It took “The Big Bang Theory” to bring physicists out of the darkness and into the light. Sure, they may be nerdy and argue about science fiction entertainment too much and wear goofy clothes to work, but the geniuses on “The Big Bang Theory” are a brand new type of TV physicist. Namely, physicists that don’t travel through time or threaten the world with nuclear explosion. Aw, I kid the crazy physicists. I kid ’cause I love. In fact, one of the earliest portrayals of a physicist as a regular on a TV show came in the form of your typical sitcom dad.
Peck’s Bad Girl
The titular bad girl was this 1959/1960 sitcom was played an actress well acquainted with being bad. She was the young girl who overacted badly in the big screen version of “The Bad Seed.” This bad girl was not even close to that murderous tyke. Basically, what you had in “Peck’s Bad Girl” was a young girl’s maturation giving fits to a father ill-prepared to handle such situations even if he was a research physicist. Thus proving that even physicists were no better educated to prepare the task of raising a rebellious daughter than fathers who toiled in any other profession
On the other hand, if you are a father whose little girl has been transported into another dimension through a portal hidden in the wall behind her bed, you may want to call on a friend who is a physicist. If, you know, you happen to have a friend who is a physicist. Bill the physicist friend of the parents of the “Little Girl Lost” in the fourth dimension fortunately seems to know quite a bit about portals into other dimensions. One gets the distinct feeling that Bill is certainly no theoretical physicist and, in fact, whatever work he does in physics may be of the type that is never openly acknowledged by government types.
Now we’re talking physicists! Victor Bergman was not just a physicist, but a Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who discovered a tenth planet hiding in our solar system. Remember, this was “Space: 1999” so Pluto was still considered a planet, thus making his discovery of a tenth planet scientifically and historically accurate.
David Vincent had discovered a terrible secret. Aliens from another world had arrive and, disguised as human beings, were setting the stage for an attack force that would conquer Earth so they could take for it their own as a result of the imminent death of their home planet. By the second episode of “The Invaders” David was already looking to help from eminent scientists for help in proving that he wasn’t just delusional lunatic. And who better to help him prove the aliens were already invading than renowned astrophysicist Curtis Lindstrom? Vincent needs the help of Lindstrom’s son in getting to the physicist, but Lloyd Lindstrom seems curiously concerned about the sanity of his father. Could it be that the aliens have already gotten to the Lindstrom family?
But seriously, what good is it having a physicist as a lead character on your TV show if you aren’t going to make that TV show about the science of physics? Sure, it all fine and dandy in the Eisenhower era to show that an egghead intellectual was no better at raising a daughter up right than some beatnik anarchist, but what did it really gain “Peck’s Bad Girl” to introduce such an atypical career into the burgeoning world of TV sitcoms if you weren’t going to take full advantage of the breakthrough? Nobody ever really cared if Sam Beckett was a good father or if he was abandoning a family to go leaping through time. Beckett must surely be one of the youngest winners of the Nobel Prize for Physics in history. But then any physicist capable of transporting himself through time and space as as well inhabiting another person’s body and changing their life for the better probably deserves that honor. So, suck it, Sheldon Cooper!