"Big Bang Theory" censored by Chinese government

The season finale of "The Big Bang Theory" will air Thursday night on CBS. The highest-rated sitcom since "Friends" went off the air a decade ago, the show is seen by more than 23 million people in the U.S.

It's also a hit in China, and that's apparently making some in the government very nervous.

As CBS News' Seth Doane reports from Beijing, fans got a jolt when the government announced it would be censoring the show.

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"The Big Bang Theory" runs on loops at a Beijing coffee shop and is even used as an English teaching tool.

The nerdy characters resonate in this academics-come-first culture.

Students Pixie Nong, Sylvia Yu and Reina Tan have become "superfans" of the show.

"Those characters - each one - has their unique personalities," Reina said, "and the other reason I like watch 'Big Bang Theory' is that it's very close to my life."

The show received more than 1.3 billion clicks on China's government-monitored Internet until late April, when Chinese censors suddenly removed the show.

China's state TV will start airing a censored version starting from the first episode. The government has not explained what they'll change or why and would not grant CBS News an interview.

Doane remarked to the students, "Censors here in China are asking for there to be changes, asking for the show to be 'cleaned up' - what do you make of this change?"

Sylvia said, "I don't really like that. I don't think it's necessary because I think it is a very healthy show compared with other TV series."

The show's producer responded at the end of an American broadcast.

In a full-screen commentary that flashed at the end of the show, he wrote: "In all likelihood, a gaggle of communists sat in a darkened room and watched a few episodes. ... I like to think that during these screenings one of them laughed out loud and was promptly sent to a re-education camp."

The censorship fueled frustration. An op-ed in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post suggested: "The government just cannot tolerate any cultural product it cannot control."

Pixie continues to post subtitles so that Chinese-speaking fans can follow interviews with the cast.

For now, avid fans have to find a creative way to get their fix. Asked what she's going to do to watch the show, Pixie said, "I'll find it (somehow) ... I'm a geek."

CBS' "NCIS" and "The Good Wife" were also censored. It's not known exactly why and exactly what will be cleaned up. The government sometimes does step in when it deems something inappropriate, but it remains to be seen what exactly it finds inappropriate.