Evaluating Chuck Lorre’s Biggest Hits and Misses on CBS

Unless unexpected developments occur, Chuck Lorre’s time as a sitcom titan for CBS looks to be coming to an end. His last remaining series, Young Sheldon and Bob Hearts Abishola, are both ending after their upcoming seasons. An untitled spinoff of The Big Bang Theory is being developed for Warner Bros’ Max, who also just premiered the Chuck Lorre-created Bookie. Chuck Lorre and his production company, Chuck Lorre Productions, has had a storied history with CBS. They’ve come up with some of the most memorable sitcoms in recent memory — and also a few flops. Here is a look back at the ten Chuck Lorre or Chuck Lorre Productions-created series that aired on CBS, ranked by their overall influence. 

10. Frannie’s Turn (1992)

Frannie’s Turn was the beginning of it all. It was created by Chuck Lorre before the founding of Chuck Lorre Productions, and aired on CBS in 1992. A family sitcom based around a stay-at-home mom in Staten Island, Frannie’s Turn was a flop. Only 6 episodes of the series were produced, 5 of which made it to air. It was CBS’s lowest-rated show in the 1992-93 TV season, just barely edging out an ill-fated ABC drama for the title of lowest-rated non-FOX show of the season. Rome wasn’t build in a day, and neither was Chuck Lorre’s success as a sitcom creator and producer. 

Frannie’s Turn could have ended Chuck Lorre’s career as a creator before it even began. Luckily, ABC gave him a chance the following season, where he redeemed himself a bit with Grace Under Fire. 

9. B Positive (2020-2022)

B Positive aired 34 episodes over two seasons before being canceled by CBS. It was one of two shows from Chuck Lorre Productions to be abruptly canceled in the 2021-22 TV season. This was the first time CBS had abruptly canceled a series from Chuck Lorre since 1998; all other shows were given notice far in advance. Chuck Lorre himself did not create B Positive, but was attached as a writer and executive producer. While he likely didn’t have as much of a role in the series as he did with many of his others, an abrupt cancelation was still notable and signaled the beginning of the decline of CBS’s relationship with Warner Brothers and Chuck Lorre Productions. 

B Positive is more or less interchangeable with #8 on this list. The Season 2 time slot proved it was a tad stronger in the ratings than the next show in this list, but it didn’t have as much value to CBS. B Positive was given just 16 episodes for its second season, concluding early to make room for a low-rated short-lived sitcom from CBS Studios. It wasn’t until two months after the finale when CBS announced B Positive’s cancelation. It finished the season in a paltry 24th place on the network. 

8. United States of Al (2021-2022)

United States of Al just barely edged out B Positive in total episode count, airing 35 episodes across two seasons before being abruptly canceled. Season 1 was a midseason replacement in the 2020-21 season that didn’t premiere until April 2021. Whereas CBS has a history of typically canceling new series that premiere midseason, United States of Al managed a renewal. This is likely in large part due to the association with Chuck Lorre Productions, and the fact the Chuck Lorre-created Mom was ending that same season. United States of Al didn’t do all that great in its first season, finishing in 18th place on CBS despite getting to air directly after Young Sheldon. 

CBS treated United States of Al favorably in its second season, keeping it in the post-Young Sheldon time slot at the expense of B Positive and a new midseason sitcom. Ratings did not improve, leading to CBS canceling the series and cutting down on comedy hours. Like B Positive, United States of Al was executive produced by Chuck Lorre and produced by Chuck Lorre Productions, but Chuck Lorre did not create the series. These are two of the three shows on this list not created by Chuck Lorre himself, which may help explain why they were short-lived.

7. Bob Hearts Abishola (2019-2024)

Bob Hearts Abishola was created by Chuck Lorre, making it the most recent — and possibly final — show to be created by Lorre for CBS. It’s had solid ratings throughout its first four seasons, but it’s never done well enough to anchor an hour and launch a new sitcom. It’s the type of show that, in a past era, would probably be held back as a midseason replacement for when a new show flopped and had to be pulled from the schedule. Overall, Bob Hearts Abishola is a success, but not one on the level of which Chuck Lorre is used to. 

Given the success in syndication of many other Chuck Lorre Productions series, one would be inclined to believe there are many potential buyers for Bob Hearts Abishola. Instead, 82 episodes into its run, there is no syndication deal in sight. The fifth season renewal was likely bargained by Warner Brothers as one final attempt to get it syndicated, which came at the cost of massive budget cuts. Bob Hearts Abishola will probably end up in syndication somewhere, but it’s not on track to have nearly the same legacy as the shows higher up in this list. At least, unlike with B Positive and United States of Al, CBS returned to letting Chuck Lorre Productions know ahead of time when one of their series isn’t going to be renewed. 

