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9 Nerdy Shows to Watch if You Miss The Big Bang Theory

How big is your bang?

liam-mathews-headshot2.jpg
Liam Mathews

There may not ever be a comedy series as big as The Big Bang Theory again. The megahit series ran for 12 seasons on CBS, winning numerous Emmys, including four Lead Actor trophies for Jim Parsons, one of the the show's two breakout stars. Parsons and Kaley Cuoco became the biggest names, but the chemistry (get it?) between the whole cast is what made it so successful. Since it ended in 2019, no comedy has reached the same level of popularity, partially because streaming has changed how popularity gets measured, and partially because no one is making sitcoms that aspire to the same type of big-tent popularity (though Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady just signed a new deal with Warner Bros., the studio that made The Big Bang Theory, so HBO Max might want him to try to recreate the formula). 

The fact that no show has stepped up to take The Big Bang Theory's place makes us miss it even more. Fortunately, there are plenty of other shows with something Big Bang-y about them. They're not replacements, but they will make you laugh.  

Watch The Big Bang Theory Now on HBO Max

We have recommendations for comedies and light dramas with will they/won't theys like the one between Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Cuoco), oddball breakout characters like Sheldon (Parsons), a nerdy appreciation for the scientific, a Big Bang Theory cast member, or some combination of them all. We left off Friends, which has a similar friend group dynamic, and Two and a Half Men, which was also produced by super-producer Chuck Lorre and set up The Big Bang Theory's success, because they're a little too obvious. But all of these shows will have you saying "bing bong." (You thought we were going to say "bazinga," didn't you? Bazinga!) 



Call Me Kat

Swoosie Kurtz and Mayim Bialik, Call Me Kat

Swoosie Kurtz and Mayim Bialik, Call Me Kat

Lisa Rose/FOX

The Big Bang Theory veteran (and Jeopardy! host) Mayim Bialik, who played Sheldon's wife Amy Farrah Fowler, a brilliant neurobiologist who didn't always understand social cues, has her own starring role in this Fox sitcom, which will return for Season 3 in the fall. She plays Kat, the owner of a cat cafe, who's 40, single, and dances to the beat of her own drum. The series follows Kat as she tries to square her desire for a romantic relationship with the fact that she's actually happy with her life as it is. Kat is somewhat similar to Amy in her quirky, independent personality — though unlike Amy, she talks directly to the camera. Call Me Kat isn't as funny as The Big Bang Theory, but it has a lot more cute cats, so it has that going for it. And speaking of Mayim Bialik, we recommend you watch Jeopardy!, too. It's still great!



The Flight Attendant

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant

Phil Caruso/HBO Max

After The Big Bang Theory ended, Kaley Cuoco found a project that plays to the strengths of her bubbly personality while allowing her to push herself in a darker, more dramatic direction. The Flight Attendant, which Cuoco executive-produces, is a fun, fast-paced thriller about Cassie Bowden (Cuoco), who in Season 1 is prone to drinking too many of those airline-sized liquor bottles and making some bad decisions. One of those bad decisions gets her caught up in an international conspiracy after she wakes up next to the murdered body of the handsome passenger (Michiel Huisman) she hooked up with in Bangkok. In Season 2, she's sober, but still getting entangled in dangerous globetrotting mysteries. If Penny was your favorite part of The Big Bang Theory, you have to watch The Flight Attendant, which is basically what would happen if the FBI suspected Penny of espionage. 



Young Sheldon

Iain Armitage, Young Sheldon

Iain Armitage, Young Sheldon

Robert Voets/2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment

Well, we have to include one super-obvious show, because it's essential for any big Bang fan. Young Sheldon is The Big Bang Theory's spin-off about the early life of its most popular character, telling the story of the boy genius (Iain Armitage) as he grows up misunderstood in East Texas in the late '80s and early '90s. His parents (Zoe Perry and Lance Barber) love and protect him, but they can't always relate to him. It's a cute, Wonder Years-influenced sitcom that's more family-friendly than The Big Bang Theory and has a very different look and style (it's a single-camera comedy). But Sheldon was always Sheldon, and Jim Parsons as grown-up Sheldon narrates from the future.


