I've made comments in private about how I wasn't very impressed with the program Adam Ruins Everything. Certainly, having citations show up on screen prevents outright lies (although, because they aren't hyperlinks, it doesn't even save you a google). So it can't be that bad, right?

It isn't bad. But when you have citation formatting, you present that small element as a work of scholarship. At the very least, it suggests you've read enough to say, this, here, is the thing you ought to read first if you're curious. That's an important element of scholarship, and citations are its format. I don't think I'm holding them to an unreasonable standard on that.

But I've also heard Adam Conover react to critique. He did an episode describing "The Backfire Effect", which is described as where presenting evidence that someone's belief is false leads them to believe it more. Except... when that failed to replicate (and probably isn't a thing that happens in real life to any meaningful extent) he brushed it off.

Clearly, he pointed out, this is something that happens. But the difference between "my uncle really dug in to his position" and "on balance, presenting evidence persuades people of its opposite" is huge. One is something we already know. And the other paints a picture of the world where we should probably not have any outbound knowledge transfer. If people want information, you may answer their question. But, to promote wisdom, you must not tell people things. That's a shocking difference to just wave your hands about and suggest people are nitpicking.

Also, what's the point of the citations if you don't care what the current published best understanding is? I don't want to harp on this one moment very much, but it says so much about his character that overlooking it seems crazy. This is not someone whose scholarship you should trust.

That being said, if you listen to him in the fullest context possible, you understand he consistently describes himself as a comedian and his job as producing a comedy show. If it entertains people, that's good. Scholarship isn't the only virtue, and neither is the deep honesty of always appearing to be precisely what you are. It is okay for him to have failures of those virtues. We all fail in some virtues. And making someone laugh, entertaining them, that's good. Even if it only gives them a slightly more accurate vision and tremendously multiplied confidence.