6. Cybill (1995-1998)

Chuck Lorre arguably needed Cybill to be a hit. CBS had given him a second chance after the failure of Frannie’s Turn, and an 0 for 2 record would bode poorly for his future with the network. Luckily for him, Cybill came in 6th place on CBS in its first season in 1995. Overall it was a moderate success, coming in 11th place in Season 2, 5th place in Season 3, and 12th place in Season 4, while also receiving critical acclaim. CBS canceled Cybill abruptly after Season 4, one that ended on a cliffhanger. The final episodes of Cybill aired in the summer, as they pulled it from the schedule in late spring. Ironically, Cybill was out-rating its Everybody Loves Raymond lead-in at the time, which struggled a bit in its first two seasons.

Even though Cybill only had four seasons and was treated poorly by CBS at the end of its run, it still comes in ahead of Bob Hearts Abishola on this list. Unlike with Cybill, Chuck Lorre didn’t need Bob Hearts Abishola to be a 4-season series to have a future with CBS. Cybill’s semi-success paved the way for Chuck Lorre to create Chuck Lorre Productions, a partnership with Warner Brothers that gave CBS some of their most impactful sitcoms of the 21st century. Had CBS not shown a clear disdain for Cybill toward the end of its run, it may have been even higher up this list. 

5. Mike & Molly (2010-2016)

Mike & Molly was kind of like the Bob Hearts Abishola of the 2010s — down to the male lead being played by Billy Gardell. It was the third series from Chuck Lorre Productions, but the first that Chuck Lorre himself did not create. Mike & Molly was never a particularly strong show in the ratings, but still managed to air 127 episodes across 6 seasons. Most of its episodes aired at the bottom of an hour, with the exception of Season 4 and the last batch of episodes of Season 6. In Season 4, it was held back as a midseason replacement and only aired at 9 pm because it lost out on the 8 pm time slot to 2 Broke Girls. In Season 6, its lead-out was itself; CBS was doubling up on episodes to fit them into the schedule. 

Mike & Molly gained its legacy in syndication. It aired on FX longer than it aired on CBS, and also picked up deals with Nick At Nite, CMT, and TV Land. Additionally, it’s in off-network syndication, making it easy for casual viewers to catch reruns outside of primetime. It’s syndication stories like that of Mike & Molly that would truly make CBS wish they owned Chuck Lorre’s series. Whereas Warner Brothers is still making money off Mike & Molly, CBS was never able to use it for much more than a utility player. At least they got six seasons of reliable ratings out of it, something that can’t be said for every series. 

4. Mom (2013-2021)

Looking at ratings early on in its run, Mom is not the type of show one would expect to see last 8 seasons. Mom aired Mondays at 9:30 in its first season and finished 15th on CBS in Live +7. It was their lowest-rated comedy renewal headed into Season 2, where they gave it a boost by airing the first batch of episodes on Thursdays after The Big Bang Theory. After a short stint at 9:30 on Thursdays, it moved into the Thursdays at 9 time slot for its last few episodes of Season 2. It remained in that time slot for the rest of its run, and received a final season announcement well in advance.

Mom was always overshadowed in the ratings by the 8pm anchor, whether that be The Big Bang Theory or Young Sheldon. As such, it’s not always given the credit it deserves. Mom was able to keep Thursday nights afloat even if the 8:30 pm comedy underperformed. Thursday nights have been undoubtedly weaker for CBS since it ended, even with Ghosts doing a good job taking over its time slot in the 2021-22 TV season. 

Mom was able to find syndication success on the same networks as Mike & Molly did, including off-network syndication. It also scored a deal on Paramount Network for a few years. Both Mom and Mike & Molly are likely of similar value to Warner Brothers. However, CBS was more reliant on the Chuck Lorre-created Mom than they were on Mike & Molly.

3. Young Sheldon (2017-2024)

Young Sheldon is the only spin-off on this list, being a single-cam prequel to The Big Bang Theory. It was a risky idea for a spinoff. While Sheldon is a fan-favorite character on The Big Bang Theory and ABC’s The Goldbergs had shown there’s an audience for 80s nostalgia, single cams had a poor track record at CBS. Young Sheldon was also Chuck Lorre Productions’ first ever single-cam sitcom, signaling a tonal shift from previous hits. 

Any risk that came with making Young Sheldon ultimately paid off. It premiered excellently out of its Big Bang Theory lead-in and had strong retention in the Thursdays at 8:30 pm time slot. While it did expectedly suffer a ratings decline without The Big Bang Theory leading into it, Young Sheldon is still one of CBS’s highest-rated series. It will enter its seventh and final season in 2024, where it will likely end up among the highest-rated scripted series on all of television. Like The Big Bang Theory, it could very well go out as the #1 scripted series on television. 

