While has always been a ratings success, a look back on spinoff’s most-watched episodes reveals a little more about each season’s biggest outing. took a big risk when the show departed from the formula that made its predecessor so successful. Where was a traditional multi-camera hang-out show complete with a laugh track, is a nostalgic single-camera family sitcom with a narrator. Y risked losing viewers by changing the style and tone of the franchise’s universe, but this proved a canny decision as the spinoff became a big ratings hit over the years.
While prove that the show took a few seasons to hit its stride, immediately benefited from the success of its predecessor. Before the spinoff even began, viewers were eager to see Sheldon’s younger self and find out what his childhood was like. This meant that came burdened with big expectations, but it also ensured that the spinoff had a built-in audience. This viewer base tuned in for the show’s first episode, resulting in impressive ratings for the pilot. After that, the show’s history grows more complicated.
It is not unusual for a TV show’s pilot to be its most-watched episode. New shows are relentlessly promoted and viewers are most likely to tune in when there is no story to catch up on. However, it is still undeniably impressive that season 1, episode 1, “Pilot,” commanded an audience of 17.21 million. This is close to the highest audience numbers that ever earned and, didn’t include many A-list names, that is an astounding achievement. However, things soon returned to normality as the remaining episodes of season 1 commanded a sizable, but not quite as huge audience.
Most of season 1 earned between 11 and 13 million viewers, with the show’s debut outing never reaching the heights of its pilot again. However, these numbers are still massive. For a frame of reference, the most-viewed episodes of both and did not earn 13 million viewers combined. In this context, it is understandable that season 1 struggled to make its way past 13 million viewers, although the show’s fortunes among viewers changed many times over in the years that followed. By season 2, the show’s average viewership didn’t increase until the finale.
season 2 lingered between 10 and 11 million viewers, never coming close to the lofty achievement of its pilot’s ratings. However, season 2, episode 22, “A Swedish Science Thing and the Equation for Toast,” did manage to net 13.6 million viewers, and it is not hard to guess why. While all the time, the show still has some reverence for its predecessor. This is understandable since bringing back ’s heroes in a closing montage was enough to earn ’s season 2 finale higher ratings than any of the preceding season’s other episodes.
While it is obvious that nostalgia for was a big factor in the success of “A Swedish Science Thing and the Equation for Toast,” it is not quite as easy to work out why ’s season 3 finale managed to earn a comparatively whopping 10.4 million viewers. Later season finales would focus on dramatic events, but season 3, episode 21, “A Secret Letter and a Lowly Disc of Processed Meat,” wasn’t an especially shocking outing. This episode did set up as the character received his first communication from CalTech, but not much else of note occurred.
While season 4, episode 9, “Crappy Frozen Ice Cream and an Organ Grinder's Monkey,” is not a particularly dramatic installment of the series either, it is easy to see why this one proved a standout success with viewers. With a plot that bounces between Dale and Meemaw’s blossoming romance, Georgie’s sweet support of his little sister Missy, and Sheldon’s struggles with insincere professional fawning, “Crappy Frozen Ice Cream and an Organ Grinder's Monkey” is a episode that gives its entire ensemble something to do. Each of the subplots is strong, which explains why this episode earned 7.87 million viewers.
While are understandable, this episode even finds time to provide a root for one of Sheldon’s silliest traits. It is almost impossible to understand how 's version of Sheldon made it so far in the world of academia when the character can be so condescending and often outright rude to coworkers and investors alike. However, in “Crappy Frozen Ice Cream and an Organ Grinder's Monkey,” Sheldon’s brazen honesty wins over his newest investor and this provides a big payday for the hero’s college, which explains why he stuck to this approach as he grew older.
In season 5, episode 12, “A Pink Cadillac and a Glorious Tribal Dance,” the show’s eponymous hero attends his first comic convention. It might seem like a surprise that, in a season that includes threats to George and Mary’s marriage and Georgie and Mandy getting pregnant, this episode proved a standout success with viewers. However, this is likely becausethe show did what it does best in “A Pink Cadillac and a Glorious Tribal Dance.” The episode drew in 7.98 million viewers who tuned in to watch a younger version of Sheldon navigate adolescence, and that is just what they got.
Perhaps the most surprisingly successful episode is season 6, episode 12, “A Baby Shower and a Testosterone-Rich Banter.” Earlier seasons of earned high ratings for offering viewers a glimpse of other characters from when they were young, or providing a comedic standalone adventure for Sheldon after a string of more dramatic episodes. However, “A Baby Shower and a Testosterone-Rich Banter” earned 7.73 million viewers with a largely forgettable story wherein Georgie and Mandy’s families bond during their tense baby shower. While not ’s best episode, this one does prove that the show can mine laughs out of the simplest situations.