"Big Bang Theory" finale gets galactic ratings to win week

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In its last blast, "The Big Bang Theory" topped the TV ratings by a light-year.

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The back-to-back, two-episode finale of the nerdy CBS comedy's 12-season run drew 18.5 million live viewers Thursday night to easily win the week, the Nielsen company said Tuesday.

Sunday night's much-ballyhooed finale of HBO's "Game of Thrones" was a distant second with 13.61 million live viewers.

"Game of Thrones," however, had a comparable 18.4 million viewers when HBO's same-night reruns and streaming services are included, making it the most-watched episode of any kind in the history of the cable channel.

Despite mixed fan reaction to the eighth and final "Thrones" season , it was a ratings winner throughout, competing with and usually beating shows that appear in three times more homes. The viewer numbers also grew as the season progressed, with the season premiere setting a record that was topped by three subsequent episodes.

"Big Bang" was a colossal ratings winner that helped keep CBS the top network for much of its record run of 279 episodes, the most ever for a multi-camera series.

Thursday night's hour-long finale saw the show's group of geeky misfits take one last trip together to support married couple Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) after they won the Nobel Prize in physics.

A prequel spinoff, "Young Sheldon," is pulling similar numbers in its second season and will extend the life of the franchise. It finished third in last week's ratings in a timeslot just after the finale.

"Unraveling the Mystery: A Big Bang Farewell," a special that aired later the same night, was fourth.

That two-hour "Big Bang" block helped give CBS six of the top 10 shows and an easy win of the week in primetime with an average of 6.5 million viewers. NBC averaged 4.5 million, ABC 3.8 million, Fox 1.9 million, Univision with 1.25 million, ION Television with 1.2 million, Telemundo 1.1 million and the CW 790,000.

ESPN and TNT rode the NBA playoffs to the top two spots among cable networks. ESPN averaged 2.7 million nightly viewers, TNT 2.6 million. Fox News Channel was third with an average of 2.3 million viewers, MSNBC averaged 1.4 million and HGTV averaged 1.1 million.

ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8 million viewers. NBC's "Nightly News" was second with 7.1 million and the "CBS Evening News" averaged 5.4 million viewers.

For the week of May 13-19, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 18.5 million; "Game of Thrones," HBO, 13.61 million; "Young Sheldon," CBS, 13.6 million; "NCIS," CBS, 11.7 million; "Unraveling the Mystery: A Big Bang Farewell," CBS, 11.6 million; "American Idol" (Sunday), ABC, 8.7 million; "FBI," CBS, 8.6 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 8.4 million; "NBA Playoffs-Conference Finals, Portland at Golden State (Thursday), ESPN, 8 million; "Chicago Med," NBC, 7.98 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by Fox Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online: http://www.nielsen.com

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton .