The week of May 18th marked two months since most late night and daytime talk programs had ceased normal production of their shows. Some of them aired repeats, as would have been customary leading into the Memorial Day holiday in the United States. Aside from the near ubiquitous discussion of the coronavirus and responses to it, the repeats don’t have the science and technology content to note here.
Regrettably the new shows that week are also lacking in such content. I will note two exceptions. Actors Zach Braff and Donald Faison, who played doctors on the comedy series Scrubs, appeared on the May 22nd edition of The View. They have a podcast where they are re-watching Scrubs. I haven’t listened, so I don’t know how much medical content is on the program. On the May 21st episode of Tamron Hall’s talk show she visits with two veterinarians, Erin and Ben Schroeder.
With a continued focus on the coronavirus (or in the case of Conan, an interest in avoiding it) and a decreasing amount of new entertainment content to promote, the late night and daytime talk programs are struggling in May. The week of the 11th saw little in the way of science and technology content that wasn’t dealing with the virus. ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton did appear on the May 14th edition of Kelly and Ryan to discuss the situation. Dr. Jonathan LaPook, who does similar work for the CBS network, was on with Ellen DeGeneres on May 11th.
Some shows are taking a break in May, as they often do around Memorial Day. So expect the drought of non-viral science and technology content to continue.
I’m a little surprised it took this long into the shutdown portion of the pandemic for these postings to get really, really thin. For the first week in May, the only science and technology guests I could find were coronavirus related. One is a member of the U.S. government’s coronavirus task force, and the other is a Swedish epidemiologist. Those following the pandemic globally may know that Sweden took a very different approach to the coronoavirus, not taking as severe measures of lockdowns and closures compared to other countries. State epidemiologist Dr. Anders Tegnell spoke with Daily Show host Trevor Noah on May 4.
Earlier that same day, Dr. Deborah Birx visited The View.
While some parts of the country are going to be opening up soon, neither New York nor California are among them. I’d expect these remote forms of entertainment to continue through the summer.
Not much to pass along for the week of April 27th. The bookings do remind us of some shows that have passed on. Jim Parsons, often noted here for his work on The Big Bang Theory, made some appearances to promote his new show, Hollywood. He plays a talent agent in this show, so the appearances weren’t likely to cover his past work. You could also catch former Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch on the late night programs, but he was promoted a non-technology project.
Arguably the late night/daytime talk shows have settled into a new pattern (if not a new normal). Even when New York and Los Angeles relax their gathering restrictions, it will take some time for the shows to re-adjust to how it used to be. I’d expect this to continue into the summer. Hopefully not longer, but I can’t be sure of many things right now.
For the week in question, The Tonight Show takes the crown. Dr. Jane Goodall was on the show on April 22 to help commemorate Earth Day. The Late Show comes in (a distant) second, with Bill Gates visiting virtually to discuss coronavirus testing and vaccine research with Stephen. Gates notably warned about pandemic preparedness in 2015, and his foundation does a lot of work on public health issues around the world.
Also of note that week was another appearance by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder on Live With Kelly and Ryan. His last appearance on the program wasn’t that long ago, but with newly minted homeschool teachers needing science content, it makes sense for Science Bob to step up.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted that you shouldn’t expect Conan O’Brien to have on Dr. Anthony Fauci to talk about the coronavirus. O’Brien has made a point to not discuss the virus at length on his show, dealing mainly with what comedy can be found in the new normal of sheltering in place and social distancing. But on his April 13th show, he appeared to do exactly that. Emphasis on appeared.
Astronauts were the top non-virus science and technology content on late night during the week of April 13. Christina Koch, who returned from a year on the International Space Station in February, was on The Daily Show on the 14th. Her colleague Jessica Meir checked into The Late Show from the station on April 15th.
In non-astronaut content of note, on the April 13 episode Daily Show correspondent Desi Lydic spoke with Dr. Steven Taylor, a psychiatrist, about mental health concerns during a pandemic. The segment played as if Lydic perhaps should have spoken to Dr. Taylor a bit earlier in the current crisis. Dr. Jon LaPook, CBS Chief Medical Correspondent, answered questions for Late Show host Stephen Colbert on April 14.
At this point, it’s worth noting that most late night/morning talk shows will talk about the coronavirus and COVID-19, if only a little. It’s also worth noting that scheduled guests can change more often than in the days where they had to visit a studio rather than call into the videoconference. (That’s why I missed the April 2 appearance of Bill Gates on The Daily Show.)
The only science and technology related bookings I could find for last week were medical personnel. Dr. Jennifer Ashton appeared on the April 7th edition of Live with Kelly and Ryan. She is the chief health and medical editor and chief medical correspondent for ABC News and Good Morning America.
And that’s it for last week. So while science and technology content on late night is up, it’s because of the novel coronavirus and its associated impacts. Take that out and these shows would be back to the same relative slump I’ve noticed over the last two years.
Last week the late night shows were still shaking down the details of broadcasts outside of their home studios. While The Late Late Show was not back with new episodes, it did air a special with many musical performances from artist under quarantine. Conan returned to the airwaves last week, and is one of the few programs committed to avoiding the pandemic as much as possible in its content. He’ll certainly talk with his guests or his sidekick about how they’re living in quarantine, but don’t expect him to have Dr. Anthony Fauci on.
Speaking of Dr. Fauci, he did not extend his late night visits into last week, though I can’t rule out hearing from him, or the other members of the U.S. coronavirus task force on future episodes. Much like with the pandemic, anyone who makes predictions on this with absolute certainly isn’t really paying that close attention.
I’ll note that Alicia Keys performed a quarantined-themed version of FloRida’s “My House” during her on the April 2 edition of The Late Show. Yes, you can hear plenty of quarantine music on the Internet, but little of it has made it to late night just yet. The only other one from last week I’m aware of is Adam Sandler’s from the April 2 Tonight Show. I’ll close with the more polished effort from Ms. Keys.
Last week most programs were either in repeats or attempting to figure out what kind of show they could do with a decentralized staff and production. Many shows continued to generate content online, and The Tonight Show managed to integrate their online content into thae week’s repeats And yes, COVID-19 or its impacts were a major theme of the week. Sure, not everyone had Dr. Anthony Fauci (head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease) on their program, like Trevor Noah did on Thursday.
(In addition to his work at the Institute and in the federal government response to the virus, Dr. Fauci has been making the rounds to many outlets, answering questions.) But the changes in how they were doing their jobs made it impossible not to think about the virus, even if it wasn’t part of the comedy or the guests.
Noah also interviewed former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on the 25th, not only on the coronavirus but also on fostering connection, something even more important in this time of social distancing.
The Daily Show didn’t have a monopoly on science and technology guests last week. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson returned to The Kelly Clarkson Show on the 24th (likely taped in advance), and “Science Bob” Pflugfelder visited Live with Kelly and Ryan on the 26th (virtually). He was there to demonstrate science activities suitable for those who need to teach their kids while the schools are closed.
In last weeks repeats there were some segments of note. Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and other works of science fiction, was on with Seth Meyers last September. That episode was re-aired on the 26th. Continue reading
With most parts of the U.S. under some level of virus-prompted restrictions, most talk programs went into repeats last week. Some programs have offered segments of varying lengths and topics online, and if I find any that touch on non-virus related science or technology content, I’ll share them here.
On Tuesday the 17th, we saw “Science Bob” Pflugfelder’s February appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. On March 19 The Daily Show reran an episode from earlier in March that had a segment on so-called ‘forever chemicals,’ also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Stay as safe as you can everyone, do your best to protect yourselves and others.