.”

The last shot in the series being young Sheldon walking towards the Caltech building seems like a natural endpoint. Did you have other versions of that for the last shot?

Our last moment was always going to be Sheldon at Caltech. And, as we were writing, it just made sense after the death and the grief of the funeral, to end on a little bit of hope that Sheldon is walking off into this new chapter of his life where we know good things happen to him and a fun little Easter egg that no one will or should know.

We were talking a lot about the professor who stops and asks him if he’s lost. That’s actually David Saltzberg, who’s been our science consultant since the beginning of “Big Bang.” We’ve actually figured out he has probably been involved with this character longer than anyone other than Chuck and Jim Parsons, because he did the original “Big Bang Theory” pilot. All the way up until now, he’s been involved with the show, and so we were talking about who it could be and we had lots of pitches. We ultimately wanted to make sure it wasn’t distracting, that people were going to be like, “Oh, that’s someone famous,” because it’s Sheldon’s moment. But we also knew no one would know who David was but it was our little acknowledgement of how long and how important David’s been to the show, so that’s awesome.

‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale Breakdown: Why Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik Became a Bigger Part of the Ending, Reba’s Return and When the Spinoff Will Pick Up (5)

Let me ask a few “Georgie and Mandy’s First Marriage” questions. Since the title of the show was recently announced, how hard was it to actually name that show?

Names are hard. We were sort of defaulting just calling it “Georgie and Mandy,” which I don’t think was what any of us wanted the final name to be. Chuck had actually pitched “Georgie and Mandy’s First Marriage” and it just seemed interesting and a little provocative and kind of funny, and you’re like, “Well, what does that mean?” We all responded to it right off the bat. But that was probably weeks of tossing names around and emailing names back and forth, and not quite landing on things that we loved, but trying to be in the vein of something. And then Chuck came up with that, which we loved.

The nice thing with watching the “Young Sheldon” finale is thinking that a lot of these people we can see again on that show. Is that part of the plan?

Absolutely. Look, it’s always been our hope that this world can continue into the new show. It’s also important to us that this new show gets its own identity and attitude and isn’t just “Young Sheldon” Season 8. That’s part of the reason we’re going back to multi-cam to really make it feel different. The show needs to establish itself and be its own thing but, that said, this is a world that these characters still live in, and they’re still family and they’re still in Medford. We love these actors, and we’ve always thought that this is a world where these characters can drop in and make appearances and be a part of it from time to time.

When will “Georgie and Mandy’s First Marriage” pick up? Will it be right after “Young Sheldon” ends?

Not much time. A month or two after the finale. The finale, I think, is a month after George’s funeral, so probably maybe another month after that. So it’s just a little bit separated from the death, but not much.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale Breakdown: Why Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik Became a Bigger Part of the Ending, Reba’s Return and When the Spinoff Will Pick Up (2024)


What happened on the season finale of Young Sheldon? ›

During the two-part finale, the Cooper family tried to process the death of George (Lance Barber), who had unexpectedly died from a heart attack. Sheldon (Iain Armitage), in particular, wished he'd done things differently in the final moments the day before his dad went off to work.

Why did Young Sheldon end so abruptly? ›

“There are certain things we know happen in Sheldon's life at 14,” explained Holland. “We started talking about the future of show, and what it looked like. This is the right time for this story to come to an end, knowing that at 14, he goes off to Cal Tech.

Does the actor of Young Sheldon change? ›

Jim Parsons, who played the lead character Sheldon Cooper in the hit sitcom, made an appearance in Thursday's (16 May) series finale of Young Sheldon, alongside Big Bang Theory co-star Mayim Bialik. Young Sheldon follows a younger version of Parsons' character, played in the series by child star Iain Armitage.

How old was Sheldon when the show ended? ›

Assuming that it didn't take long for Amy to get pregnant after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics, it's likely that it has been more than a decade years since the last time the pair was on-screen. At the end of The Big Bang Theory, Amy and Sheldon were both 39 years old.

What is the saddest Young Sheldon episode? ›

Season 1, Episode 3

Knowing that before the series ends, George Sr. will pass away, as confirmed by creators and references by Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory, makes this episode all the more tragic. George Sr. has had several heart attacks throughout the series to date, and this was the first.

What does the end of Young Sheldon mean? ›

Young Sheldon's series finale sets up events in The Big Bang Theory, showing Sheldon's growth as a parent and character. Sheldon's past influences his future, leading him to prioritize his children's interests over his own, like his parents did for him.

Is Young Sheldon autistic in real life? ›

While Sheldon's exceptional abilities point towards giftedness, his behaviors have led some viewers to speculate that he may be on the autism spectrum. However, it is important to note that the character's portrayal is fictional and exaggerated for comedic purposes.

Is Young Sheldon ending in 2024? ›

CBS announced in November that Young Sheldon would return for a seventh and final season in 2024. Since premiering in 2017, the series has become a bona fide hit.

Who married Sheldon in real life? ›

Jim Parsons has been married to his husband, Todd Spiewak, since 2017. Parsons played Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory from 2007 to 2019, during which he was the world's highest-paid TV actor in 2018, according to Forbes, and received four Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.

How many kids did Sheldon and Amy have? ›

In the Young Sheldon episode "Graduation" (season 4 episode 1), Sheldon mentions his son, Leonard Cooper. He says that he wanted to name him Leonard Nimoy Cooper, but his wife Amy objected. In the Young Sheldon series finale, Sheldon is shown to also have a daughter (unnamed) with Amy.

What disorder does Sheldon have? ›

On further inspection, however, one can see that underlying Sheldon's intellectual genius are autistic traits [1]. In the DSM-IV, a clinician could provisionally diagnose Sheldon with Asperger's Disorder.

What happened to Sheldon in the end? ›

Just as the adult Sheldon reminisced on "Big Bang Theory," the 14-year-old Sheldon will finally leave East Texas for the California Institute of Technology.

Is Young Sheldon season 7 the final? ›

'Young Sheldon' is ending after 7 seasons.

Who is Sheldon's daughter? ›

According to the show 's creator , Chuck Lorre , the couple 's daughter 's name is Missy Cooper , after Sheldon 's twin sister . This is a clever nod to the original series , The Big Bang Theory , where Missy Cooper is played by Courtney Henggeler . Yes!

What happened to Sheldon's sister Missy? ›

In The Big Bang Theory, she was revealed to be on the cusp of separating from her husband while she was pregnant with her second child. Luckily, after everything she went through, Young Sheldon revealed that Missy lived happily after The Big Bang Theory.

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