TV & Movies

This Gut-Wrenching Young Sheldon Twist Is Going Viral On TikTok

The show’s legion of casual fans didn’t expect to feel *this* emotional.

Lance Barber and Zoe Perry on 'Young Sheldon.' Photo via CBS

Young Sheldon’s family has been through a lot, from marital strife to several terrifying tornadoes. I’ve never properly watched any of these things play out on TV, but in countless hours spent scrolling TikTok (my screen time numbers are not good), I’ve consumed enough viral clips of Young Sheldon to cobble together an understanding of the Cooper family from the Big Bang Theory spin-off. Major spoilers for Young Sheldon ahead.

So, on May 9, when I stumbled upon a freshly uploaded video of patriarch George Cooper’s family learning that he’d died of a heart attack a week before Young Sheldon’s series finale, I cried.

Then came the videos edited with the saddest lyrics in Taylor Swift’s “The 1” or Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness,” the analyses of how George’s death fits into Big Bang Theory canon, and the regrets each family member would have regarding the sudden loss.

I was mourning a character and show I hadn’t really followed. But quickly, I learned I wasn’t alone.

RIP, George Cooper

Many of the show’s casual fans on TikTok were also devastated by the plot twist. As one user put it, “I’m so sad over George’s death even though I have never watched an episode of Young Sheldon but I literally know the entire plot of the whole series from tiktok.”


In another video, one user commented, “I only watch young sheldon from tiktok clips but this cuts deep 😔.”

On X (formerly Twitter), one person said that despite not watching the show, they’d “acquired pieces of Young Sheldon lore via TikTok Subway Surfers clips,” and have been “awaiting this moment for YEARS.” Indeed, the app’s pirated TV episodes are often uploaded in split screen with slime, soap-cutting, or mobile app gameplay to keep eyes glued to the screen.

What’s Behind Young Sheldon’s Virality?

It’s easy to fall in love with a show in two-minute increments on TikTok. But Young Sheldon’s reign over the platform’s For You page (or FYP) feels especially strong, as proven by the reactions to George’s death from nontraditional viewers.

So, how did Young Sheldon earn its legion of smartphone stans? For starters, The Big Bang Theory was one of the most-streamed programs in 2023, despite ending four years earlier. Many people know Sheldon Cooper (portrayed by Jim Parsons), and enjoy seeing the precocious prequel version of him (played by Iain Armitage).

Robert Voets/CBS

But even without the benefit of its familiar, long-running lore, Young Sheldon is a good show. Its charm is easily communicated in short form. While you’ll obviously get more out of it by watching full-length episodes (and millions do), even bite-sized clips provide a picture of a fully realized family — a testament to the performers and behind-the-scenes team.

It also suggests Young Sheldon was tailor-made for memedom. (I think about Armitage’s good-natured response to a tweet about hatred for his character approximately once a month.) Maybe the recent virality surrounding George’s death is proof that the Cooper family was a source of comfort for a lot of people — even if they didn’t take it that seriously while scrolling.