Hey! It’s Bill Nye The Science Guy! Well, the new show isn’t named that, it’s much more ambitious. It’s Bill Nye Saves The World. And yes, with Bill’s cheesy sense of humor I don’t think he intended anyone to take the title seriously.
I watched the first episode so this is a brief review of first impressions. The show feels like a mix between Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Star Talk and Bill Maher’s Real Time. The show starts with a monologue and a science demonstration, jumps to a skit, jumps to a news story about science and then comes back around to a guest panel who talks about the issue. The first episode is of course about climate change, Nye’s pet concern and he doesn’t go soft on it.
The show is aimed for older kids and adults; I would estimate from 15 on up (I suppose we could go as low as 13 depending on how curious your youngsters are or if you find the topics appropriate since Bill does go into sex and gender on a future episode). Those who are already well read on the subjects presented may not be interested except from a view of support for popularizing scientific issues. Like Star Talk, the science and rhetoric is dumbed down a bit and at a half an hour per show it’s meant for the attention deficit audience that we are in the Internet age.
Obviously, Bill Nye Saves The World isn’t the only science program you can find on Netflix, but it is the only one I’m aware of that is done in a variety show format with a live audience. And it’s a Netflix Original which means Netflix thinks it’s important enough to their exclusive line up to put their name on it. My main criticisms are the fakeness of the audience and the lack of time on the subject matter. The audience is being cued to laugh, clap, oooh and ahhh and it can be annoying. I also think with the panel guests the show, at a half hour long, will suffer the same problem Politically Incorrect did before Bill Maher moved to an hour long format on HBO with Real Time–too little time for a substantive discussion. For example, on the panel was the author Richard Martin of Coal Wars, an advocate of nuclear energy who did not get to make his case and seemed to be dismissed by Bill because “no one wants nuclear energy plants.” I wanted to hear the counter argument from Richard, but either he was edited down severely or he never had the chance to make his arguments. Why even have him there?
Every new series, especially talk shows, has its problems so Bill Nye Saves The World isn’t a slam dunk. I’m sure the direction of the show can be fine tuned and improved as Bill is an enjoyable host and an experienced entertainer. He’s kind of like your grandpa who makes corny jokes and shows you card tricks. What I do like about the show is that it is issue oriented and educates that science has something to say concerning our social and political concerns. Politicizing science shouldn’t be the point though–we should be using science to be more informed voters and citizens in our communities. I already know Bill has been categorized as Left, and maybe he is, however, future episodes may offend the Left when he talks about GMOs and homeopathy and quack medicine. And if you disagree with Bill because you think he’s politically biased, the best part about science is you can dispute or debunk the arguments with science. So let the Right go at Bill as long as they can back it up with facts.