The Data Behind ‘The Big Bang Theory’: What Keeps Viewers Tuning In

Thursday night is the season finale of the CBS juggernaut The Big Bang Theory, one of the most popular shows on TV (the network itself refers to it as broadcast television’s No. 1 scripted series in viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54). To celebrate 10 wildly successful seasons — and the recent renewal for two more — we decided to take a look at how fans have reacted to the show over the last few seasons using insights from Canvs, the language analytics company that measures emotions around content.

Season 8:  Everybody loves Sheldon

The eighth season of The Big Bang Theory (BBT) aired Sept. 22, 2014 – May 7, 2015 and the most commonly expressed emotion was love, as you’d expect, followed by viewers expressing excitement and enjoyment — and laughing at the comedy.

Sheldon (portrayed by Jim Parsons) was the most-mentioned character, appearing in 14% of ERs, with Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) in second and third with 4.2% and 4% of ERs, respectively.

Oh Sheldon, you always make my day!

— Jolene Servais (@JoleneServais13) October 21, 2014

One key moment of the season that got viewers talking was when Sheldon told Amy that he loves her.

Wow Sheldon told Amy he loved her!

— Irish nt Mike (@IrishCARBomb21) November 7, 2014

Awwww! Sheldon  Amy! #BBT

— Joanne Pignone (@meemster112) November 7, 2014

Related: CBS Forms New Streaming Deal With Affiliate Stations

Season 9: #ShAmy

In season 9 (Sept. 21, 2015 – May 12, 2016) love was once again the most frequently expressed emotion (shocker!), appearing in nearly one third of responses. But this season viewers talked about things on the show being crazy more often than during the previous season. That feeling was mentioned in 8.4% of ERs.

Sheldon continued to be the most-mentioned character. Fans of the show are seriously amused by his antics. Amy jumped up a tick in responses compared to season 8: she was talked about in 6% of ERs.

A big response driver during the season: Sheldon and Amy kissing — and a bit more than kissing (gasp!). The nickname/hashtag #ShAmy took off. It was the third most frequently used hashtag this season, appearing in 5% of ERs.


— Rachel Wallace (@_rwallace) December 11, 2015

Omg Sheldon and Amy had coitus!!!!!

— Laulena  (@TeenyTinyLauren) December 18, 2015

OMG #Shamy did it!!!!!!!

— Lexius Ryckmanius (@ryckman_alexis) December 18, 2015

Related: CBS Says Its Shows Help Cable Networks

Season 10: Laughs all around

While love remains the top emotion this season, viewers are talking even more about how funny the show is (11.2% of ERs).

Sheldon remains the man of the hour (or, uh, half-hour), appearing in 12.7% of ERs, while Penny has 4.1% and Amy drops to 3.5%.

This season premiere of #TheBigBangTheory is cracking me up 

— Jillian (@JillianHruban) September 20, 2016

Laughing time :) #BigBangTheory

— Francis: DisneyVista (@DisneyVista) November 11, 2016

@rebkettlebells@bigbangtheory@CBS huge laughter over & over super funny episode  fabulous 

— Kiki (@DunnSearcher) January 6, 2017

@bigbangtheory GUT BUSTING FUNNY 

— Eric (@ericpladson1) March 10, 2017

As the 10th season draws to a close, it’s clear that The Big Bang Theory is a fan favorite thanks to its nerdy-but-relatable characters and quick wit that gets people laughing week after week. The summer hiatus is sure to leave a hole in fans’ hearts, but many take solace in the fact that it’ll be back for two more seasons.

One of the funniest comedies ever made happy they renewed it for two more seasons. — watching The Big Bang Theory

— Michael McCrae (@MichaelMcCrae2) April 10, 2017

Eleanor Semeraro is an analyst and contributor with TV [R]EV.