Young Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory prequel series about the Sheldon Cooper's years as a child prodigy growing up in Texas with a family who loves him but isn't always on his smarty-pants wavelength, has grown into a long-running hit show in its own right. It's not as popular as the megahit sitcom from which it was spun off, but nothing else is, either, and Young Sheldon is still by far the most-watched comedy on broadcast TV right now. That's why CBS has already renewed it through Season 7. Season 6 premieres Sept. 29 on CBS.
Season 5, which featured the show's milestone 100th episode, found the series taking on some slightly more serious material, with Sheldon's (Iain Armitage) teenage brother Georgie (Montana Jordan) getting an older woman named Mandy (Emily Osment, who will be a series regular in Season 6) pregnant. It will be interesting to see if the show continues this shift next season. But even though the show and the actors on it are growing up — Sheldon's voice dropped! — Young Sheldon remains a light and sweet family comedy with a lot of heart.
If you miss Sheldon and his big bang theories and can't wait for the fall semester to start, we've rounded up some shows like Young Sheldon to watch in the interim. Our list includes other comedies about super-smart kids, period piece family sitcoms, and shows with a similar family dynamic. (And if you miss The Big Bang Theory, we have some recommendations for that, too.)
Young Sheldon's structure — an adult man tells stories about his childhood via voiceover narration from the future — owes everything to the original Wonder Years, which ran from 1988 to 1993 on ABC. The original is a highly influential show, and it's worth checking out if you've never watched it or haven't watched it in a long time. The contemporary reboot is also worth checking out. It's the same premise, where a man looks back on growing up in the tumultuous late '60s and early '70s, but the family is Black and the show came out post-2020, so the perspective is different. Elisha "EJ" Williams gives a winning performance as 12-year-old Dean Williams, and Don Cheadle narrates as grown-up Dean in the same manner that Jim Parsons narrates as grown Sheldon. It's a funny and thoughtful show about an interesting time in American history.
Currently the longest-running live-action broadcast comedy on the air, The Goldbergs is heading into its 10th season of Wonder Years-influenced family comedy. Set in suburban Pennsylvania in "1980-something," the series is seen through the backward-looking eyes of Adam Goldberg, a character based on the show's creator played by Sean Giambrone in the past and Patton Oswalt in the narration. It places a larger emphasis on references to '80s pop culture than Young Sheldon, but it's another easygoing family comedy set in the same era. It had a short-lived '90s spin-off called Schooled.
Yet another period piece family comedy, Fresh Off the Boat ran for six seasons on ABC. Taking place between 1995 and 2000, FotB follows the Huangs, a Taiwanese American family, as they move from Washington, D.C. to a white neighborhood in Orlando, Fla., where family patriarch Louis (Randall Park) has opened a steakhouse. Fresh Off the Boat also used the Wonder Years structure, with chef Eddie Huang narrating the show, which was based on his 2013 memoir. Unlike the other shows, Fresh Off the Boat abandoned the structure after Season 1 when Huang left, after which point it stopped being told fully from the character Eddie Huang's (Hudson Yang) perspective and shifted more focus to his parents. Young Sheldon fans will be comfortable with that, because the show is as much about Sheldon's family as it is about him.
Only one more Wonder Years-type sitcom, we promise. This one is inspired by creator Chris Rock's childhood growing up in Brooklyn. It's set in the 1980s, and follows Chris (Tyler James Williams) as he navigates school and family life with his siblings and his parents Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) and Julius (Terry Crews). Like Young Sheldon, it's a warm and funny mixture of comedy and life lessons, with an awareness of race and class that sets it apart from other 2000s sitcoms. As you might be able to guess, Chris Rock narrates.
This classic sitcom is not influenced by The Wonder Years, but it is about a boy genius. Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) is a kid from a working class family who has an IQ of 165. Unlike Sheldon, who loves how his intelligence sets him apart from other kids his age, Malcolm is a normal kid who wants to fit in and goof around with his brothers Reese (Justin Berfield) and Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan). Malcolm in the Middle is one of the best sitcoms of the '00s, winning seven Emmys and a Peabody. It features excellent performances from Muniz, Bryan Cranston, and Jane Kaczmarek. It wasn't a period piece when it was on, but now it's an incredible time capsule of the early 2000s. Teenagers in 2022 dress like Malcolm did then, with layered t-shirts and baggy cargo pants.
Speaking of the Middle, we also recommend The Middle, another blue collar sitcom with a similar family dynamic to Young Sheldon. The Heck family consists of two boys, slow-witted older brother Axl (Charlie McDermott) and younger brother Brick (Atticus Shaffer), who's very smart and different from other kids, and one girl, excitable middle child Sue (Eden Sher). The parents are Frankie (Patricia Heaton), the narrator, who worries about her kids like Mary (Zoe Perry), and Mike (Neil Flynn), who's somewhat emotionally reserved but loving and supportive in his own way, like George (Lance Barber). It's an underrated sitcom that quietly ran for nine seasons on ABC between 2009 and 2018.
This Netflix one-season wonder from co-creator Mario Lopez is the perfect middle between The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. Like TBBT, it's a multi-cam sitcom with a laugh track about a scientist in Pasadena. Like Young Sheldon, that scientist is a child prodigy who's not as gifted socially as she is cerebrally. She's the titular Ashley Garcia (Paulina Chávez), a 15-year-old rocket scientist who moves in with her uncle Victor (Jencarlos Canela) while she works for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A lot of the humor comes from Victor, a high school football coach, and his jock student athletes trying to understand the genius in their midst, while she tries to live like a normal teenager. The mildly risqué jokes are a lot like Young Sheldon's.
Young Sheldon Season 5 is available to stream on Paramount+.