“Anybody else?” read the text message that my sister-in-law sent my wife Saturday night, along with a picture of her Netflix screen. It showed Bill Nye’s new show Bill Nye Saves the World. I knew this was coming out, but I didn’t think it was this soon. I was so excited, I sat down and cranked through two episodes back to back.
Not a Kid’s Show Anymore
It’s definitely not for kids. Not that there are naked people jumping up and around all over the place, but it’s just not a very kid-friendly show. There are no little goofy bits. There aren’t really any funny bits at all, to be honest. Saves the World is definitely directed towards adults – the same adults that watched his show in science class as children. But, without a doubt, it misses its mark. By a long shot.
Each episode starts off with Nye explaining some sort of principal they’re going to be talking about in the show. The first episode was on climate change. He brought up a small beaker filled with fluid and put a burner underneath it and started heating the fluid up. Then he began explaining how when things get warmer, they expand, yadda yadda yadda. The second episode was on quack medical remedies. As he started talking about homeopathic stomach remedies, he brought out Steve Aoki. He’s cool, right? Not really.
It felt like Nye was screaming “Hey adults! Remember me? I’m hip! I’m cool! Look who’s here next to me!” And he does that a lot. Jokes about the ‘internets’ and fancy new young-people fads are plentiful in this show, and, once again, they really miss their mark.
I don’t care about Steve Aoki, Bill. I care about science. I’ll be honest with you, I found the most interesting parts of the show to be the panel discussions. Nye takes three industry experts and asks them questions about the topic at hand. Each one has different opinions (most of the time,) and each one has something interesting to say. That is, until they cut them off. These interviews are so heavily edited that you hardly get any substance out of them at all. Through editing, they cut the content so much that it seems like they’re being rude to the people that disagree with them.
Take the medical quack episode. There was a guy on the panel who was arguing that certain homeopathic remedies actually do work. He was saying that many medicines we have today were once considered ‘quack’ remedies until actual research was done on them. And many medicines we will have in the future are probably seen as being ridiculous today. But everyone kept ragging on the guy who had different opinions. That’s not how science works. And that’s not how being an adult works.
Just like the show we all love and remember, Nye doesn’t go at explaining all this alone. He’s got a cast of scientists (or journalists, I’m not really sure) there by his side to do some reporting in the field. They go everywhere from Venice to a local farmer’s market to sniff out the scoop on stories. But they don’t do much else. They go back in to the studio to make fun of the people with opinions different than theirs, and then Nye just blows up on the audience about something we already know.
I Need More Science
I wish the show wasn’t so rudimentary. Don’t think so little of me that you can’t throw some chemistry in there. Like in the episode about GMOs when he whips up a solution to extract strawberry DNA. How cool was that?! I wanna do that now. Tell me why the dish soap and alcohol extract the DNA from the strawberries. TELL ME, BILL!
But also do things that are beneficial to people. Show them how GMOs work. Show them data on why GMOs are actually better for the environment than non-GMO crops because farmers can use less pesticides. Show things that will actually change people’s minds about a scientific issue, not Steve Aoki or a giant “OMG” at the end of your show to try to ‘rebrand’ GMOs.
Throughout every episode, I felt like I was getting talked down to. And I don’t appreciate that. Especially when it’s done by the man who made me love science in the first place.
Hold On. I Need a Minute.
Look, Bill. We’re watching your show because we already love science. You’re preaching to the choir here, man. You don’t need to tell me that we need to do something about climate change. You don’t need to tell me that GMOs are a wonderful thing. I’m all for it. So don’t treat me like a child when I’m watching your show. Don’t yell at me through my TV to try to get me to quit going to get acupuncture. And DEFINITELY don’t make fun of people who have different views than your own. You know who else got made fun of for having some far out theories? A dude named Galileo. Science doesn’t advance when people get made fun of. Science advances when people with differing opinions come together and gather data on those differing opinions.
And don’t try to be cool. You’re already cool. You wear a bow tie, and bow ties are cool. You don’t need Steve Aoki or fake valley girl talk to be cool. You’re cool because you teach people science. Or at least you used to. I really hope the rest of the show brings back some of that magic. But, based on the first 4 episodes, I don’t have much hope for Bill Nye Saves the World.
So instead of watching that, I propose you watch this. It’s a spot from my favorite episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy on rocks and geology.
Reed’s Review Corner
Bill Nye Saves the World
4.5 meaningless rants out of 10
Touches on relevant topics.
Interesting panel discussions.
Talks down to the audience.
Tries to make itself relevant with hip slang/guests.
The same format over, and over, and over again.