Last year, TV legend Bob Newhart won his first-ever Emmy for a guest spot as Arthur Jeffries (aka Professor Proton) on “The Big Bang Theory.” He repised that role this season and reaped another Best Comedy Guest Actor bid. We break down the pros and cons that episode — “The Proton Transmogrification” — below.
SYNOPSIS: After Sheldon’s childhood hero Professor Proton passes away, Sheldon dreams of him on “Star Wars” day (May 4) and receives fatherly advice from the afterlife.
Newhart first played this part last year in “The Proton Resurgence” and reprised it earlier this season in episode 7 (“The Proton Displacement”). In that installment, Sheldon teams up with Bill Nye after the professor opts to work with Leonard (Johnny Galecki).
This episode’s dream sequence puts one in mind of the classic finale of the “Newhart” show, which ends with Newhart back on the set of his first self-titled sitcom with Suzanne Pleshette.
Newhart’s character dies. That’s huge. Many performers won Emmys for their “death” episodes, so why shouldn’t comedy legend Newhart be on that list?
As the reigning Emmy champion from this category, Newhart is the actor that all of the other nominees must unseat in order to win. That’ll be tough. After all, Newhart received a rare standing ovation after winning his Emmy last year at the Creative Arts Emmys. He’s beloved from here to a galaxy far, far away.
As all of Newhart’s scenes in this episode are with three-time Emmy champ Jim Parsons, it’s essentially a masterclass in comedy acting. That’s a hard twosome to overlook.
Newhart is dressed up in a “Star Wars” costume and is bathed in a Jedi blue glow the entire time because it’s “Star Wars” day in the “Big Bang” universe and many of the characters are having a franchise marathon. Might all of the nerdy references get old with Emmy voters?
Professor Proton passes away off camera, which seems like a major missed opportunity for a can’t-miss TV death scene that’s absent from the episode. Instead, we get strange ghostly visions of Newhart that seem more in line with “American Horror Story” than “The Big Bang Theory.”
Back-to-back wins are practically non-existent in the Comedy Guest Actor category, suggesting that Emmy voters love to reward new blood every year. The last time a guest actor had two back-to-back victories here was Mel Brooks (“Mad About You”), who actually won thrice: in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
According to Gold Derby’s Experts, Editors and Users, Newhart is currently in third place to win the category with 10/1 odds. Being the reigning Emmy champ in this category is surely influencing the votes, because I don’t think his character’s ghostly role this time around warrants a second Emmy win.
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