In March 2017, CBS renewed the series for two additional seasons, bringing its total to twelve, and running through the 2018–19 television season. On August 22, 2018, CBS and Warner Bros. Television officially announced that the twelfth season would be the series' last. This stems from Jim Parsons' decision to leave the series at the end of the season if the show were to have been renewed for a thirteenth season. The series concluded with an hour-long finale consisting of two back-to-back episodes on May 16, 2019. A retrospective, hosted by Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, aired at 9:30 P.M. ET/PT, the night of the finale, following the season two finale of Young Sheldon.
The show originally centered on five characters living in Pasadena, California: Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, both physicists at Caltech, who share an apartment; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon's similarly geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. Over time, supporting characters were promoted to starring roles, including neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski, physicist Leslie Winkle and comic book store owner Stuart Bloom.
Sheldon's childhood friend from Texas, Tam, is visiting the university with his son. Sheldon does not want to see him and the others wonder why Sheldon has never mentioned Tam. Tam is unaware Sheldon is angry with him, thinking they just naturally drifted apart. Sheldon's brother George does not know the reason either. Sheldon eventually reveals Tam promised he would move to California with Sheldon, but then got a girlfriend and stayed with her, leaving Sheldon feeling abandoned. Tam and Sheldon make up and Sheldon has Leonard take Tam to the airport. Meanwhile, Penny and Bernadette want to get to know Anu, impressed by her connections in the hotel industry. They tell her embarrassing things about Raj and wonder if they can go out with her again after Raj confronts them.
Sheldon and Amy are surprised to find that Wil Wheaton's new Professor Proton show is actually very entertaining and that Wil had Howard on as a guest. On Howard's suggestion, Sheldon apologizes to Wil, mending their friendship, and tells him he wants to be on the show; but Wil asks for Amy. Sheldon tells her to do it, but she says she often doesn't do things to avoid upsetting him. Sheldon is horrified when he realises how selfish he has been, especially when he finds out that the men do the same for him. Sheldon encourages Amy to go on the show to inspire girls to pursue science while trying to control his obvious jealousy for her. Meanwhile, Leonard writes a book about a physicist that solves a murder, the protagonist Logan Dean is based on himself. Bernadette points out Logan's mean boss Illsa is similar to Penny, who thinks it is based on Bernadette, though Leonard does not correct her. However, Bernadette tells Penny the truth, upsetting her and making her mad at Leonard. After calling his mother for advice, Leonard learns that Illsa is actually like her; but abandons the book when he realizes he wrote romantic tension into the relationship between the characters.
In May 2010, it was reported that the show had been picked up for syndication, mainly among Fox's owned and operated stations and other local stations, with Warner Bros. Television's sister cable network TBS holding the show's cable syndication rights. Broadcast of old shows began airing in September 2011. TBS now airs the series in primetime on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with evening broadcasts on Saturdays (TBS's former local sister station in Atlanta also holds local weeknight rights to the series). Although details of the syndication deal have not been revealed, it was reported the deal "set a record price for a cable off-network sitcom purchase". CTV holds national broadcast syndication rights in Canada, while sister cable network The Comedy Network holds cable rights.
When Leonard receives a braggy Christmas letter from his brother, he feels bad about how little he and Penny have achieved in the past year. Leonard wonders if he and Penny should be thinking about the next step after two years of marriage, like buying a house or having a baby. Penny tells him she wants to do all those things someday, but she has a bunch of stuff she would like to do first.