While the late night and other talk show listings have been feeble this year, there have been other options for getting that kind of content.
National Public Radio has delivered on this front quite recently. For the weekend of February 3, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! had on Nobel laureate Michael Rosbash. Dr. Rosbash was recognized in 2017 for his work on circadian rhythms, and played the trivia game “Not My Job.” The following weekend the puzzle program Ask Me Another hosted former astronaut Chris Hadfield. The singer-astronaut was also quizzed on the science of winter sports.
NPR also hosted a short-lived podcast hosted by Paula Poundstone focused on scientific research. The comedian is frequently frustrated on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! by the questions based on scientific studies and turned that into Live From the Poundstone Institute. While there was always a celebrity guest, the show frequently interviewed researchers about their seemingly weird work.
If you really need some visuals, The Simpsons recently ran an episode with scientific themes. “Haw-Haw Land” started at a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) conference, and included a subplot with Bart exploring the prank potential of chemistry.
With the Winter Olympics in full force, most programs are either off this week or in repeats. Of the repeats to choose from, you could have seen the latest appearance from Neil deGrasse Tyson on The Late Show (Monday the 12th). Star Talk, however, was off this past week, and returns on the 18th with a focus on surfing.
Natalie Portman is starring as a biologist in the upcoming film Annihilation. The film covers an expedition into a mysterious area where the laws of science do not apply. Portman was on with Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday the 14th, and on Jimmy Kimmel’s program Thursday the 15th.
This was the last week before the Winter Olympics will wreak havoc on talk show schedules. Most of the late night programs will get out of the way – either to avoid the juggernaut or because they air on the same network.
I’ll start the list with a proper mathematician – Danica McKellar. The actress, author and mathematician was on The Real February 7.
StarTalk featured puppets, with an emphasis on Muppets, in its February 4th episode. Noted director and puppeteer Frank Oz was the featured guest.
Regrettably that was it for science and technology guests this week. I will note a recent (January 16th) edition of Today’s Future Now on The Daily Show. Correspondent Ronny Chieng spent the segment poking fun at the latest collection of future gadgets promoted at the Consumer Electronics Show.
On Monday (February 12th) The Late Show will repeat the January episode that featured Neil deGrasse Tyson. StarTalk, however, is off this week.
The latest MythBusters season continues, with two more episodes to air on Wednesdays. New hosts Brian Louden and Jon Lung have been joined on two separate episodes by Allen Pan and Tamara Robertson, who also competed to host the show. Robertson is reportedly going to be part of a science prank show debuting on the Science Channel later this year. Johnny Galecki, who plays one of the scientists on The Big Bang Theory, is producing and will likely host.
The trend of slim pickings in 2018 has drifted into February. I’ll lead with the January 28th edition of Star Talk, which focused on science and religious faith from a predominantly neurological perspective. Host Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke with featured guest, neuroscientist Sam Harris (who is also known for his public criticism of religion). Neuroscientist and physician Andrew Newberg joined Tyson in studio.
I did miss something from earlier in the month, which repeated on The Late Late Show on February 2. Gillian Anderson, currently back on The X-Files as Agent (and medical doctor) Dana Scully, had appeared on the program January 9th and I missed it. My apologies.
The other new content of note this week is an appearance from Sonequa-Martin Green, who plays Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery. Burnham is trained as a xenoarchaeologist and often serves as a science specialist on the show. She was on the February 1st edition of Last Call with Carson Daly. Her co-star, Anthony Rapp, who plays another scientist on Discovery, was on The Talk February 2.
January continues to be a lousy month for science and technology content. For this week the highlights were focused on StarTalk host Neil deGrasse Tyson. There were two repeats of recent Neil deGrasse Tyson appearances – both on Thursday the 25th. The repeats were from appearances last fall on The Late Late Show and Last Call with Carson Daly. And, of course, Season 4 of StarTalk continues on the National Geographic channel. The January 21st episode featured the author (Margot Lee Shetterly) and one of the leads from Hidden Figures (Janelle Monae), a film chronicling the black women who were integral in mathematical calculations during the early years of the space race.
While the guest lineup was thin on science and technology material, The Late Show did have a technology segment on its January 26 episode. That night’s edition of Cyborgasm focused on new home technology that seems like good ideas but may not be ready for home use just yet.
The January doldrums continue for science and technology guests on late night. Even StarTalk returned to a common topic – science and comedy – with its January 14th episode featuring Late Show host Stephen Colbert. While the discussion of Colbert’s religious faith was an added feature of the main interview, the show has touched on science and comedy several times in the past. Tyson was joined in studio by Adam Conover, another comedian (who hosts a show focused on deconstructing conventional wisdom, Adam Ruins Everything) and Sophia McClennan, who has studied and written on satire and democracy. The episode also featured appearances from Bill Nye the Science Guy and Jesuit priest (and frequent Colbert guest) Jim Martin.
While the new MythBusters season continues, the drought of science and technology guests continued on the talk shows this week. But we have something to look forward to on Sunday the 21st, as StarTalk will focus on the stories of the African-American female NASA mathematicians featured in the recent film and book Hidden Figures.
January continues to be a limited month for science and technology guests on the talk shows. Star Talk once again proves the strongest source, with science communicator and actor Alan Alda as the featured guest on November 7. Neuroscientist Heather Berlin, former co-host of Science Goes to the Movies (and occasional collaborator with her husband, science rapper Baba Brinkman) joined host Neil deGrasse Tyson in studio.
And that’s it for the week.