‘Young Sheldon’: How Producers Addressed The Inevitable Tragedy That Rocks The Cooper Family


SPOILER ALERT! This story contains plot points from the May 11 episode of Young Sheldon on CBS.

For fans of The Big Bang Theory, Thursday’s episode of Young Sheldon shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. With the May 16 series finale only a week away, viewers were waiting for the comedy’s title character to face a major family tragedy before going off to Caltech.

It finally happened in the episode titled “A New Home and a Traditional Texas Torture.”

RELATED: CBS Sets Season-Finale Airdates Including Series-Ending Episodes Of ‘Young Sheldon’, ‘Bob ❤ Abishola’ & ‘S.W.A.T.’

Off camera, George Cooper Sr. (Lance Barber) died from a heart attack. His two best friends delivered the tragic news to his family.

Here, executive producer Steve Holland explains the timing of George’s death and why it was important to keep it out of the final episode of the series.

DEADLINE: Is it weird writing about an outcome that fans of The Big Bang Theory already knew about and were expecting in Young Sheldon‘s final season?

STEVE HOLLAND: I mean, it’s a little bit of a challenge. There are some pieces of the lore and some pieces of the ending that people know. But I think for us it’s also about trying to tell those stories in ways that are still surprising. Especially since the show has gone to Netflix, I think there is an audience that is younger and less familiar with Big Bang. So I actually don’t know the answer of how many people expect certain things to happen in the finale versus how many people will be surprised by them. It’s a good question.

DEADLINE: Was it established in Big Bang that George died of a heart attack?

HOLLAND: I don’t remember if it was sort of an implied heart attack. I’m not sure if we actually ever said heart attack. It’s what we had always thought, internally. We know Sheldon’s dad passed away when he was 14, but I don’t remember if we ever specifically said heart attack.

DEADLINE: Love the bait and switch with the ladder and how you put George on top of it to check out the roof!

HOLLAND: You get nervous anytime he’s wandering into traffic or going up the ladder. You’ve got to be nervous about what’s going to happen!

DEADLINE: Were there long discussions about whether to have the heart attack occur off camera?

HOLLAND: It was always going to be off camera. We didn’t want to witness that moment of his death. We always knew we were going to deal with his death this season, but we never thought about seeing it on camera. So really the discussion was when it would happen in the course of the last few episodes and how the family would get the news.

DEADLINE: Why did you give him his dream job before he died?

HOLLAND: Because we’re mean! For a couple reasons. We wanted to give George a win after all these years. Because there’s a segment of the audience that is expecting the death to happen, and they assumed it would be this season, we thought, ‘well, maybe if we put it in episode 12, not even the penultimate episode, maybe that’ll be more of a surprise.’ And so then it’s about figuring out, well, what that episode is. And it felt like it’s a nice way, even though slightly mean way, to give George a little bit of a win and to have an episode feel like it was about something that wasn’t just about treading water until you get to this last moment. I think it makes that last moment even more surprising and impactful.

DEADLINE: So you knew for a while you didn’t want him to die in the final episode?

HOLLAND: We talked about it. I think early on our thought was probably that it would be the final episode or that the funeral would be the final episode. As we were talking about it, I think Chuck Lorre said the show has been such a positive, loving family show. Let’s not leave the audience wallowing in grief. Maybe there’s a way to do that and then move past it and show the family starting to put itself back together and end on a little bit more of a moment of hope.

The series finale of Young Sheldon airs Thursday, May 16, in two back-to-back episodes.

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