By Matthew E. Owen, Contributing Movie and TV Critic for SatelliteWerx.com
Bill Nye Saves the World is a 13 episode long Netflix talk show featuring Bill Nye, popular child show host and public figure. Saves the World is somewhat of a reboot of Nye’s popular 90’s television series, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Instead of featuring a bunch of kids and wacky experiments, Saves the World trades these for correspondent pieces, as well as expert panels. Each of the show’s 13 episodes covers a variety of topics, from the human sexual spectrum to global warming. Does Bill Nye Saves the World reinvent educational television, or fall flat?
WATCH: Bill Nye Saves The World – Netflix Trailer
I grew up watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, as most of my peers did. Being born in the early 90’s, it wasn’t unusual to see episodes of the show during science class at school. In fact, teachers around the world often flocked to use the show in classes, due to Bill’s excellent way of explaining science in fun and inventive ways. Bill Nye Saves the World, however, is unfortunately light on scientific experiments, and heavy on talk.
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Bill Nye Saves the World is much more of a talk show than Bill Nye the Science Guy ever was. While I didn’t expect an exact reboot of the 90’s show, I likewise didn’t expect such a 180 degree turn in style. Instead of using Bill Nye as the focal point for the show, he often serves more like a host. Bill Nye is at his best when he’s looking into the camera, explaining his science to the audience. This is few and far in between, often contained to the beginning of the show or relatively small segments. In fact, the entire show seems more based around talk and conjecture than science and fact.
This kind of set up is okay for talk shows with revolving topics, but for a show based around science and using it to clear up difficult issues, the format doesn’t work well. Correspondents appear often, showing small news pieces or field work. These clips range from engaging and intelligent to cringe-worthy and idiotic. Furthermore, it wastes valuable time in an episode (which only run around 25 minutes a piece), usually containing formation that Bill himself could’ve explained and presented with more interest. Additionally, the show often uses comedic bits and sketches. These are also on a spectrum of terrible to funny, as most of the show’s humor is.
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Generally speaking, Bill Nye is a decent host, despite it not being a proper role for him. His main downfall is his constant use of “dad jokes”, jokes that are rather unfunny and flat. He often puts on a “mad scientist” impression, which comes off weak and awkward. In fact, Bill Nye (and the show’s own writing) seems to constantly poke fun at Bill’s intellect, making him see like a much less informative host than he actually is. Throw in a few absolutely horrendous song and dance numbers, and it slowly starts to become more awkward than entertaining.
Not all of the content is bad, and I hate to make it seem that way. Of the reoccurring bits, there’s a segment in which Bill sits down with a panel of experts, and discusses the episode’s topic. While some of these are actually painful to watch, the mass majority are very well done. I felt the most intellectual and meaningful conversations were held here, and the rest of the show seemed like a performance rather than a presentation. There’s some questionable picks on certain panels, but for the most part, Bill asks great questions that fuel conversation.
Overall, Bill Nye Saves the World is inconsistent, and struggles to form an identity. Part talk show, part hit and miss comedy, and light on true science, the show never really settles in a groove. While this can produce some unexpected laughs or revelations, most of the time it feels jumbled. The quality of reoccurring segments varies greatly, as well as the care of which some topics are handled. For example, the vaccination episode gets pretty preachy, the video game episode (while interesting) seems somewhat uninformed, but the gene modification and sexual spectrum episodes are fantastic.
WATCH: Bill Nye Suggests POPULATION CONTROL to stop Climate Change
The show seems to be good enough to beckon a second season, and I hope they refine their focus and hire some new writers. Bill Nye is a very intelligent man and has a great way of presenting hard-to-understand topics in an easy-to-digest light. If they utilized that more, and added a larger does of experiments and scientific presentations, Bill Nye Saves the World would be a much better show. As it stands, it’s a reasonably entertaining show that just might educate you a bit. The theme song is also pretty catchy as well, so there’s a bonus point there. It’ll be a divisive show among fans and newcomers alike, but I have a feeling the inevitable second season will be much better.