❚ “POSSIBLY, THE BEST EPISODE. EVER.” Let’s hope TVfanatic’s Carla Day isn’t overselling this week’s Series 5 episode 21 of the US’s highest rated comedy show. The States saw it last month, and Carla reported “non-stop laughs”. The Big Bang Theory is the cult comedy series that has come to define the age of Geek Chic. The sitcom revolves round four nerdy friends who all have impressive jobs and degrees in science. They play video games, collect comic memorabilia, discuss complex scientific topics.
Now TBBT can claim the ultimate accolade: the world’s most famous scientist steps up to guest star in The Hawking Excitation, which airs in the UK on Thursday (E4, 8pm). Yes, Britain’s 70-year-old cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, visits California to lecture at Caltech university (renowned as much for its practical jokers as its Nobel prizewinners). There, engineer Howard Wolowitz is given the job of maintaining his wheelchair. This makes theoretical physicist and uber-geek Dr Sheldon Cooper (played by Golden Globe and Emmy winner Jim Parsons) green with envy.
As the Prof’s most ardent admirer, Sheldon stops at nothing for the chance to share his hero’s “beautiful mind”, so his put-upon rival Howard sets Sheldon various tasks to earn a meeting with Hawking, and one is to walk into the cafeteria in a French maid’s costume. “What are you all staring at?” quips Sheldon. “You ever seen a man try to get a meeting with Stephen Hawking before?” The encounter itself produces a pretty ripe exchange between the pair of geniuses.
Executive producer Bill Prady said: “When people would ask us who a dream guest star for the show would be, we would always joke and say Stephen Hawking — knowing that it was a long shot of astronomical proportions. In fact, we’re not exactly sure how we got him. It’s the kind of mystery that could only be understood by, say, a Stephen Hawking.”
Fact is however that Hawking has guested on Futurama and appeared more than once as himself in The Simpsons.
This week’s episode isn’t the only dream come true for Sheldon. In March the world’s most famous Vulcan actor, Leonard Nimoy, was heard when Star Trek’s Spock spoke to Sheldon in his sleep and deployed some snappy logic, as ever. And in 2010 Apple’s Steve Wozniak had a cameo in which he interacted with a virtual Sheldon who tells Wozniak he’s his “15th favourite technological visionary”. Only 15th, note.
➢ Catch up online at 4OD with The Hawking Excitation until June 15
➢ David Hockney paints Stephen Hawking — watch a glittering new portrait emerge as a movie