NEW YORK -- As the time approaches to say goodbye to Sheldon, Amy, Leonard, Penny and the gang, the CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory" hit a season high in popularity last week.
The 14.2 million viewers who tuned in to Thursday's episode will surely be topped, since television's most popular comedy calls it quits after 12 seasons this spring.
Not everyone gets to go out on top, and the cast and crew of "The Big Bang Theory" gathered last week for a celebratory ceremony. The Burbank, California, studio on the Warner Bros. lot where the show is filmed was dedicated to the comedy. While there for a champagne toast, creator Chuck Lorre credited the crew for never "mailing it in" during 12 years.
The affection underlying all of the characters' relationships, even if they aren't very good at expressing it, is something that viewers can sense, Lorre said.
"They're not blood relatives but they behave like a family," he said. "That's aspirational. That's what we all want."
The Lorre-created spinoff, "Young Sheldon," was the second most-watched comedy of last week, also with a season high in viewers, the Nielsen company said. So that bodes well for the character popularized by Jim Parsons to continue long after Parsons has stopped portraying him.
And the message in a fortune cookie given to set visitors last week was another reminder that the characters will never really go away. "If you don't believe in goodbyes, there's always syndication," it said.
With the comedies and the Grammy Awards, CBS easily won the week in prime time with an average of 7.7 million viewers. NBC had 4.9 million, ABC had 4.1 million, Fox had 2.8 million, Univision had 1.54 million, ION Television had 1.51 million, Telemundo had 1.2 million and the CW had 1 million.
Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 3.14 million viewers in prime time. MSNBC had 2.02 million, HGTV had 1.36 million, History had 1.26 million and Hallmark had 1.21 million.
ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.4 million viewers. NBC's "Nightly News" was second with 8.8 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.7 million.
For the week of Feb. 4-10, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "The Grammy Awards," CBS, 19.88 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 14.16 million; "Young Sheldon," CBS, 12.14 million; "State of the Union," Fox News, 11.29 million; "State of the Union Analysis" (10:30-10:38 p.m. ET), Fox News, 10.72 million; "America's Got Talent Champions," NBC, 9.83 million; "State of the Union Intro" (9-9:06 p.m. ET), Fox News, 9.44 million; "Chicago Med," NBC, 9.38 million; "Chicago Fire," NBC, 8.8 million; "State of the Union Response," Fox News, 7.9 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.