More recommendations:


How I Met Your Mother

Cobie Smulders, Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother

Cobie Smulders, Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother

CBS Photo Archive, CBS via Getty Images

For much of The Big Bang Theory's run, it shared space on the CBS schedule with How I Met Your Mother, which also followed a group of mostly single friends as they fell in and out of love. The New York City-set series has a unique frame device for a sitcom, in that the show is a story being told by Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) in the future to his children about his life as a young man. Like TBBT, it's an ensemble comedy with one breakout character who puts the show on his back. HIMYM's version of Sheldon is Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), a womanizing d-bag you can't help but love, because there's just something about him. You can skip the new spin-off How I Met Your Father, though.



New Girl

Hannah Simone, Max Greenfield, Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, and Lamorne Morris, New Girl

Hannah Simone, Max Greenfield, Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, and Lamorne Morris, New Girl

Ray Mickshaw/FOX

This highly rewatchable Fox sitcom is, like The Big Bang Theory and countless other sitcoms, about the romantic ups and downs of a group of friends in New York or Los Angeles (Los Angeles, in this case). What sets it apart are the truly hilarious performances from Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, and Lamorne Morris, as well as the mostly well-executed series-long will they/won't they between Johnson's Nick Miller and Zooey Deschanel's Jessica Day. It's like if Penny was adorkable and Leonard was a total crank. 



Scorpion

Elyes Gabel, Scorpion

Elyes Gabel, Scorpion

Bill Inoshita, CBS

Scorpion was conceived as a thriller counterpart to the nerdy comedy of The Big Bang Theory. The premise is basically "What if the Big Bangers were action stars?" The four-season CBS action drama follows a computer genius named Walter O'Brien (Elyes Gabel), who leads a team of super-smart scientists, hackers, and other assorted nerds as they carry out tech security missions for clients, most commonly the Department of Homeland Security, but also private individuals and businesses who need their expertise. The Penny role is filled by Katharine McPhee, who plays a non-nerdy waitress who helps the geeks understand the "real world." 



Bones

Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Bones

Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Bones

Patrick McElhenney/FOX

Another nerdy light drama that TBBT fans might find appealing is Bones. Emily Deschanel plays Temperance "Bones" Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who helps FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) solve crimes with the help of science. Bones has a Sheldon-like lack of social skills, and there are several seasons of will they/won't they between Booth and Brennan. And while Bones isn't exactly a comedy, it provides plenty of laughs. 



Mom

Anna Faris and Allison Janney, Mom

Anna Faris and Allison Janney, Mom

Robert Voets, WARNER BROS.

This underrated CBS sitcom quietly and consistently ran for eight seasons from 2013 to 2021. It's executive-produced by TBBT's Chuck Lorre, one of the most successful comedy producers of all time, and tells the story of Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris) and her mother Bonnie (Allison Janney), who are both in Alcoholics Anonymous and trying to get their lives back on track. Mom had heart like The Big Bang Theory developed in its later seasons from the start, and covers addiction and recovery more accurately than most shows. Janney won back-to-back supporting actress Emmys in 2014 and 2015. 



3rd Rock from the Sun 

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Carsey-Werner Co/Everett Collection, ©Carsey-Werner Co/Everett Collection / Everett Collection

This sitcom ran from 1996 to 2001 on NBC and is still funny today. It stars John Lithgow as the leader of a group of aliens who are on a research mission to Earth and pose as a family in order to observe how these curious human creatures behave. And they're not very good at it. It has a similar quirky sense of humor to The Big Bang Theory, and is about a group of outsiders finding their place in the world. Lithgow's character Dick Solomon even worked at a university, just like the Big Bang gang.