Well, at least there was something technology related for the monologues last week. As you might expect, the Congressional testimony of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the topic of late night shows last week. While the reason behind the testimony – the shady data practices of Cambridge Analytica through Facebook – was worth exploring, the all-too-easy topic of Zuckerberg’s lack of emotional intelligence shown through in the jokes.
HBO is still promoting the latest season of Silicon Valley, and co-star Zack Woods appeared on Conan on April 10.
The Comedy Central programs delivered more than Mr. Zuckerberg last week, specifically on April 12. The Daily Show guest was Karlie Kloss. She’s best known as a supermodel, but has also been a correspondent on Bill Nye Saves the World and founded Kode with Klossy, an organization designed to encourage young girls to explore computer coding. That same night The Opposition hosted Bari Williams. Ms. Williams is an attorney and executive who advociates to Silicon Valley companies on diversity efforts.
This past week all the CBS and Comedy Central programs were in repeats, limiting the possibilities for science and technology content. The Tuesday (April 3) repeat on The Late Late Show included an appearance by Johnny Galecki, who plays one of the scientists on The Big Bang Theory.
Regrettably, what new programs were on last week had no solid offerings to report. While I have not crunched the numbers, I suspect that 2018 is shaping to be the worst year in talk show science and technology content in the time I’ve been tracking this kind of thing. Sure, there are now new, limited run science-centric programs like StarTalk, but the broadcast networks and nationally syndicated programs appear to be slipping.
This past week was another in a regrettable trend for 2018 where science and technology bookings are down. If it weren’t for the recent scandals around Facebook and how it handled data with Cambridge Analytica (which featured in a few monologues over the last 2 weeks), there’d be precious little science and technology content to relate. That the NBC programs were in reruns last week doesn’t help. (That the CBS programs are in reruns this week doesn’t help either.)
What bookings there were last week involved Silicon Valley, which recently premiered its latest season on HBO. Series lead Thomas Middleditch was on Conan March 26, and his co-star Zach Woods sat down with James Corden on March 28.
This week shows a serious uptick in late night science and technology guests. We can credit this to the premiere of the newest season of Silicon Valley, a comedy about software developers. Stars Kumail Nanjiani and Thomas Middleditch made the rounds. Nanjiani appeared on The Late Late Show Monday (the 19th), while Middleditch visited with Stephen Colbert on the 20th and with Seth Meyers on the 22nd.
Will this be a blip? Perhaps. Middleditch is scheduled to appear on Conan next week. After that, we can see whether or not 2018 continues to be a down year for late night science and technology content.
2018 continues to be a year of thin gruel for science and technology guests on the late night programs. This past week shows as much since the top guest was Alicia Vikander, who plays archaeologist/adventurer Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider film. She was on both Live with Kelly and Ryan and The Tonight Show on March 14 and on The Late Late Show on March 15.
A close second was Alan Cumming, who is the lead in a new CBS crime procedural Instinct. He plays a professor who studies psychopathic behavior. He was on Late Night with Seth Meyers and Live with Kelly and Ryan on March 13. Instinct premieres in the U.S. tonight.
When waiting for more content, check out the series The Daily Show ran on artificial intelligence the week of March 5. The week started with an overview on recent developments in robots and artificial intelligence before diving into pieces on sex robots (arguably NSFW), the use of AI and robots in the law, and facial recognition software. The show also tackled yet another instance of so-called smart speakers like Alexa acting up, the dubious connection between guns and video game violence, and recent research on the dangers of vaping (with some Uber protests thrown in).
As best as I can tell, 2018 has not been a strong year so far for science and technology related content. Yes, there are the specialty shows – StarTalk and Science Goes to the Movies (both in their fourth seasons) and Bill Nye Saves the World (season 2 dropped at the end of 2017). However, the more traditional outlets continue the lulls started with the departures of Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart and David Letterman, and the move of Stephen Colbert from cable to broadcast.
That said, there is a guest this past week that sort of fits. Cass Sunstein is a legal scholar whose writing has included the integration of behavioral science into regulation. However, he was on The Opposition with Jordan Klepper on March 6th for his most recent book on authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, the first post-Olympics week has not resulted in an increase of science and technology related guests. Sure, Johnny Galecki, who plays a scientist on The Big Bang Theory, was on with James Corden Monday night (26). But its not hard to find a talk show with a guest from that show. In fact, Galecki did double duty on Monday, also appearing on The Talk (both talk shows are CBS properties, as is The Big Bang Theory).
As is often the case, there were proper science and technology guests on the February 25th edition of StarTalk. The episode focused on long-term missions in space, and host Neil deGrasse Tyson’s interview with astronaut and engineer Scott Kelly was the focus of the episode. Astronaut and test pilot Terry Virts joined Tyson in studio with co-host Chuck Nice.
There was a repeat of note this week. Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays one of the scientists on Star Trek: Discovery, was on with Carson Daly in early February. The show reran that interview on Thursday night (March 1).
The next episode of StarTalk is Sunday, features an interview with Stephen Hawking, and is the last one of the current season. There is no word yet on a fifth season, but the announcement for the current season wasn’t made until after the third season had ended. Stay tuned?