TV Review: StarTalk (2015- )

Original Run: April 20th, 2015 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: StarTalk podcast by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Music by: various
Cast: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, various

Curved Light Productions, National Geographic Studios, 60 Episodes (so far), 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Last night I watched the series debut of StarTalk, a TV version of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast of the same name.

For those who know me, you know I am a big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and have read all his books, watched just about all of his television specials and listen to his StarTalk podcast regularly. I have to admit, I still haven’t watched his version of Cosmos because I still find Carl Sagan’s original version to be perfection – even if it is now outdated.

Nat Geo decided to take Tyson’s podcast and make it into what they describe as a “late night talk show”. Having now watched it, I don’t really think it fits that category and it is bad marketing on their part. Sure, Tyson does interviews with celebrity guests but based off of the first episode, the interviews are prerecorded and shown in clips throughout the show as he and a few panelists discuss the interview. It’s not really a late night talk show format and is more of an interview recap show. Going forward, StarTalk would benefit from having guests actually appear on the set for a sit down interview à la The Tonight Show.

The content of the first episode was a bit weak. George Takei of Star Trek was the first celebrity guest for this inaugural episode and while it was a good interview, the show itself expanded into talking about the science of Star Trek and what is plausible and what isn’t with the knowledge we have today. While an interesting topic to some degree, it has already been done to death on multiple science shows across multiple networks. Additionally, there are countless books on the subject. I feel that for this show’s first outing, the subject matter should have wowed the audience. Give us your best foot forward and not a rehash of something that has already been debated more times than I care to count.

On the positive side, Tyson is a charismatic individual and the perfect successor to Carl Sagan’s throne of being the face and voice of astrophysics. He can explain complex things simply and has a knack for solid communication and a great sense of humor.

Neil deGrasse Tyson truly is the “star” in StarTalk. Without him however, the show would just be an average science show that would probably fail to engage audiences in the long run. Hopefully it is going to improve with time.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Neil deGrasse Tyson shows and TV specials.

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