On Thursday, The Big Bang Theory will welcome Bob Newhart to its ranks in a role inspired by showrunner Steve Molaro's real life.
The comedy legend will play Professor Proton, the former host of a children's television show, a la Bill Nye the Science Guy, that both Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) grew up watching. When Sheldon discovers Professor Proton can be hired out to work private functions, the duo jump at the chance to meet their childhood hero — a feeling Molaro knows firsthand.
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"This is based on something that is ridiculously happening in my own life," Molaro says. "It's based on me finding my childhood TV hero and realizing that he's still available for bookings and asking my wife if we could hire him and fly him out to have dinner with us."
For Molaro, his hero is Floyd Vivino of The Uncle Floyd Show, a satirical series that aired from 1974 to 1998 on one of the UHF channels out of New Jersey. "It was a kid's show geared towards college students, and I was 12 years old," Molaro explains. "There was an Uncle Floyd-shaped hole in my soul, and that [show] filled it. I was a lonely kid. I did not have a lot of friends, and as Sheldon says to Bob Newhart in the episode, 'I didn't have a lot of friends but every day at four o'clock I had you, and you were my friend.'"
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"This was me, through Sheldon, expressing my feelings about ... what Floyd did for my childhood and how important he was to me," Molaro continues and adds that he put a special nod in for his own hero. "Sheldon even says that Professor Proton was on Channel 68, and I slipped that in there because Floyd was on Channel 68 for me."
Over the years, executive producer Chuck Lorre had been courting Newhart to appear on one of his shows. The 83-year-old actor finally agreed to grace Big Bang for a recurring part where he can potentially return next season. Surely the series' writers will have plenty of material for his return considering Molaro had not yet met with his own childhood hero in real life.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8/7c on CBS.
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