The Big Bang Theory, the CBS sitcom about a group of nerdy friends who know everything about science and geek culture but are clueless about love, was the biggest comedy on TV for many years until it ended in 2019, and its absence is still felt, because there simply isn't any show that hits in the same way on TV right now. Fortunately, there are many shows, both current and past, that do something similar. They won't make you say “bazinga,” but they'll definitely make you laugh.
This list has comedies and light dramas with a will they/won't they like the one between Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a charismatic oddball breakout character like Sheldon (Jim Parsons), an appreciation for the scientific, or some combination of them all. Or, they just feel Big Bangy in some way. We left off Friends, which has a similar friend group dynamic, and Two and a Half Men, which had the same executive producer and set up The Big Bang Theory‘s success, because they're a little too obvious. But our choices are still as tight as Wolowitz's (Simon Helberg) jeans.
Watch it on: HBO Max
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.
Watch it on: Hulu
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 experienced romantic ups and downs. 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.
Watch it on: Netflix
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.
Watch it on: CBS All Access
Scorpion was conceived as a dramatic 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 role of Penny is filled by Katharine McPhee, who plays a non-nerdy waitress who helps the geeks understand the “real world.”
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.
Watch it on: Hulu
Mom doesn't get a lot of attention these days, but it's quietly and consistently run for seven seasons and counting. It's executive-produced by TBBT‘s Chuck Lorre, TV's reigning king of comedy, 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. It's had heart like The Big Bang Theory developed in its later seasons from the start, and covers addiction and recovery more accurately than any other show on TV. Janney won two back-to-back supporting actress Emmys in 2014 and 2015.
Watch it on: Amazon Prime Video
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.
All 12 season of The Big Bang Theory are available to stream on HBO Max.