First a programming notice: turns out I will not be on the Colbert Report tonight. Never fear — I was just bumped back to next week, Wednesday March 10 (11:30 p.m., 10:30 Central). Business as usual in TV land, no big deal. I was hoping that I was nudged in favor of a newly medaled Olympic hero, or at least minor royalty, but it looks like tonight’s guest will be Garry Wills. He’s one of my favorite writers, but still. Obviously some Catholic favoritism going on here.
Small scheduling glitches aside, the Colbert Report and the Daily Show remain two of the best places to hear interviews with interesting academics on TV, especially with scientists. In USA Today, Dan Vergano writes about this curious state of affairs. Neil deGrasse Tyson brings up a good point, that Johnny Carson’s version of the Tonight Show used to feature interviews with heavyweights such as Carl Sagan and Margaret Mead. These days, not many non-satirical network news shows bring on scientists (or anthropologists, or for that matter philosophers or English professors) as a regular event.
When Conan O’Brian took over the Tonight Show, the Science and Entertainment Exchange received a request from the producers to suggest some entertaining (and hopefully enlightening) scientists they could consider bringing on as guests. I don’t know if they ever followed up on that idea, and now I guess we’ll never know. Hopefully the success of Stewart and Colbert will convince the networks that Americans don’t necessarily turn the channel when faced with people who think carefully about the universe.