Young Sheldon has already been successful in syndication and on streaming. Even though syndication is mostly dominated by multi-cams, Young Sheldon had a stint on Nick At Nite for a couple years, and is now airing on TBS and on off-network syndication. While Warner Bros’ Max was the exclusive streaming home for Young Sheldon for some time, it was recently also added to Netflix. 

While a Big Bang Theory spinoff premiering in 2017 sounds like a surefire hit on paper, it truly was not guaranteed when said spinoff is so different from the original series. We very well could have looked back at Young Sheldon as CBS’s short-lived attempt to use The Big Bang Theory to join in on the single-cam bandwagon. Instead, it will go down as one of Chuck Lorre’s most successful series. 

2. Two and a Half Men (2003-2015)

In the late 90s, Chuck Lorre Productions found its first success with ABC’s Dharma & Greg. Amidst that success, the newly-created production company inked a deal with Warner Brothers. By 2003, the deal was set to expire and Chuck Lorre Productions had nothing to show for it. Later that year, CBS would pick up the Chuck Lorre-created Two and a Half Men, placing it on their fall 2003 schedule. Lasting 12 seasons, Two and a Half Men was the start of a 20+ year relationship between Chuck Lorre Productions, Warner Bros, and CBS. 

Two and a Half Men was a ratings hit for pretty much its entire run, although it did falter a bit in its final two seasons. Toward the end of its run, a massively-rated Big Bang Theory at 8 pm made it look weaker than it actually was. It was still one of CBS’s highest-rated shows in its final season, and there was a lot of buzz surrounding its series finale. Two and a Half Men was CBS’s highest-rated comedy for four consecutive seasons in the 2000s, and their highest-rated show overall in the 2008-09 season.

Two and a Half Men is also one of the most successful Chuck Lorre Productions series in syndication. Chances are if you were flipping through cable channels at any point over the past 15 years, you’ve come across reruns of Two and a Half Men. In a strange streaming acquisition, it’s also available to stream on the NBCUniversal-owned Peacock. 

Despite continued ratings successes, Two and a Half Men’s legacy probably would have benefitted from having the same 5-8 season runs as shows further down this list. During Season 8, co-star Charlie Sheen had a much-publicized mental breakdown where he infamously feuded with Chuck Lorre and coined his “Winning” catchphrase. Season 8 was cut short after Sheen had entered rehab. The show was retooled in Season 9 to introduce a new character played by Ashton Kutcher, with Charlie Sheen no longer involved in the series. Kutcher starred in the final four seasons, with Two and a Half Men ending after Season 12. 

While only speculation, it’s not out of the realm of possibility Warner Bros bargained for four seasons of a Sheen-less Two and a Half Men. That’s enough episodes for syndication, even if buyers were uninterested in airing something with Charlie Sheen attached to it. Granted, Charlie Sheen’s era of Two and a Half Men is still a staple in syndication. The show’s prolonged ratings success made it a flagship sitcom not only for Chuck Lorre Productions, but also among all modern day sitcoms. 

1. The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)

The Big Bang Theory is not just the most influential show created by Chuck Lorre, it’s also had the most impact of any sitcom since Friends ended. While it had some humble beginnings, The Big Bang Theory grew to the point where it was CBS’s highest-rated scripted series in its third season, airing in 2009-10. The Big Bang Theory would go on to be CBS’s highest-rated scripted series in each subsequent season of its 12-season run. It was also one of the highest-rated series on all of television in those years, at times only finishing below football. That’s an entire decade of dominance. The Big Bang Theory’s legacy still continues on CBS to this day, as they used Young Sheldon as its replacement in the Thursdays at 8 pm time slot. 

Whereas Two and a Half Men faltered toward the end of its run, The Big Bang Theory stayed as strong as ever. It did so well that when CBS acquired the rights to Thursday Night Football, they would temporarily schedule The Big Bang Theory on Mondays instead of waiting to launch it in late fall. CBS attempted to use The Big Bang Theory as a launchpad to countless shows, although very few lasted outside of other series from Chuck Lorre Productions. As the practice of holding back certain veterans as midseason replacements became less and less common, CBS found themselves airing regularly scheduled reruns of The Big Bang Theory at times. Those reruns would rate just as well as what a midseason replacement should could realistically be expected to do, and without the production costs. 

Today, The Big Bang Theory is in syndication as a centerpiece of TBS’s schedule. Many local affiliates also regularly air it in syndication. While it hasn’t been that long since The Big Bang Theory stopped producing new episodes, it’s already been in syndication for over 12 years. Time will tell if its legacy holds up once the IP stops creating new episodes on broadcast television. As of now, it’s on track to be a syndication staple in the vein of Seinfeld and Friends. The Big Bang Theory was a huge hit for CBS, is a huge hit for TBS, and is likely to eventually be considered a classic sitcom. If Chuck Lorre Productions had one achievement, it was The Big Bang Theory. 

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