The Big Bang Theory season 6 episode 22: The Proton Resurgence

Review Kaci Ferrell 3 May 2013 - 07:45

This week's The Big Bang Theory on childhood heroes gets to the heart of what it is to be a geek. Here's Kaci's review...

This review contains spoilers.

6.22 The Proton Resurgence

In this week's episode of The Big Bang Theory, Howard and Bernadette lose Raj's dog and the show pays tribute to childhood and science heroes. 

Raj asks his friends to look after his dog and it inspires them to re-visit the conversation of whether or not they want kids, and this time, Bernadette is more amenable to the idea. Not only that, but when she scolds Raj upon finding out that he has had his supposedly lost pet for several hours without informing them, Howard points out that she'd be great at it. It's cute and funny but I have to admit that mostly I want to talk about the Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny story of this episode. 

There are a lot of criticisms geeks level at this show. Many of them are quite valid. I myself have called it out for its ardent refusal to accurately reflect the female geek community. But the thing about this show is that when it gets something right, it really gets it right. By introducing us to Professor Proton, we're thrown back to whatever childhood hero we once had who inspired us to reach for our dreams on top of recalling fond days in science class spent letting Bill Nye the Science Guy teach us the scientific method.

By exposing Professor Proton not as the monolithic hero that Leonard and Sheldon have built him up to be but rather as just a normal guy with normal problems from a cheating wife to a tetchy pacemaker, it reminds us that our heroes are just like us: but that's not a let down, that's an amazing inspiration. Because if they're just like us, then we can be just like them, too. That's why they inspire us; because we believe that if they did it, so can we.

And fine, I'm a sap, I've never tried to hide that, but I honestly teared up a little when Sheldon told Professor Proton how he'd inspired a generation of scientists and their discoveries were his discoveries, too. It calls to mind the influence of real-world scientists frequently in the public eye like Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson and just how many people are learning to love science because of how much passion we see in them. And it's not limited to just scientists; the same idea applies to all kinds of professions. Our victories are their victories and even if they themselves never discover anything revelatory, they have truly changed the world because someone, somewhere, who did have that epiphany, only had the courage to follow their passion because of those heroes. 

Okay, climbing down off my soapbox now. What I mean to say is that when this show understands us and our culture, it really, truly does get it right. It's not always, which is possibly why it's all the more frustrating when it lets us down; we know it can soar, and so when it doesn't, we're harder on it than we should be. 

This episode of The Big Bang Theory, at least for me, really got to the heart of what it is to be a geek: to be passionate, to be inspired, to follow in the footsteps of our heroes while blazing our own trail. So I salute you, Professor Proton, and the generation of scientists you inspired. Now quiet down and let Penny plug that potato into your pacemaker. At least she'll learn something.

Read Kaci's review of the previous episode, The Closure Alternative, here.

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I've tried to watch this show, but I find it absolutely dire - a bunch of over the top insulting stereotypes showing very little inventiveness or wit. It's completely the opposite of geek humour (see Spaced) - it's just mainstream bland and loud America comedy (see Friends) played out to a theme it doesn't really understand.
Absolutely terrible show and insulting to find it being reviewed on here.

It's made by the same 'team' that brought us '2 and a half men'. Says it all really.

I can see what you mean, but find that I don't agree. There's nothing wrong with having an exaggerated view of a set of characters to reflect on our own lives. Not everything has be an accurate real life representation and embellishing certain personality traits really does work for me... or at least it did.
I found it was a lot better during the first 2 series when they were all characters in their own right with multiple (exaggerated) flaws. Unfortunately some of them have just become caricatures of themselves (Sheldon as the asexual man clueless to the needs of women and life in general (which he seemed to have a grasp of in the earlier seasons) and Raj as the 'metrosexual' guy whose psychological issues prevent him from speaking to women has been played too long and too hard). Other than that, I've found the show to be entertaining and enjoyable if not recently groundbreaking.

Sorry, Soupy, but I have to ask. Did you actually read the review before you commented? Have you read any of my past reviews? I've actually been quite critical of the show in my reviews this season (the only season I've reviewed on here) to the point that I've had multiple commenters telling me to loosen up. Even if you didn't read those reviews, I explicitly stated in this one: "There are a lot of criticisms geeks level at this show. Many of them are quite valid. I myself have called it out for its ardent refusal to accurately reflect the female geek community."

Looking at things with a critical eye and finding both the good and the bad in them is important. Geeks simply not watching and letting the mainstream viewership (because rest assured, TBBT's juggernaut ratings aren't just us geeks) keep it afloat does nothing good for the community. In our silence, we would be letting them think it's okay to keep on business as usual. While I doubt my one little voice has much of an impact, multiple geek voices saying over and over again, "This is not us, this is how you can improve," is much more likely to have an impact.

As for "American" comedy, I'd like to point out to you that this type of comedy can be found on both sides of the pond. Steven Moffat's "Coupling" is a good example of this style of comedy in Britain. (I'd also probably add Gavin & Stacy, actually, as well as The IT Crowd to a somewhat lesser extent and I could keep going. Keep in mind that my exposure to British comedy is quite limited since I don't have a lot of access to it here in America; these are just ones I've seen and can think of off the top of my head.)

Am I disagreeing that TBBT is problematic? Of course not. It is, and I've tried to point that out repeatedly in my reviews. Because silence is agreement, and I don't agree. Ignoring it and pretending it doesn't exist isn't going to make it go away; there's enough of a mainstream audience to keep it going without any geek support. Therefore, I choose to speak out. I criticize it when it goes astray and I applaud it when it gets things right -- which I felt this particular episode did, as I explained in the review. Maybe if more of us were trying to look at it with a balanced eye, people might actually start listening.

