Saturday, August 8, 2015

Blog Post No. 1600: "The Big Bang Theory's" Homage to Charles Addams

Leonard:  A death ray?
Mary Cooper:  Well, that's what he called it—didn't even slow down the neighbor kids.

It was 2007 and "The Big Bang Theory" was in its fourth episode. The series was already very good but had yet to hit its stride. This unusual snippet of dialogue seems a little out of place. The prodigal Sheldon Cooper invents a death ray if only in name. We know it doesn't work because they tried to use it on children in the neighborhood. A death ray? It goes by so fast I'm sure most viewers scarcely notice. But each time I see it, it nearly knocks me off my chair. With this macabre joke, the writers of "The Big Bang Theory" are certainly paying homage to cartoonist Charles Addams!

Over the years this episode has been viewed millions of times and I'm sure at least a few must have picked up on the reference, but very likely most viewers did not. A cursory search of "the internets" does not show anything about the Addams connection, so I'll make the case for it here. In the video, Sheldon's mother Mary Cooper recollects what Sheldon was like as a child (from 5:29 to 6:11):

Highlights from "The Big Bang Theory" Season 1, Episode 4
"The Luminous Fish Effect"
See 5:29 to 6:11


"A death ray?"
6:08

Image added August 10, 2015

Transcription of "The Big Bang Theory" Season 1, Episode 4
"The Luminous Fish Effect"


This death ray is a reference to a classic 1953 cartoon by Charles Addams originally published in the New Yorker. It has since been collected in Homebodies (1954) and elsewhere so it is not by any means unfamiliar to Mr. Addams's fans.
Charles Addams, "Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up."
The New Yorker,
May 16, 1953, page 25

Charles Addams, "Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up."
The New Yorker,
 May 16, 1953, page 25


Note:  One-thousand six-hundred blog posts! I sure hope you didn't miss any.

The archives have much more about Charles Addams, a favorite cartoonist.

Remember when I had as many Twitter followers as Sheldon Cooper?

Here are about 1% of my blog posts to get you started:
The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts
Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story
01600

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