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The Big Bang Theory premiered in the US in 2007, and it began streaming in China on Sohu Video in 2009. (Picture: CBS)

Chinese fans emotional as The Big Bang Theory comes to an end

TBBT has a big following in China, where fans rallied behind the show when it was briefly banned

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

The last few weeks have seen some beloved TV and movie series coming to an end, such as Game of Thrones and the Avengers (at least for now). And while Game of Thrones has fans in China disgruntled about what’s shaping up to be a terrible ending, netizens are sad about the conclusion of another show that they’re still quite happy with: The Big Bang Theory.

As the series comes to a close, with the final episode airing on Friday, hashtags including “The Big Bang Theory’s elevator is fixed” and “Goodbye The Big Bang Theory” have been trending on Weibo. Users have flooded the microblogging site with emotional comments.

How Weibo became China’s most popular blogging platform

“I started watching The Big Bang Theory the summer after my college entrance exam and have been following it since,” one Weibo user said. “Why does everything have to come to an end?”
“The show I’ve been following for eight years has ended. It was with me for one third of my life,” another Weibo user wrote. “It means so much more than a TV show.”
The Big Bang Theory premiered in the US in 2007, and it began streaming in China on Sohu Video in 2009. (Picture: CBS)
In China, The Big Bang Theory has never been as big of a phenomenon as, say, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, but the sitcom still has a big and loyal following among young people. Many viewers say they can relate to the geeky characters. Others say it’s their favorite sitcom after Friends.
“It’s the Friends of our generation,” one user commented on a Weibo post about The Big Bang Theory’s finale, a view shared by some Western viewers.
“Even CCTV is posting about it…” says the top comment under a CCTV Weibo post about the show ending. “Can CCTV buy the rights and let more people know about the show?”

In fact, it already did. The state broadcaster bought the rights to air the series in 2014, promising Chinese viewers a “green” version of the show with approved Chinese subtitles. The move drew fierce backlash from fans.

People were especially outraged because CCTV’s announcement to broadcast the show came right after China’s media censor banned the series from being streamed online without saying why. It was surmised by some media outlets at the time that the CCTV deal was the reason the show got blocked online, with the intent being to bolster ratings for the state-owned broadcaster.
People online had their own speculation about the reason for the ban. Some people pointed to a piece of dialogue in Season 7, when Sheldon says that he likes the Communist Party because it knows “how to keep people in line.” Regardless of the reason, authorities repealed the ban in 2015.
Some Chinese viewers speculated that a scene in Season 7, when Sheldon talks about the Communist Party, could have triggered the ban in 2014. (Picture: 宫敏 on Zhihu)
Western sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory might also be popular in China because they’re a way for viewers to learn English. Many people say they started following the show because it was recommended by their English teacher.
“The little English I know I learned from this show,” one Weibo user commented.

And some say that they learned more than just language thanks to the show’s deep well of pop culture references.

“I can almost say that The Big Bang Theory is my first teacher of English literature and movies,” one person wrote in a post on Q&A site Zhihu.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.