WHEN | WHERE Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS/2
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Happy birthday, Sheldon (Jim Parsons), or maybe not. Due to a childhood trauma, one of many, Sheldon refuses to attend his own birthday party, until finally Amy (Mayim Bialik) talks him into it. Meanwhile, Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) organize a special visitor or two to this muted celebration, including the real Adam West. Disaster looms. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) helps to avert it. This episode is the show’s 200th and is titled, “The Celebration Experimentation.”
MY SAY Except perhaps for Sheldon’s, most birthday parties require gifts, and the 200th arrives bearing a few for viewers. In the interest of keeping this spoiler-free, one famous personality returns for a fifth appearance (via Skype) officially establishing “The Big Bang Theory” as either his all-time favorite show or at least the one he actually almost stars in.
Also back is Wil Wheaton. He’s pretty much forever Wesley Crusher from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Gordie Lachance from “Stand by Me” but just Wil Wheaton on “The Big Bang Theory,” which is good enough for the star-smitten Trekkies in Apartment 4A. He’s been a semiregular for years now. Other partygoers include Christine Baranski as Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, the droll, diffident maternal influence on Leonard. Sara Gilbert — Sheldon nemesis Leslie Winkle — is the one deep reach into the show’s past; the years, or long absence, appear to have mellowed her character.
Then, of course, there’s that real blast from the past — someone threaded indelibly, happily, through decades of TV memories. Adam West never stopped being Batman, even as Mayor Adam West on “Family Guy” or just plain Adam West on “Funny or Die Presents . . . ” That’s the whole conceit of a car ride en route to Sheldon’s party, when a debate flares up over the various merits of other famous Batmen. West demands that he should be high up on any list because “those other guys had muscles built into their costumes. All I had was one hundred percent Grade A West.”
And Grade A West he remains. At 87, he can still light up a room — even a room where Sheldon Cooper’s birthday is taking place — and he’s still in on the joke: His own. West’s glorious ur-Batman remains a TV treasure, and will remain so for as long as there are TVs to watch him. Meanwhile, “The Big Bang Theory” accords him the respect he deserves by giving him the best line Thursday night: “I still get paid, don’t I?”
BOTTOM LINE A landmark episode with the right sense of proportions — and the right guest stars.