Beloved child show host Bill Nye “The Science Guy” has recently teamed up with Netflix to create an all new show, Bill Nye Saves the World. The reason behind the name is that that the show intends to promote positive change in the world by promoting scientific thought and a reliance on the scientific method. The show targets the group of young adults that grew up watching the original show and attempts to speak to them as adults.
Right away, I can say I enjoyed Bill Nye Saves the World. I found myself interested in what each episode had in store and the short episodes make the show easy to watch. The show’s brevity is also the its biggest weakness. Each episode is comprised of different segments ranging from light science demonstrations to video clips of correspondents out in the world. One of the most interesting segments the show has is Bill’s discussion with a panel of experts on the topic of each episode. These sections, which usually contain the most intellectually engaging conversations the show has to offer, only run for a brief 3-6 minutes. I consistently found myself wishing that the discussion section was closer to 70% of the episode, rather than the meager offering each episode provides.
The reason the brevity of these segments stands out so much is that the rest of the show can come off as a weird middle ground between child’s TV show and a late night talk show. A lot of Bill Nye’s demonstrations are overly simplistic and appear to be made so that a child could understand. Bill’s personality on the show can be charming and engaging at times, but during certain episodes he can come off as “cringe-y” and even patronizing at times. Some of the video segments are genuinely interesting, while others seem to exist only to provide a cheap laugh.
Reviews for the Bill Nye Saves the World on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes both seem to have one of two types of scores. The show either gets a 60%~70% or a 1%. This is likely due to a lot of the show’s subject matter being centered around rather progressive viewpoints. Rather than debate the legitimacy of the issue on each show, the show assumes them to be true as a matter-of-fact. While this isn’t necessarily bad on topics concerning vaccinations, GMO’s and space exploration, it can make the show appear as condescending when the topic is “The Sexual Spectrum” or climate change.
The show doesn’t take time to argue the legitimacy of climate change or multiple genders, but instead assumes that the audience is on their side from the start. If the viewer doesn’t already believe that these ideas are scientific fact, the show can quickly become challenging to watch. In one of the opening episodes, Bill Nye states that he wants to use the show as a way to bypass those that oppose modern scientific theory and reach fruitful discussions about the modern world. This rather direct approach to the discussion can be a relief…if you already hold these progressive viewpoints to be true. This makes the episodes about the less controversial topics pretty easy to watch. Meanwhile, the other episodes can come off as abrasive to people who hold more conservative ideologies.
So, does Bill Nye save the world with this new show? Its hard to say. The show doesn’t feature much actual hard science, which some may not enjoy. Then again, the show isn’t about a “Science Guy” anymore. The show is at its best during its discussions of how to deal with modern social issues in a scientific way. Bill Nye Saves the World waters down these moments a bit too often. On top of that, the show alienates viewers who don’t already have a progressive world view. Those that do enjoy the show can find some genuinely interesting discussions of real-world issues. Those that don’t like it were likely put off by the show’s heavy-handed and often one sided approach. Bill Nye may be trying to save the world, but not everyone will agree with how he wants to do it.