I previously gushed about my love of Science Vs when it was a part of the ABC, but that was back when my reviews weren’t as meaty. Now that it’s with Gimlet I feel like I discovered something that went way mainstream-the holy grail of podcast reviewing (ha!). Obviously Gimlet liked what they heard too and I was so excited to hear Wendy Zukerman was going to continue the series. But when you change networks or get sponsorship, sometimes the show can change, so I was really interested to see if the format would stay the same.
I’m happy to report that Science Vs is just as awesome as it was on the ABC! The show takes on controversial topics in pop culture like fracking, gun control, forensic science, and the g-spot. Zukerman looks at what the different assumptions and perceptions are about the topics, and investigates the science behind the claims. She starts by explaining the most held or publicized viewpoint, for example: fracking causes chemicals to get into our drinking water. The origin of that assumption may be discussed, and then Zukerman will bring in an expert and start investigating the science. She stacks up the evidence on both sides and decides who “wins” – does science prove or disprove those commonly held ideas?
With Gimlet, Science Vs has lengthened its episodes and gotten a few more experts involved than when Science Vs was on the ABC. I actually prefer the shorter episodes of Season 1 but maybe Season 3 will find a happy medium. I think Gimlet’s influence lends to more storytelling on the show, and I’m not sure that was needed. But that’s admittedly a little nitpicky because I listen to so much, love science and storytelling, and have heard all of Science Vs’ entire catalog. I’m excited to see what topics Science Vs comes up with next, and hope Zukerman can revisit some topics from Season 1 in a part 2 or slightly different angle – the medical marijuana episode comes to mind. Another thing I wish Zukerman would bring back is the occasional reminder of what her sound effects mean; this was much more prevalent on Season 1 and I liked it. The sounds are obvious to me because I’m really familiar with the show, but a new listener could use a sound “legend” occasionally.
Zukerman is funny and a great audio personality, and she is presenting real research to debunk common assumptions. I love science and abhor when the media publishes click-bait-y headlines and articles based on less than sound science or based on one article published in one journal. Junk science is repugnant and I’m glad this show exists to help educate the easily swayed and unsuspecting folk who accept what is pushed to them through media via special interests (corporations, government, politicians, etc). I really hope you check out Science Vs!
**To my dear pod girl crush Wendy Zukerman: if you’re looking for any Science Vs topics for next season, here are my ideas! Science Vs: Global Warming, Pollution, Evolution/Creation, Nature vs. Nurture, Attraction, The Death Penalty, Animal Testing, GMOs, Diets, and Secondhand Smoke.**
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Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (5 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
The connection to pop culture is what makes this show genius. If you think the show’s just about science and that’s boring, you’ll be so pleasantly surprised. And if you already like science, you’ll delight in the not-too-nerdy-or-academic-but-still-real-science approach to current events and pop culture.
Host Listen-ability (5 / 5)
At my dream super fun podcast host dinner party where someone peed their pants from laughing too much, Wendy Zukerman would definitely be a guest. (With Helen Zaltzman, Anna Sale, The Brain Candy Podcast’s Sarah Rice and Susie Meister, and Michael Ian Black. Tell me you don’t want to go to that party!) Major pod crush.
Flow & Production Value (5 / 5)
The use of sound in this show is extremely effective. I love the game show-esque blips and bloops, they don’t work well on all shows but do here. The sound helps tell the story. When Zukerman gets to the end and reviews the hypothesis, it’s very clear whether it has been accepted or rejected.
Humor (4 / 5)
I love Zukerman’s puns! She’s so punny.
Investigation (4 / 5)
Storytelling (4 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (5 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (5 / 5)
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