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The Saddest Big Bang Theory & Young Sheldon Deaths, Ranked

As a sitcom, "The Big Bang Theory" primarily deals in humor. Even its spin-off series, "Young Sheldon," which is known to often tackle more dramatic storylines, is still first and foremost a comedy. But both shows definitely do have their sad moments, including quite a few deaths. A total of seven characters pass away across both shows, ranging from sad but brief and even humorous events to truly tragic, heartfelt losses.

The off-screen death of Bernadette's (Melissa Rauch) grandmother in Season 3, Episode 11 of "The Big Bang Theory" is an example of the former, mentioned as a throwaway comment simply for the purpose of setting up a gag between Howard (Simon Helberg), Raj (Kunal Nayyar), and Beverly (Christine Baranski). Howard explains that his girlfriend is out of town because her grandmother died, but her absence leads Leonard's mother to believe that she doesn't really exist and that Howard's just covering up that he and Raj are actually in a relationship. Similarly, the death of unseen Caltech academic Professor Tupperman in Season 6, Episode 20, is purely there to set up the episode's premise, which sees Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Raj, and Kripke (John Ross Bowie) compete for a tenured position at the university.

Of course, there are plenty of sad deaths in "The Big Bang Theory" universe too, and some of them are downright heart-wrenching. Keep reading for the five saddest "Big Bang Theory" and "Young Sheldon" deaths, ranked.

5. Floyd Hofstader (The Big Bang Theory Season 2, Episode 15)

"The Big Bang Theory" viewers first meet Beverly Hofstader in Season 2's "The Maternal Capacitance," when she comes to visit her son Leonard in Pasadena. She instantly clicks with Sheldon, but it's clear her relationship with her own son is very strained. In an effort to connect, Leonard asks his mom what's new with her. She begins to tell him about her menopausal symptoms, before Leonard clarifies that he'd prefer to hear less personal updates. Beverly responds, "Oh, your Uncle Floyd died." A shocked Leonard asks for more details, but all his mother offers is an unfeeling statement about how Floyd's heart stopped beating, before quickly going to use the restroom.

Unsurprisingly, Sheldon is oblivious to Leonard's emotional state and starts saying how he would have preferred to grow up with Leonard's mom instead of his own. However, Leonard responds by telling his roommate how lucky he is to have such a caring mom, adding, "I hate to tell you, but the only warm memories I have of my childhood are of my Uncle Floyd."

Given that viewers didn't know Floyd Hofstader, it's not the most emotional death in "The Big Bang Theory" universe. The scene is also set up in a humorous way so that Leonard becomes the butt of the joke. However, it's also pretty sad: Not only is Leonard genuinely upset by the death of his uncle, but the scene depicts how unintentionally callous Beverly can be and gives some insight into what Leonard's childhood was really like.

4. James Gilford (Young Sheldon Season 2, Episode 15)

In Season 2, Episode 15 of "Young Sheldon," titled "A Math Emergency and Perky Palms," "One Tree Hill" alum Barry Corbin plays James Gilford, an elderly shut-in and parishioner at Mary's (Zoe Perry) church. With Pastor Jeff (Matt Hobby) out sick, Mary takes over some of his duties, including delivering a hot meal to Mr. Gilford. She sits with him while he eats in an effort to get to know him better, but the pair don't exactly hit it off.

Mary's visit with Mr. Gilford ends on a sour note. He makes a sexist comment about not wanting to hear preaching from a woman, while Mary responds with a few rude remarks of her own. However, when she learns that he's a war veteran and has had some struggles in life, she wishes she'd shown him more compassion. Mary goes back to his house to try to make amends, but it's too late: Mr. Gilford died before she arrived and Mary is hit by a wave of sadness.

This is the first death in "Young Sheldon" and it strikes a much more emotional note than the three "Big Bang Theory" deaths mentioned in this list so far. However, it's also marred by mixed emotions, since Mr. Gilford doesn't appear to be the kindest man during his interaction with Mary. In the wake of his death, though, she realizes that she judged him too harshly and does her best to honor his life by organizing his funeral.

