'Young Sheldon,' 'Good Doctor' Were Two Of A Kind

Two shows featuring lead characters with unusual, similar personality traits are beginning their final seasons this month.

One of the characters is identified openly as residing on the autistic scale. The other is not identified that way, but considered by some to possess traits relatable to autism.

The one that has been positioned openly as autistic from the beginning is Shaun Murphy M.D., played by Freddie Highmore (above left) in “The Good Doctor” on ABC. The medical drama starts its seventh and final season Tuesday night.

The other show is “Young Sheldon,” the CBS prequel spinoff of “The Big Bang Theory” starring Iain Armitage (above right) as the child and teen versions of the adult Sheldon Cooper, the character well-known to millions on “Big Bang,” played by Jim Parsons. The final season of “Young Sheldon” started last week on February 15.



Like “The Good Doctor,” “Young Sheldon” is also calling it a day after seven seasons. In fact, the two shows premiered on the same day -- September 25, 2017.

They won’t end on the same day, however. The final episode of “The Good Doctor” is scheduled for April 23. “Young Sheldon” ends with a one-hour episode on May 16.

A medical drama about an autistic surgical resident might seem farfetched and even fanciful, but “The Good Doctor” gets high marks from the autism community.

“Dr. Murphy is a gifted surgeon, but much like many other doctors presented as autistic characters, he struggles with social interaction,” wrote Jeremy Brown last October on 

“He has an eidetic [photographic] memory, similar to Sheldon Cooper, and can remember minute details that most others wouldn’t catch,” Brown wrote.

“He’s somewhat of an example of television’s propensity to show autistic characters with savant syndrome, but he still provided positive representation for many on the spectrum.”

As for Sheldon Cooper, he “does not have an official diagnosis of autism, but he demonstrates many traits associated with autism spectrum disorder, specifically the outdated diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome,” Brown wrote, referring specifically to the character as he was portrayed on “The Big Bang Theory.”

Indeed, Asperger’s “has been merged with other disorders into autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is no longer considered a stand-alone diagnosis,” according to Wikipedia.

Sheldon says “he’s 'not crazy,' and his mother had him tested,” Brown notes. “At the same time, many may see that as making fun of the autistic community. [Nevertheless] he has provided a sense of representation for some on the autism spectrum.”

Both shows proved to be enormously popular at the outset, but like many other shows -- particularly in the 2017-24 period in which streaming took off and siphoned even more viewers away from traditional TV -- viewership declined over their seven seasons.

In its first two seasons -- 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively -- “Young Sheldon” averaged 16.3 million viewers and 14.37 million viewers per episode.

The show was no doubt aided by “The Big Bang Theory,” which stuck around for two more seasons and served as a powerful lead-in to “Young Sheldon.” 

In its sixth season, 2022-23 -- with “The Big Bang Theory” long gone -- “Young Sheldon” averaged 9.32 million. 

“The Good Doctor” averaged 15.61 million viewers per episode in its first season, 2017-18. In its sixth season, 2022-23, it averaged 6.24 million.

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