The Big Bang Theory kicks off its final season Monday, but from a storytelling perspective it's business as usual for the stubbornly consistent comedy. Showrunner Steve Holland says that while the season will be building to the ending, it won't be a totally backward-looking, sentimental affair.
"We have an idea for where to end the show that I think will be really good. I'm really excited about it," Holland tells TV Guide. "But I think the season itself is gonna feel like a good, solid season." It will stay doing what it's always been doing: telling funny episodic stories about the seven core characters.
He says that the writers went into Season 12 knowing it could be the last, so they're not holding any ideas back. And the casual conversations they'd been having for a long time about a potential series finale are finally becoming real. "There are some things we'll plant that we'll build to, but I think the season itself will be exactly the season it would have been no matter what except for the finale," he says. And he does know what the finale will be, even if he doesn't exactly know exactly how they're going to get there, since The Big Bang Theory doesn't arc out seasons in advance.
Many familiar faces are already set to return, including Jerry O'Connell as Sheldon's (Jim Parsons) brother George, Bob Newhart as Professor Proton and Keith Carradine as Penny's (Kaley Cuoco) dad, and Holland hopes to have back guest stars like Laurie Metcalf as Sheldon's mother and Christine Baranski as Leonard's (Johnny Galecki) mother. But these are all people who would be on the show anyway. They won't force guest appearances for nostalgia's sake.
"We don't want the last season to be a rotating parade of guest stars — it still has to be about these characters — but there are certainly people who've been important to the show who we'd love to have back on before it's over," Holland says.
As for specific series-ending storylines, like Raj (Kunal Nayyar) finally finding love and any more couples having babies, you'll just have to keep watching, but Raj developments are for sure coming — he'll ask his father to arrange a marriage for him after he realizes his way of doing things isn't working anymore. His new love interest is named Anu and will be played by Future Man's Rati Gupta.
The Big Bang Theory Season 12 premieres Monday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c on CBS before moving to its regular time Thursdays at 8/7c on Sept. 27.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)