3. Professor Proton (The Big Bang Theory Season 7, Episode 22)

Bob Newhart's Professor Proton may be one of the most notable recurring characters in "The Big Bang Theory" universe. Although fans of the show are divided over the character (as some think he's a bit boring), he's had an undeniable impact on Sheldon's life. It's in Season 7, Episode 22, titled "The Proton Transmogrification," that viewers really learn just how much Sheldon looked up to the professor, aka Arthur Jeffries.

After learning that Professor Proton has died, Sheldon proclaims that he is "fine," but is evidently struggling with his grief. Leonard and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) choose to go to the funeral, but Sheldon forgoes the memorial to celebrate Star Wars Day instead. However, the two collide in his dreams as he envisions Professor Proton dressed as a Jedi. Speaking to his science hero in his dream, Sheldon admits his sadness. "My grandfather died when I was five," he says. "Then my father died when I was 14. And now you're gone too. It's like all the men I've looked up to have gone away." 

In response, Professor Proton offers him some advice, explaining that Sheldon should also appreciate those around him and show them as much. This leads to a very touching moment between Sheldon and Leonard, with the former embracing his roommate in a tight hug. It's a bittersweet conclusion, as Sheldon works through his emotions and takes stock of the friends he has in his life.

2. Debbie Wolowitz (The Big Bang Theory Season 8, Episode 15)

Though Howard and his mom, Debbie Wolowitz (Carol Ann Susi), have a bit of a complex and unhealthy relationship at times, they do love each other dearly — though sometimes to Bernadette's annoyance. However, when Mrs. Wolowitz dies unexpectedly in "The Big Bang Theory" Season 8, Episode 15, "The Comic Book Store Regeneration," viewers get to see just how much the whole gang truly loved her.

Howard gets the news during a phone call with his aunt while he and his friends are hanging out in Stuart's (Kevis Sussman) freshly reopened comic book store. Howard is utterly devastated by the news, but as his friends gather around him, it's Sheldon who offers him some comforting words. "When I lost my own father, I didn't have any friends to help me through it. You do," he says, showing his support. They come together again later in the episode without Howard and Bernadette and continue to pay tribute to Mrs. Wolowitz by sharing a story about her. Leonard sums up their feelings in a toast, saying, "To Mrs. Wolowitz, a loving mother to all of us. We'll miss you."

Sadly, this storyline was not part of the original plan, but was born out of the real-life death of actor Carol Ann Susi from cancer-related complications in 2014. The episode pays tribute to her and, as a result, is one of the most emotional "Big Bang Theory" episodes ever. Although Susi's character is never fully seen on screen, this episode proves what an impact both the character and actor had on the show.

1. George Cooper Sr. (Young Sheldon Season 7, Episode 12)

The saddest death in "The Big Bang Theory" universe is undoubtedly that of Sheldon's father, George Cooper Sr. (Lance Barber), in "Young Sheldon." It's established in "The Big Bang Theory" that Sheldon's dad dies when he's 14, although "Young Sheldon" bosses did their best to keep George around for as long as possible. The Coopers receive the tragic news of his death at the end of Season 7, Episode 12, but most of the aftermath plays out in the following episode, titled "Funeral."

George's death from a heart attack is made worse by its build-up. In "The Big Bang Theory," George is described as nothing short of a "redneck Homer Simpson," but in "Young Sheldon," viewers learn that Sheldon is an unreliable narrator and that George is actually a kind, caring father and husband. Because of these changes, viewers came to love Barber's character.

The tragic twist in the funeral scene really emphasizes the emotional weight of George's death. Sheldon (Iain Armitage) delivers a touching eulogy, telling everyone in the church how much he loved his dad, before Jim Parsons' older Sheldon admits in a voiceover that he never really said anything. But what he says next brings the episode, and their relationship, full circle. "For a long time, I focused on my father's shortcomings," he explains. "Now that I'm his age and have kids of my own, I realize he was just a person doing the best he could, and he did a lot. I didn't say it at his funeral, but I can say it now. I loved my father. I will miss him forever."