TV Review: “Bill Nye Saves The World” – No Thanks

Written by Matt Butler June 01, 2017

Bill Nye Show

It seems like now is the perfect time for someone like Bill Nye to “save the world”. The kids who knew him from his show are all grown up, and the world they’re walking into looks in great need of saving. All the stars seem aligned for a Bill Nye reboot aimed at a matured audience. But from the way Bill Nye Saves the World is presented, it seems the only person who hasn’t matured is Bill Nye.

Bill seems stuck in the 90s, unable to connect with an older audience through nuance or subtlety. He feels more content to play the awkward college science teacher who cracks jokes your church pastor would roll his eyes at. And you’d hope that after a time it would grow on you, maybe get so bad it’s good. But Nye’s comedics actually hinder his science. His jokes make me cringe so hard, I forget whatever lesson he’s trying to teach me. It’s less edutainment, and more edupainment. A prime example of what I’m talking about.

“It’s Netflix, let’s burn something!”

Though I suppose I’m more confused than annoyed. Why would Bill Nye stoop to being a try-hard? Well, one thing to keep in mind is the format of the show. Bill Nye Saves the World is staged as a live talk show, way different from Bill Nye The Science Guy. With Science Guy, he had tools like kooky set pieces, cartoony sound effects, and in-your-face editing. All the stuff that the 90s was embarrassingly affectionate for. Now he’s on a talk show, set before a live audience, aimed at adults. Suddenly most of Bill Nye’s tools have gone missing.

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Except for his science of course, which can be interesting, even eye-opening, when the episode is actually focused on it. When he brings up a panel of experts to discuss dieting, they bring up some compelling perspectives. When Karlie Kloss explores the flooding crisis in Venice, I’m genuinely intrigued by the solution of installing an aqueduct. I think the bit on how tough tardigrades are is cool and genuinely funny. Even ‘The Sexual Spectrum’, which has become the most controversial episode, breaks down gender and sex in a straightforward way (at least before it crashes headlong into Cringetown). Yes, you will learn things in watching this show, but most of the time you’ll just be bored and annoyed.

“Get sciencey! That’s my jam!”

When he doesn’t focus on “saving the world” with science, Nye is fumbling for an edgy angle to get the point across to a mainstream audience. This is where the cringe comes in. See, Bill Nye may have had a cool children’s show, but he’s a scientist first, an entertainer second, and a comedian never. I firmly believe that the success of Bill Nye the Science Guy has more to do with its flashy post-production value than Bill Nye’s personality. He knows his science, he just needs a group of creative minds behind the camera.

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But Nye seems naked on this stage, desperately clamoring for some joke or weird voice to keep his audience’s attention. For example:

Bill Nye: To find out about how people feel about GMOs we sent our correspondent, Derek Muller, into the field… get it?  *Audience laughter* The field?!? *Points all across the audience* Huh? *Audience cheers and applauds*

Though I guess it’s easy to think you’re funny when your audience applauds everything you do. His audience oohs when he throws a frisbee, for f***’s sake. He also does this thing every time the screen lowers for a video. He says “Watch this” and presses a button. It’s like he’s an old person or something. Although I guess he is an old person. Anyway, the audience applauds regardless.

“This isn’t rocket surgery, it’s science!”

Bill Nye Saves the World should have been the chance for kids who knew Bill Nye the Science Guy to get to know Bill Nye the person. He does impressions of a person, but rarely feels like one at all. His attempts at humour only expose him for being humourless and it poses a huge detriment to the whole point of the show. Maybe with a longer runtime, a looser structure, and a stronger focus on science, this could have been a cool discussion starter. But as is, there’s just not much to it. It’s boring, obnoxious, and it doesn’t make me want to save the world. If you’re really looking for something on Netflix that’ll inspire you to save the world, watch Cosmos. Or go outside. I miss outside.

My Rating: 4/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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