How The Big Bang Theory Landed Bob Newhart As Professor Proton

professor proton the big bang theory bob newhart

The Big Bang Theory brought fans a lot over its 12 season run. There were tons of laughs, a few tears, some important reveals, and even several guest stars to help along the story of Leonard, Penny, Raj, Sheldon, Amy, Bernadette, and Howard. Among those esteemed guest stars was comedy legend Bob Newhart, who appeared as one of Sheldon's childhood science heroes, Arthur Jeffries, a.k.a. Professor Proton, a few times over the course of the series. Now, Newhart is talking about how The Big Bang Theory landed him for the guest spot in the first place.

If you watched The Big Bang Theory, especially later seasons, you will have likely seen first hand how much Sheldon loved Professor Proton. After Bob Newhart was introduced as the character in Season 6, he went on to reprise the role five more times, and won his first Emmy Award (after eight nominations going all the way back to 1962) for that first appearance in 2013. So, just how did a seemingly random (though incredibly popular) sitcom manage to convince Newhart to guest star? When asked about it while giving an interview to The Hollywood Reporter, Newhart said:

It's funny how that came about. Chuck Lorre and I knew each other because we were on the same lot. I was doing Newhart and he was doing Roseanne or Cybill. We wanted to work together, but we just had not found the right project. And he finally came to me and said, ‘I've come to you for your annual turndown of my show.’ And I said, ‘No, I really like Big Bang. I like the writing on it. I love the cast and I still have my [comedy] fastball. It is more like 42 mph now. I still know how to do that.’ And I missed it. So he said he would write a script to see what I thought, and that was the start of it. The only request I made was that [my portion] had to be done in front of the live audience because with my shows and background in stand-up, I was used to a live audience.

Well, it never hurts to just happen to work near a legendary comedian when you're thinking about who you'd like to work with someday, right? Apparently, sitcom super-producer Chuck Lorre got kinda lucky simply because he managed to land work on a show which was filming at the same studio lot as Bob Newhart was while the comedian was working on his second eponymously named series. It sounds like Lorre was not afraid to shoot his career shot with the funny man, and had spent several years trying to figure out a way to get him on one of his sitcoms.

Lucky for Lorre, The Big Bang Theory launched and was a solid success when he made another attempt at working with Newhart, and (also lucky) he happened to enjoy watching the nerdy antics on the comedy and liked the writing on the show so much that he was willing to allow Lorre to create a part for him. Newhart got to work in front of a live audience, which he loves to do, and he finally nabbed himself an Emmy.

Fans of The Big Bang Theory, of course, got to see Bob Newhart's Arthur Jeffries / Professor Proton interact with the gang, especially Sheldon, who was typically not the coolest cucumber when interacting with his many idols. While Sheldon and Leonard both grew up watching the scientist's show, which was made to help kids better enjoy and understand his field, and decided they wanted to become scientists by watching it, Sheldon was the true fan who became completely starstruck by the man once they met him.

Eventually, though, Sheldon and Arthur managed to become friends, and after Arthur died, Sheldon continued to take advice from him via a variety of dreams and even a Star Wars-like "force ghost" of his sometime mentor.

If you'd like to relive Bob Newhart's apperances as Professor Proton, all of The Big Bang Theory is streaming on HBO Max, but for more to watch in the coming weeks, you can check out upcoming holiday movies and specials, and see what will be on the small screen early next year!

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.