BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD Review
The odds are very high that at least one person in the past five months has sighed and told you some variation of, “We live in troubled times.” Your friends, neighbors, parents, some stranger on the internet, even Billie Joe Armstrong all kind of feel this sort of malaise of. “things could stand to be a little bit better than they are.” Maybe they feel like the world needs saving. Just someone to burst onto the scene and carefully explain why certain things are the way they are and hope that the cold steel of logic and reason sorts everything out and we can go back to worrying about other less important things. Perhaps that man is renowned Science Guy and bowtie enthusiast Bill Nye?
“They call me Planck cause I’m Constantly smashin’”
Because Netflix can pretty much do whatever the Hell it wants, they’ve teamed up with Bill Nye to bring BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD to streaming devices across the land. The show features Nye as the host of a program that seeks to bring controversial topics such as climate change, sex and gender, GMOs, and a litany of other things that you’ve gotten into a fight on Facebook about to the forefront. Nye discusses these topics with a small panel of experts and sends attractive spokesmodels like Karlie Kloss out into the field to interview people personally affected by these topics. The show seeks to bring a firm empirical voice to subjects at the center of much debate and use Nye’s nostalgic attraction to get people excited about science.
Unfortunately, like a Mentos experiment that uses regular instead of Diet Coke, the whole thing sort of falls flat and disappointing. Bill Nye, while occasionally charismatic and inspiring, is a largely awkward host. His antics and repartee amongst his guests tend to be cringe-inducing, as do many of the segments that feature guest stars and performances. (Those that do the Reddit from time to time may have noticed that Rachel Bloom’s performance on the Sex and Gender episode made it to the top of the r/cringe subreddit for a few days.) Instead of providing a logical voice of reason, the show mainly stands to reaffirm liberal talking points and reassert their validity, and all but ignores the dissenting opinions that make these topics controversial.
MFW watching Rachel Bloom’s performance of “My Sex Junk”
One of the primary issues is that this particular show format doesn’t quite work for Nye’s brand. Everyone who went to school in America recalls the rush of walking into class to see a TV set up and primed to play an episode of BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY. On the show, Nye broke down general scientific concepts like electricity, gravity, pressure, and biology in a wacky, yet earnest, method tailored to kids who would rather be doing anything else in the world than be in school. The episodes were made in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, evident from the MTV style of filmmaking, including rapid cuts and in-your-face compositions that made music videos (and, later, Youtube poop) popular. Kids were hooked; they were interested. Bill Nye was funny; he was kind of a dork, but he really wanted you to learn, and many young scientists cite him as their inspiration for getting into STEM disciplines.
My pulse is already quickening
In BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD, Bill still has that earnest desire to get people interested in science, but it comes across as almost too earnest. His panel discussions are largely one-sided, and when he features dissenting opinions, they’re hardly ever listened to. Why he chooses to have a segment of him (“Bill Needs a Minute”) monologuing passionately about his thoughts on a topic when the whole show is about his thoughts on a topic is beyond me, honestly. This isn’t a “Consider the Following” segment like on SCIENCE GUY, it’s more of a rant. The show falters because, while it seems like a fantastic idea on paper for Bill Nye to explain controversial topics, he doesn’t fully explain why they’re controversial.
On the original SCIENCE GUY the topics were usually fairly apolitical: cells divide, energy can’t be created or destroyed, certain gases have certain densities. These are all fairly empirical truths and stating them out loud in at the [Insert Political Party Here] National Convention will generally not lead to a black eye. But all of the topics featured on SAVES THE WORLD are developing in the scientific community. I don’t necessarily need an exhaustive explanation on the reasons people think that the puffy trails behind airplanes are chemicals designed to make people docile, but sending Karlie Kloss up in an airplane doesn’t disprove their theories as immediately as one would hope. Scientific knowledge is more or less built on disagreements, and the fact that Bill Nye doesn’t at least attempt to give voices to these dissenting opinions does the conceit of his show a lot of disservice.
Also worth investigating: Fitting Karlie Kloss into a two-seater aircraft
I love Bill Nye. I think he just wants to get kids of all ages hyped for science, like America’s science teacher. Your physics teacher didn’t know every single thing about physics, but they knew a lot and hopefully got really excited when you got excited to learn what they had to teach. Unfortunately, Bill’s audience is either in college or has graduated college (I really don’t want to know how many of our readers are still in college and have never watched an episode of SCIENCE GUY, I don’t need to know this) and they’ve been exposed to many different viewpoints that have them questioning what they’ve previously learned. I’m not upset that the show has a liberal viewpoint; I agree with pretty much everything it puts forward. What annoys me is that for a show about science, there’s little-to-no sense of peer-review. BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD is excellent for those who want their points of view reaffirmed, but for those hoping that Nye brings his scientific expertise to a spirited dialogue about controversial subjects, you might just want to take your Bunsen Burner somewhere else.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend
BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD is available to stream on Netflix, along with episodes of BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY.