Bob Newhart knew if he was going to do television comedy again, he wanted to do it with a bang.
The veteran of several series — including his long-running “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Newhart” — found his wishes met by “The Big Bang Theory,” so he guests on the CBS sitcom Thursday (May 2). The famously low-key humor icon plays “Professor Proton,” a veteran TV personality recruited by fans Sheldon and Leonard (Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki) for a personal appearance.
Though he also has turned up on such shows as “NCIS” and “Desperate Housewives,” Newhart confirms to Zap2it that “comedically, I haven’t really been doing that much. First of all, I have a thing against laugh tracks; I can’t do a show with that. It’s sterile to me. It’s not part of the genre the way I grew up with it.
“It started with ‘I Love Lucy,’ then ‘The Honeymooners,’ then ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show.’ You just did your show in front of a live audience, and I think you have a better show that way. I’ve had offers to be in pilots, but I’m too old for that. I tell them, ‘When you’re a hit, call me back.’ I don’t want to go through that again.”
There’s no question “The Big Bang Theory” is such a hit, with its CBS ratings (which made it last Thursday’s top-ranked show) propelled even higher by the popularity of its repeats on such outlets as TBS. Newhart says he’s known executive producer and co-creator Chuck Lorre “for years and years, and this is something we’ve been trying to do for a long time.
“I think he was doing ‘Roseanne’ when I was doing ‘Newhart,’ and he told me that he used come over to our set and sit and have his lunch there … and we were all gone. He just liked being on the set. We’d talked over the years about doing this or that, then this came up and he said, ‘OK, what will it take?'”
Newhart’s reply meant his “Big Bang” stint probably won’t be one time only: “I said, ‘It has to be a recurring role. Maybe three appearances, something like that. And you have to film my scenes in front of an audience, because I don’t know how to do that other thing.’ And he said, ‘No problem.’
“They gave me a great script to work with,” adds Newhart, “and the people there are beautiful. They aren’t spoiled yet. I don’t know that they’ll ever be.”
One likely preventative measure is the studio audience’s response to them, Newhart believes. “It was like a rock concert,” he recalls of filming his initial “Big Bang” episode. “I was warned about that. They show up and boy, they’re ready for a show. It was just a great experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”