I have to start with a confession: I haven’t watched The Big Bang Theory in about a decade.
That isn’t meant as any sort of commentary, other than to let you know that I’m writing about the finale despite not knowing anything that’s happened on the show beyond some frantic googling.
And if you’re wondering why I’ve been tasked with writing about a show I have, at best, modest knowledge of, it goes back to the recent Pajiba staff gathering, where I had a conversation with Dustin that went roughly like this:
Dustin: You need to write more.
Me: I know. But to be honest, I’ve been having a little trouble finding my lane.
Dustin: I can assign you something, if you want.
Me: Yeah. Maybe?
At that point, Dustin smiled and his eyes turned black and the next thing I remember is waking up the next morning with a hangover and a message formed out of canned bread ordering me to WRITE ABOUT THE BIG BANG THEORY FINALE.
Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the actual episode. It worked just fine, even for someone who hasn’t seen the show in years. They hit all the right notes for a celebration-style finale: it still felt, functionally, like an episode of the show, they threw in the requisite cameos for beloved recurring characters, and everyone got some version of a happy ending. Considering how difficult it is to end a long-running television show (see Thrones, Game of), it was certainly a successful, fitting ending for the long-running sitcom.
But there was one thing they did that was a genuine surprise, and it came in the opening credits:
For those of you not counting, that was twelve credited writers. They gave credit for the finale to every writer on staff.
This just isn’t something that happens.
Series finales are almost always written by the showrunner. Which, on some level, makes sense — after all, the showrunner is usually the one who has the best grasp on what the show is, and almost certainly has a clear vision of what the ending should look and feel like. And even when the finale is entrusted to someone else on staff, it’s an upper-level writer who has, by that point, earned the trust of the showrunner, the network, and the fans.
But you just don’t see twelve credited writers on anything, ever. Even on a multi-camera comedy like The Big Bang Theory, where everyone has a hand in every script (and Chuck Lorre has stated in the past that episodes are written in the room, meaning they work together on every single script, rather than having one or two writers write the first draft before having the others give notes/pitch jokes to improve it), credit is handed off from writer to writer, rather than shared by everyone at once. But this time, for the last time, every writer on the show got to have their name attached to the elusive “Written By” title card.
Ultimately, by sharing the credit (and the money, as on-screen credit is tied to script fees and residual payments), the gesture served as a nice reminder of the level of collaboration that goes into television, and that even when the success of a show is credited to a select few — the creators, the stars, the high-level producers — everyone had a hand in the end product, and here, everyone gets to be recognized for that, one last time. It’s a sentiment that’s paralleled by the ending the finale itself, as Sheldon throws out his self-centered Nobel Prize acceptance speech so he can thank and recognize his friends, hitting us with the familiar-yet-valuable lesson that nobody accomplishes anything alone.
Fans of the show will no doubt remember the finale for the happy ending for the characters, or their favorite jokes, or that last, final image of the whole gang sitting in the living room together, eating Chinese takeout, as Barenaked Ladies plays them out.
But I’m going to remember those writing credits, and that little hat tip to the fact that indeed, nobody, not even insanely powerful television showrunners, accomplishes anything alone.
Header Image Source: CBS/WBTV