As much as fans were shocked by the recent news that the current 12th season of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory will be the show’s last, the cast, it has been revealed, was equally caught off-guard. As per the normal routine, they were expecting negotiations for a 13th and possibly 14th season between the network and the studio to begin. But then Jim Parsons let it be known that he was ready to move on, and all discussions came to a close. Almost immediately this has been heralded as the show’s final year.

But is it? Or does the possibility for a spin-off actually exist? 

Actress Kaley Cuoco, for one, certainly seems open to the idea. As reported by Good Housekeeping, she recently commented, “I am so sad that it’s ending. For the record, I would have done 20 more years. I think we were all hoping for a giant ‘bazinga!'” She added, “If [executive producer and co-creator Chuck Lorre] called me and said ‘Let’s do something tomorrow,’ I would.”

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CBS

So, it seems, would executive producer Steve Holland, who was asked about a potential spin-off by Glamour, which triggered this response: “Honestly, I don’t know. It’s not something that we’re thinking of right now. We still have 20 more episodes to shoot and end the season, so I guess… I don’t know. My gut instinct on it is that this show works because of this ensemble, these people together. You pull a piece out, and it’s not that. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a great idea out there for another show.”

Back in July, during a panel for the show at San Diego Comic-Con, actor Kunal Nayyar was asked about a possible spin-off for his character, Raj, triggering the actor to comment, “I enjoy being the single guy. Seriously, it’s really fun. You’d get to explore different aspects and have many potential guest stars.” 

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CBS

When The Big Bang Theory began a dozen seasons ago, the real focus was on Johnny Galecki’s Leonard Hofstadter, Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper, and Kaley’s Penny, with Simon Helberg’s Howard Wolowitz and Kunal’s Rajesh Koothrappali part of the ensemble, but in more supporting roles. As time went on, though, all five became a true ensemble, and fleshed out from there with the addition of Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rosetenkowski (eventually Wolowitz), and Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler (eventually Cooper). Beyond that, there have been a number of important recurring characters, including Kevin Susman’s Stuart Bloom.

The point is that the longer the show has gone on, the larger the ensemble has become, and the more the laughs have grown from each member of the group. At the same time, there’s no question that Jim’s Sheldon became the stand-out character in the same way that Henry Winkler’s Fonzie did decades ago on Happy Days, and his loss probably would have been a devastating one to the show. But here’s the thing: unlike Happy Days, there wasn’t another character around who was interesting enough to sustain a series without him. The actors on The Big Bang Theory, however, are all really strong, having crafted out genuine human beings with real relationships that could continue if Sheldon (and presumably Amy) were to depart.

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CBS

A more appropriate comparison might be the long-running MASH. That was a series with an ensemble with the focus on Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce and Wayne Rogers’ Trapper John, and there was a real question of whether or not the show could go on when Wayne decided to leave. It did. In fact, it soared with the arrival of Mike Farrell as B.J. Hunnicut. Additionally, the show went on to great success with other cast defections as well. It was the strength of the actors who remained, new ones brought in, and the writers that allowed MASH to run a total of 11 seasons. 

Even Chuck Lorre himself has had some experience with this. His show Two and a Half Men was a starring vehicle for Charlie Sheen, who was with the show for the first eight seasons. But then, after a falling out between star and producer, he left the series to be replaced by Ashton Kutcher as a different character in the same setting, and the show ran another four seasons. 

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CBS

Of course, on the other side of the spectrum is Three’s a Crowd, the Three’s Company spin-off that kept John Ritter‘s Jack Tripper but disposed of virtually everything else about the original series. The result? The audience hated it. 

So the question remains whether the other cast members (besides, obviously, Kaley) would be interested in sticking around. In real life, friends sometimes move away and the lives of everyone around them continue.  Tweak the premise, introduce some interesting new characters, and the possibility defnitely exists that The Big Bang Theory  could continue. We’re hoping they give it a shot.