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Sheldon Cooper takes big step on ‘Big Bang Theory’

Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) prepare

Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) prepare to take a big step on "The Big Bang Theory." Photo Credit: CBS / Michael Yarish

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 8 on CBS/2


WHAT IT’S ABOUT The opening night of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” approaches, and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) faces a crisis — go with Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Howard (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar)? Or spend the evening with longtime girlfriend Amy (Mayim Bialik)? Sheldon struggles with making a decision, until Professor Proton (Bob Newhart) appears to him in a dream. Dressed (of course) in a Jedi robe, Proton hears Sheldon’s dilemma.

Sheldon later comes to a determination: Perhaps it’s time he and Amy . . . well, you know . . .

Get physical.

MY SAY Well, I enjoyed that more than I thought I would — and you will, too. I mean, come on! Sheldon Cooper and physical intimacy? The juxtaposition of terms, the whole general idea, does not compute. It’s an amalgam of opposites, or radical dissimilarities. It’s like a convention where hard-core “Star Wars” fans commingle with hardcore Trekkies. You wouldn’t want to go to that convention. (Neither would the Trekkies or “Star Wars” fans.) But Sheldon surprises on occasion. He surprises in this episode.

“The Big Bang Theory” deployed a familiar and happy visitor from the past to break this particularly unbreakable ice, and as usual, Newhart’s Proton is the perfect icebreaker. A TV treasure, Newhart is always good, but his infrequent visits to “Theory” are now like special and unexpected gifts. As Proton, he represents Sheldon’s alter ego, but he’s also an old soul who understands Sheldon’s old soul better than Sheldon does.

Sheldon’s reluctance to consummate his relationship with Amy these past five years was, on one level, comedy — a familiar gag, an easy laughline, bathos. On another level, it was bordering on pathos. As Sheldon knows or says, the universe is a big, indifferent place. Intimacy is not so much part of the order of the universe as the exception. Nothingness is the rule out there in the Big Lonely Beyond. To be or not to be? Like any good theoretical physicist, Sheldon has puzzled over the question. The answer has eluded him.

Just to be clear, Thursday’s episode is not, for example, some endorsement of premarital sex (as if that needed endorsing), or even an endorsement of sex (that, too). It’s an endorsement of life. To be or not to be . . . With this episode, Sheldon gets a little closer to being.

BOTTOM LINE Lots of fun plus a bonus — Proton gets one of the better sight gags in show history.

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