It’s still shocking that TV treasure Bob Newhart had never won an Emmy until 2013, when he was awarded with a statue for his first Big Bang Theory performance as Professor Proton, the host of Sheldon’s favorite childhood TV show.
Professor Proton (a.k.a. Arthur Jeffries) returns for his fifth appearance on the series this week, and even though Arthur is dead, he’s still got the comedic timing and wit to keep up with his considerably younger mentee.
Arthur died during season seven’s “The Proton Transmogrification,” but continues to show up in Sheldon’s imagination when the scientist needs his advice. Arthur helped Sheldon with his fears about having sex with Amy for the first time in season nine, and he shows up now to help Sheldon with a Professor Proton–specific issue: The kiddie TV show that meant so much to lonely, misunderstood boy genius Sheldon is being remade, and Sheldon wants to play the titular role in the reboot himself. He even goes to his frenemy, Wil Wheaton, for acting tips, and you’re probably guessing where this goes. Yep, Wil Wheaton lands the job himself, earning one of Sheldon’s oft-deployed “Wheaaaaaaaton!” screams of frustration.
It isn’t even that Sheldon doesn’t think Wil is talented. He does. Wheaton’s a “Hollywood pretty boy” with “movie-star charisma,” as per Sheldon, but he’s not a scientist and that disqualifies him for the role in Sheldon’s mind. Professor Proton’s series was one of the few things that made science seem cool to other kids, and that makes it sacred in his mind.
But he can’t talk Wheaton out of taking the part. The Star Trek: TNG alum is unbothered by Sheldon’s argument that he’s unqualified because he’s not in the science trade. “Well, I was never on a starship, but pretending I was bought me this house,” Wheaton says as Sheldon stands at his front door. “And if I’d pretended a little longer, it would have a swimming pool.”
What’s a Sheldon to do when he’s so stymied by the situation? Dream about Professor Proton, of course, and he soon appears, once again wearing an Obi-Wan Kenobi robe in a Dagobah swamp-y setting. Arthur isn’t thrilled about being called into Yoda-ish duty. “What part of ‘rest in peace’ don’t you understand?” he asks. Sheldon guesses that Arthur popped in because he heard the news.
“Sheldon, I’m a figment of your imagination, so I don’t ‘hear the news,’” Arthur responds.
“Grumpy figment,” Sheldon mutters, before telling Arthur his show is being remade, and the worst part is, a nonscientist has been cast to replace him.
“No, the worst part is, I’m sitting on a moist log,” Arthur says.
Sheldon insists, however, that Arthur’s legacy as Professor Proton must be protected.
“What legacy?” Arthur asks. “My last two seasons, I was on Sunday morning at 5:30. We were beat by Davey and Goliath.”
Sheldon’s hurt and angry that Arthur doesn’t care more about the situation. He tells him that he does, though, and that Wil Wheaton is going to rue the day he met him.
“I think that’s true of most people,” Arthur quips. Sheldon’s right; he’s grumpy. But it works for him. When Sheldon dreams of Arthur again later, after his failed attempt to oust Wheaton from the new Proton show, Arthur reappears at the swamp with a suggestion: “You know, we could also meet in a deli.”
Unfazed, Sheldon apologizes for not being able to change the Wheaton casting. “You see now, that’s the kind of thing you could tell a fella over a pastrami sandwich,” Arthur tells him.
Sheldon assures him that Wheaton’s insistence on being employed as the new Professor has earned him a permanent spot on Sheldon’s enemies list. He is done with Wil Wheaton once and for all, he says.
Arthur: “Interesting. Can anyone sign up for that list?”
In the non-returning-guest-stars portion of the episode, Howard is getting a vasectomy, so soon-to-be-born Baby Wolowitz the Sequel will complete the Bernie and Howie household. It’s got him in bed recovering, just as Bernadette is told by her doctor that she needs to be on bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy. That leaves Penny to take care of baby Halley, a job that the nervous parents and her friends question her ability to do.
She proves them wrong, getting a rather harsh last laugh on Mommy and Daddy. They’re listening in on the baby monitor as Halley says her first word: “Mama.” To Penny.
“No, baby, I’m not your mama,” Penny tells Halley. “She’s the nice lady we’re gonna go see right now, so I can rub this in her face!”
• In the continuing tradition of good use of props by the series, when Howard is recovering after his surgery, he summons Bernie with a bell. Well, a virtual bell. Howard’s found an app for that.
• Howard, on deceased kiddie science-show host Professor Proton: “He was cremated, and his remains were put in a baking soda volcano.”
• In honor of another fine Newhart return, let’s not forget: Before there was Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, there was the Hi, Bob game.
• Sheldon describes the perfect Professor Proton star for the reboot: He’d be a scientist Sheldon respects, have a pleasant voice, and sport symmetrical facial features. (Bernadette: “Is he talking about himself?” Penny: “If he’s talking, he’s talking about himself.”)
• The opening scene includes a sexist joke about the female Doctor Who and all-female Ghostbusters cast, as well as a multi-line clunker about pedophilia. Maybe the writers room could use a subscription to The Hollywood Reporter. Or a peek at any newspaper, magazine, blog, Twitter …