How Many People Watched the Last Episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’?

The Big Bang Theory went out with a bang on Thursday night. The last-ever episode of the long-running CBS sitcom pulled in a record number of viewers for its hour-long May 16 finale, which saw Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) win the Nobel Prize for physics.

During her Nobel acceptance speech, Amy urged young girls to consider a career in the sciences, while Sheldon thanked his friends for putting him up with him over the years. Meanwhile, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) learned they were expecting a baby, and viewers finally got to see Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette’s (Melissa Rauch) kids. Plus, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) found took Sarah Michelle Gellar as his date to the Nobel ceremony. Oh, and someone finally fixed the elevator.

18 million people watched the episode

The Big Bang Theory has been one of the most popular broadcast shows for years, so it’s no surprise that its last hurrah drew a big audience. Just under 18 million people tuned in to watch the last two episodes, “The Change Constant” and “The Stockholm Syndrome.” That’s the most people who have watched the show since its Season 9 premiere in 2015, according to Deadline. The last episodes of the show had a 3.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic.

The show, which premiered in 2007, is CBS’s top comedy and has averaged 13 million viewers this season.

It’s not the most-watched finale ever

Big Bang Theory
Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik in The Big Bang Theory. | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

In these days of fractured TV viewership, The Big Bang Theory’s 18 million viewers is impressive. But it’s a far cry from the huge numbers of people who tuned in to watch when shows like Friends and Seinfeld ended.

In 2005, 32.9 million people watched the last episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. One year earlier, Friends took its final bow before 65.9 million viewers. And in 1998, 76.3 million people watched the last episode of Seinfeld.

The series finale of M.A.S.H. still holds the top spot as the most-watched episode of any TV show. The February 1983 episode was must-see TV for 105 million Americans. In fact, it was the most-watched TV program ever until Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.

Will more people watch the Game of Thrones finale?

The Big Bang Theory isn’t the only massively popular show ending this May. On Sunday, the last episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones will air, and a record number of people are expected to be watching to find out who ultimately wins the battle for the Iron Throne.

So far, Season 8 of Thrones has been averaging 11.6 million live viewers per episode, with the most recent episode, “The Bells” bringing in 12.5 million, according to the Observer.

Once delayed streaming and DVR viewings are included, the number of viewers for Game of Thrones swells, with more than 18 million people watching “The Bells,” an all-time high for the series. The show has averaged 43 million viewers per episode so far this season, according to HBO. Based on those numbers, it seems likely that it will handily beat The Big Bang Theory in total viewers for the finale.

In fact, the end of Game of Thrones is so anticipated that an estimated 10.7 million people plan to either skip work on Sunday to watch the episode live or call-in on Monday to cope with the fallout, a survey by the Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated found.