They could have just replaced Proton, with Star Trek. Both encouraged many to get into the fields of science and many others.
Also Penny was pointless this episode.

Thank you for the review, Kaci, I just watched the episode tonight, Bob Newhart was as deadpan funny as always. I grew up listening to his comedy albums, more years ago than I care to remember - but I can't help but feel, after seeing him tonight, that this might be his swan song :-(

I disagree about Penny's role - I loved her innocent and genuine surprisd at the idea of potato clocks, and her thoughts about how it could solve the energy crisis. I thought it was both funny, and pointed in demonstrating the continued need and relevance for shows like Proton's.

THIS SHOW IS PURE CRAP. WATCH IT WITHOUT A LAUGH TRACK. DREADFULLY UNFUNNY!

I love The Big Bang Theory, but your comment pushed me into re-watching Spaced as well, so you win too. :)

The difference for me is Coupling was actually funny and quite inventive in the way it went about it. TBBT I just find (and I admit I've only seem a handful of episodes) always seems to go for the painfully obvisous joke - which is normally a character falling back on the tried and trusted stereotype, or SAYING SOMETHING REALLY LOUD. Gavin & Stacy and The IT crowd I didn't enjoy (I doubt you'll find member on here who liked G&S).

Just in case there was a misunderstanding I wasn't having ago at all American comedies - I just think TBBT sets the bar extremely low and on a week Futurama gets axed again I guess I bit! No offence to you meant.

It's okay. I'm still reeling from the Futurama cancelation, too. It's one of my favorite shows and I'm really unhappy about it.

I guess in a way, I bit, too. You're not the first person to say something to me either on here or elsewhere about my watching this show and speaking up about it. Like I said, I genuinely believe that there's value in watching it, pointing out it's flaws, and praising it for its successes. I've been particularly vocal about my dislike of the lack of female geeks on the show and how much it annoys me that any time the boys go to the comic book store, there's always a joke about how the men in it are afraid of women and no woman would ever go in there -- as an actual geeky woman who visits her local comic book store, you can see how this stereotype bothers me.

But here are the options that I have: I can get angry, stop watching, and nothing will happen because they're not going to miss one little viewer (they wouldn't even miss every geek in the world; most of their viewership is made up of, for lack of a better term, "Muggles"), or I can keep watching and use the voice Den of Geek has given me to speak up and say, "Hey, this isn't okay, stop doing that," and, when they do get it right, say, "Hey, that was great! More like that!" And even if my one little voice can't make a difference, together with other geeks at other sites doing the same thing I can collectively send a message. So that's what I choose to do.

So when my fellow geeks come at me for bothering, I bite back harder than I should because it just happens so frequently that I get tired of having to explain why I bother.

Trust me, I don't think this show is perfect. I never have, and I've been vocal about it often to the point of detriment to my readership on here. (Seriously, I invite you to read comments on some of the reviews of the first half of this season; there are YouTube videos with nicer and more constructive comments.) It just so happens that you've caught me on one of the rare episodes where they really got to the heart of what it is to be a geek and to be inspired, and because I believe in positive reinforcement, I wrote a glowing review to reinforce that good behavior. I'm normally not even a fraction of this nice to the writers.

"I've tried to watch this show, but I find it absolutely dire" Which leads to the musical question "If You Hate the Show....Why Read a Review on Individual Episodes"?

And "Dharma & Greg," "Mike & Molly", "Grace Under Fire", Chuck also wrote the theme song to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

"They could have just replaced Proton, with Star Trek. Both encouraged many to get into the fields of science and many others."

Not really - "Star Trek" is a huge franchise that has generated billions. Professor Proton is a man at the end of his life with crushed dreams and regrets. Most important, PP was created as an excuse to bring on Bob Newhart. Is it possible that this comic genius is unknown in your country?

In America, Bob had three TV long running, beloved TV series ("The Bob Newhart Show", "Newhart", and "Bob") He hasn't performed in a sitcom in over a decade, so casting him was a major coup.

And Penny was essential in this episode - she showed pure, innocent, joy in learning science. For one moment, she understood Leonard's passion.

What you wrote is clearly important - because it was written in all caps.

No question that this might be his last visit to television. If so, it was a wonderful end to a career. He took on three very talented comedic actors at the height of their powers, and got huge laughs with lines like "yes, you should have,": "a friend would have warned me about the elevators" and in response to Penny's question about potatoes solving the world's energy crisis, "....no."

I apologise for my first post, and yes you should keep posting your reviews. You didn't have to explain yourself in response to what was in hindsight a rather trolling comment made by myself (i've no excuse for that). But thank you for taking the time for putting your point of view across, it won't change my point of view of the show itself, but I understand and respect your passion.

Futurama always got the rough end of the stick, in the UK you still can't even buy the second half of the season that was the comeback season (starts with Neutopia and ends with Reincarnation) it's now on its forth date on Amazon at June 24th - but I suspect it'll change again! I guess on the plus side I'll have plenty of episodes still to watch despict the fact it's axed! (Any chance of it continuing, or is this really he end?)

Again sorry.

I've heard they're going to try shopping it around to a few other networks and I think there's a slim chance SyFy might take it up, but I'm not counting on that. I think they said that while they'd love to keep going, the finale as it is will be a good way to go out, so at least there's that.

Yeah, I cried during this episode of BBT, which is something I never thought would happen. Sheldon's speech was so wonderful and absolutely true, I have to wonder who they got to write it, because it could probably be found in the hearts of every scientist (especially in our generation). Bill Nye, I salute you.

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