As Young Sheldon Comes to an End, Is It Time to Accept That the Family Sitcom Is on Its Way Out?

Spoilers

It’s the end of an era.

Young Sheldon Season 7 wraps up the family-oriented prequel to The Big Bang Theory, leaving a hole in CBS’ schedule that will be hard to fill.

The news that the series was ending has been heartbreaking for many reasons. Young Sheldon features sharp, snarky characters, satirizes small-town life, and offers a nostalgic look back at life in the early 1990s.

Young Sheldon is one of the last family sitcoms.

These types of shows were popular during the period that the series is set in; during the late 1980s and early ’90s, there were a ton of comedies featuring families with kids, such as Family Ties, Growing Pains, the original version of The Wonder Years, The Hogan Family, and many others.

These types of sitcoms aren’t nearly as common nowadays. Many shows feature kids, but they’re often tangential to the main plot — The Neighborhood‘s Grover often doesn’t do much more than offer a sarcastic line or two about how his parents behave, for example.

And when a new family show is greenlit, it often doesn’t last. The reboot of The Wonder Years was canceled after two seasons despite the unique perspective it offered, along with solid family-related comedy.

Young Sheldon Had The Advantage of Being a Prequel

Young Sheldon lasted as long as it did partially because it wasn’t a standalone show. It was a prequel to one of the most popular sitcoms of recent years.

The Big Bang Theory was still a top-rated show after 12 years and might still be on today if Jim Parsons had wanted to continue playing Sheldon.

This gave Young Sheldon a leg up over other family sitcoms because it had a built-in fanbase from the beginning. Of course, if fans hated it, they would have stopped tuning in because it wasn’t like the series they’d fallen in love with, so there’s a market for family sitcoms today.

Still, this advantage allowed it to go on for seven years, much longer than many sitcoms, family or otherwise, last.

Once Young Sheldon Goes, There Are Few Family Sitcoms Left

Young Sheldon isn’t the last family sitcom on the air, thankfully, though there are very few left.

CBC’s Son of a Critch has been airing on CW. This Canadian sitcom is similar to Young Sheldon and Wonder Years in that it takes place during the late 1980s and is a look back at the adult narrator’s childhood.

Unfortunately, the CW has aired almost all its current episodes, and the CBC has not decided whether to renew it for a fourth season. If this series ends, that will be a double whammy in the face of Young Sheldon’s wrap-up.

There’s still hope, however, because Young Sheldon is getting its own spin-off. Georgie and Mandy will soon begin their series, raising their baby together and possibly having more children.

According to The Big Bang Theory, Georgie was divorced twice by the time Sheldon and Amy married, so this series won’t have a happy ending (unless the writers decided to ignore this part of the canon.) However, it may still fit the bill if you’re hungry for family sitcoms.

Viewers Are Hungry for Family Stories, So Why Are There So Few of Them?

Many TV fans lament the loss of family stories, whether in comedy or drama. In addition to shows like Young Sheldon, viewers couldn’t get enough of This Is Us, and Blue Bloods’ cancellation leaves a huge hole for people who love family dramas.

If that’s the case, why are there such few family-oriented shows on TV? The golden age for family sitcoms was and will always be the 1980s,  but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the idea altogether forty years later.

Many modern shows have mixed family issues into the series instead of billing themselves as family comedies or dramas.

Law & Order: SVU Season 1 started this trend in 1999 when the series offered subplots involving Stabler’s family instead of being pure crime drama, and many other series followed suit.

Similarly, many sitcoms nowadays have family elements without marketing themselves as family sitcoms. For example, The Neighborhood recently had a subplot about Dave’s father allowing 13-year-old Grover to practice driving his car.

Sitcoms Have Evolved Over the Years

Family sitcoms aren’t the only thing on their way out — the traditional sitcom ceased to exist long ago.

Young Sheldon is a prime example of this trend. In earlier times, sitcoms involved self-contained stories that were supposed to make us laugh. That’s why fan groups for classic sitcoms like I Love Lucy or The Golden Girls are full of posts about contradictions between one episode and another.

These sitcom episodes were one-off stories, and there was no such thing as syndicating episodes in perpetuity, so writers didn’t care if a character had no musical talent in one episode and was a brilliant piano player in another.

Today’s sitcoms, however, often include continuing stories and are more a blend of comedy and drama than pure comedy.

Young Sheldon did this when it introduced Mandy’s pregnancy, the community and family response to Georgie fathering a child at 17, and the family pitching in to care for the baby after her birth.

There will likely be more such drama/comedy blends before the series ends, as George Sr has been confirmed to die before Young Sheldon wraps up.

This comedy/drama blend on many sitcoms explains why there aren’t many family comedies anymore. It’s unnecessary for a comedy to market itself that way when it can include dramatic subplots involving parents, grandparents, or children.

Even shows that are supposed to be family comedies don’t have to focus strictly on parents and kids, as CBS’ Extended Family demonstrates.

This series’ premise is that a divorced couple takes turns living in the family home so the kids don’t have to move, but not every episode involves the children.

Sometimes, the kids are shuffled off to friends’ houses so the parents can deal with adult issues revolving around their new relationships.

So, is the family sitcom dead? Not quite, but Young Sheldon’s ending doesn’t help things.

What do you think, family comedy fanatics?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.

Young Sheldon’s final season airs on CBS on Thursdays at 8/7c.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.

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