The Big Bang Theory
Episode 22: The Proton Resurgence
By: Carlos Uribe
The Big Bang Theory is about a group of friends who happen to be nerds and the girl next door.
Bob Newhart is a comedian known for his deadpan delivery and stammering dialogue. He's a television legend for his role on two iconic television shows. The first was the Bob Newhart Show that lasted six seasons and it was a big hit. The second was simply titled Newhart that lasted eight seasons. It is the latter show that would have a famous ending where the main character is knocked out by a golfball. He wakes up as the character he played in the former and reveals that the show was all his character's dream. I imagine that the producers were pretty happy when they got him to agree to make a special guest appearance on the show. The writers came up with a good character for him to play. They casted him as a disenchanted performer who used to play as Professor Proton on television. He would use everyday objects to create science. Sheldon and Leonard used to watch him when they were young. He was so influential in their lives that Sheldon claims that he became a science because of Professor Proton. Without that program, he might have become a hobo or a surgeon. He might have grown up idolizing Professor Proton but the scientist who played him would grow to resent the role. He had an actual ph.D. From Cornell but the scientific community couldn't take him seriously after years of playing a fictional scientist on a television show. When that show was canceled, his scientific reputation was ruined and the only place he could get any work was doing children's events. So the writers came up with a great character for Newhart to play. It's a character that allows him to use his trademark comedy in reaction to Sheldon's quirks and Penny's dumbness. The writers now had to come up with a reason for him to visit their apartment so they came up with the idea that Sheldon would hire him to do a show.
The episode struggles a bit before Newhart actually makes his appearance. The material is strong enough to pass and get chuckles but it isn't as strong as it can be. There are a few long scenes that lasted just a little bit too long such as when Sheldon couldn't go to sleep so he kept bothering Leonard. When Leonard got fed up and went to hit Sheldon, the laugh track went wild with this action. It's one of the few occasions where it called itself into attention simply because the audience was way overreacting to the events. Once Newhart appears, he basically makes the episode work as he pairs surprisingly well with Sheldon and Penny. Leonard is sort-of lost in that scene and I think it was a mistake to include him in it. Johnny Galecki might be one of the stars of the show and Leonard might be a nerd but he usually acts as the straight man of the group. He puts up with Sheldon's antics and is generally the most normal of the males. Penny might have the street skills but she's basically this shows' version of a dumb character. Basically Leonard is a straight man. Newhart is a great comedian but he's largely known as being a straight man. So what happens when two straight men are in the same scene? One of them, the one that commands less attention, disappears into the background. In this case, Leonard is easily overshadowed by Professor Proton. Sheldon fairs a bit better and he even gets to do some good when he tells Newhart about the huge role the character has had on his life as well agreeing to act as Proton Jr. at a birthday gig the next day. It's nice when he gets to be a good guy as it helps keep him on the likeable side of the line. Penny acts a little too dumb this episode as she's reduced into her stereotype but I must love how she's completely blown away by the idea that the potato can power a clock. Bob Newhart basically comes into the show and dominates it for a week. It's said that the special guest star is the one who blends into the show perfectly but I think we should make an exception to this case since the episode was meant as a tribute to the legend.
The sub-plot was a typical sit-com plot that could have easily belonged to Newhart or the Bob Newhart Show. Raj has to work long hours or something so he needs someone to take care of his dog. He recruits Howard for the job. Howard and Bernadette have a good time and it leads to Bernadette thinking that maybe she would like to be a mother after all. She had fun in the park and she might enjoy having a family. That feeling lasts until they accidentally lose the dog. They panic as they try their best to find it. They even take on Raj's accent in the hopes that it will help them. There's a small moment where Howard accidentally reveals that Bernadette's Raj impersonation is a turn-on. Ah, a callback to the day when the show would make small jokes that the two best friends could be easily misconstrued as lovers. The dog is found by Raj's friend. He gets angry with his friends only to have the tables turned when Bernadette learns that he had the dog for hours and he had left them to worry in that whole time. She guilt trips him with a great outburst and Howard comments that she would make a great mother. Having a child is usually always the next step in a typical relationship arc after a couple gets settled to married life so it makes sense that Bernadette would start wanting to be a mother. If the two do have a baby then I hope it comes after the end of the series because I don't want the whole parenthood angle to factor into the show's dynamics.
The Proton Resurgence is a good episode of the Big Bang Theory largely because of Bob Newhart. The episode builds up to his appearance but it's weaker material than normal. It isn't until Newhart actually appears that the show comes alive as he pairs well with Sheldon and Penny. Leonard disappears into the background a bit but that's the price to pay. The sub-plot was funny but I'm hoping the show takes it's time with the whole parenthood arc.