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‘Young Sheldon’ Series Finale: Reba Cameo, George’s Funeral

Spoiler alert: The following interview discusses the events of the series finale “Young Sheldon” – the episodes “Funeral” and “Memoir” – airing on Paramount+ beginning May 17.

Bazinga! It’s the end of CBS’ “Young Sheldon,” as the hit comedy prequel to “The Big Bang Theory” bid farewell with its final two episodes after seven seasons and 141 episodes on Thursday. Although many details were known before the series finale — Sheldon’s (Iain Armitage) father, George (Lance Barber), had died off-screen in last week’s episode, “Big Bang” alums Jim Parsons (as adult Sheldon) and Mayim. Bialik (as his wife Amy) would appear and this 14-year-old Sheldon would head to Caltech – the episodes always brought surprises and a multitude of Easter eggs.

As expected, the first episode, “Funeral,” is probably the heaviest and most dramatic episode of the series, and as executive producer Steve Holland says Variety, finding the balance between comedy and drama was “the hardest thing” – he credits his usually funny cast with providing the dramatic touches needed to achieve it. The show also had to deal with things like finding a way to bring in the busy Reba McEntire for a cameo appearance, and how much they would have to show George in his funeral casket.

Zoe Perry as Mary and Iain Armitage as Sheldon.
Courtesy of Sonja Flemming/CBS

The challenges didn’t stop there, as the finale episode, “Memory,” not only had to include Sheldon’s final days before heading to Caltech, but also the high-profile appearance of Parsons and Bialik that ended up to be much more than the end. episode cameo that one might expect. Instead, their part of the episode shaped the entire “Young Sheldon” series. Holland also gave some insight into who is responsible for the name of the spinoff “Georgie and Mandy’s First Marriage” and roughly when this multi-camera series will pick up when it premieres this fall on CBS.

Here, Holland covers all of these things – and much more.

Since George’s funeral is a big part of this episode, can you talk about a tonal balance between drama and comedy?

Honestly, what we found as we got into editing was that we ended up pulling out jokes that seemed out of tone. We were trying to be conscious of the fact that it’s a comedy, and also to be honest about this family and their emotions and not be flippant about it.

The original script wasn’t pleasant, but it had more jokes than it had enough jokes. And as we went through it and looked at them and went up, they just felt deaf. They felt out of place in the face of the gravity of the moment. I still think there are a few laughs to be had in there, but we really fine-tuned that balance until the end. What we found was that we had earned the right, with this episode, to not have to rely on jokes all the time. We could let the audience feel, and I think the audience who has lived with this family for seven years will also feel this loss. There’s nothing wrong with letting people feel bad and feel real sorrow for a few minutes.

And everyone from Iain, Raegan Revord, Montana Jordan, Zoe Perry, Annie Potts, they all experienced the dramatic moments.

I can’t say enough about this casting. I hope they get their due recognition at some point, because they are great from top to bottom. But being able to be funny and then being able to deliver an episode like this – every cut to Raegan (Missy Cooper) in this funeral scene I find devastating. And Montana (Georgie Cooper), as a character and a person, is definitely more stoic and controlled, but his silent pain as he speaks to his father’s casket is so real.

Then the moment when Zoe (Mary Cooper) collapses and Annie (Connie “MeeMaw” Tucker) has to stand up and try to turn things around with a little humor. I think it’s just a masterclass that Annie Potts did so well. And those were such difficult days. We were in that church filming the funeral for two full days, and it was two full days of real tears on and off camera.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the episode when Sheldon plays out the different scenarios with this last moment with George, since he couldn’t say goodbye to him.

That felt really relevant to us, and it also felt very Sheldon that he was trying to go back and maybe rewrite and figure out his alternate timelines of what he had done. And that was also part of the design when we were writing George’s final moments to not give him any last moments with his father so that he could have that little bit of regret.

For Sheldon, the way he deals with emotions is a little different, and I think he deals with that regret by trying to go back and relive it in different ways and trying to figure out how it could have gone differently. And to the outside world, and to his sister in particular, it seems like he’s callous and heartless and not grieving – but that’s how he deals with his grief internally. We kind of have to have our cake and eat it a little bit too. He can stand up and give his eulogy, but he never stood up to give his eulogy. And it seemed very real to us too, that at that time, at that age, he wouldn’t be able to handle his grief enough to get up in front of people and talk about his father. But as an adult, looking back, he wishes he had.

You have Reba McEntire, who is recurring as June, ex-wife of Craig T. Nelson’s Dale, back for a moment while she drops off food at the house, as people do after a serious death. Was it difficult to achieve?

Her schedule was crazy, and she was in the middle of filming her pilot (“Happy’s Place,” which NBC ordered to series last week), as was Rex Lin, who plays Principal Peterson and is also in that pilot. But she really wanted to be a part of it and she said to me, “If I can do something and if we can make the schedule work…” We said, “We can have you in this little cameo” and she said: “Absolutely!” So she came in and did that for us, which was great since they were filming the pilot and then she was going back and forth to “The Voice.”

Back to the funeral, seeing George in his open coffin was effective, even if we don’t see much of his face. What did Lance Barber think?

Lance always wanted to be part of the funeral scene, so he wanted to be in the casket. And to lighten the mood, he had a fart machine in the coffin that he activated from time to time. And then we got more footage of his face, but I think in editing, and it was (executive producer) Steve Molaro saying, “I just don’t want to see too much of his face.” There is something overwhelming about that. I think it was the right decision. Where you see him from the side, you see him from behind, you get glimpses, but we never really focus on his face in the coffin and that actually ended up being much more powerful than seeing him head on . And it’s all about the family, their grief and their faces.

Courtesy of Sonja Flemming/CBS

Moving on to the last episode, I was surprised that Jim and Mayim were so involved! Maybe I expected them to appear at the very end. Was it always planned to have them such a presence in the episode?

It was. It was also a delicate balance. I think it was Chuck (Lorre)’s idea. It would be great to see them both again – and then as we talked about it, it was about finding a balance, because we didn’t want their story to overwhelm the Coopers’ story either. Ultimately, this is a “Young Sheldon” finale, and we wanted to make sure we gave our actors the right start.

We decided to use them as more than just a cameo at the end because we thought it could also be something that more people were expecting and maybe it could surprise them. Even though they know they’re in the episode, you then cut to them out in the open. I think we found a really good balance for that. Maybe some people were expecting to see them, but is there a way to do it and maybe surprise people a little? So that’s really nice to hear.

Are we supposed to assume that the entire “Young Sheldon” series has been Sheldon writing his memoir, or is this just something for the last episode?

No, in our opinion, that’s what Sheldon has been doing all along, and it’s also why we see a slightly different version of his father than the one he talked about on “Big Bang Theory.” And that last kind of voiceover in the funeral episode where he says he was unfair to his father for a long time – we talked about that a lot. This may also be Sheldon’s way of dealing with his grief over his father as a young adult, by focusing on the bad things. But now that he’s older and has children of his own, he realizes how unfair he’s been to his father over the years. So that’s kind of the design of the show: Older Sheldon with kids looks at his family in a slightly different light than he did in his early 20s.

Can we assume it’s 2024 when we see Sheldon and Amy or…

I think not. It’s a vague period. We were very careful to be vague and not have anything too specifically dated in the thing. They didn’t have children at the end of “Big Bang,” so they wouldn’t have children until the following year. We’ll probably be five or six years from now, but that’s a little vague. And we don’t say how old the children are specifically for this reason as well. But that will probably be a few years into our future.

Courtesy of Bill Inoshita / Warner Bros.

We heard from Penny (Kaley Cuoco)…

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News Source : variety.com

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