Bill Nye Saves the World – Season 1 Review: Learning is fun again

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An entire generation of people can credit most of what they know about science to repeated viewings of Bill Nye the Science Guy VHS tapes when they were in school. Bill Nye’s show made an excellent proxy for an actual lesson. Whether it was a scared substitute, a hungover history teacher, or a burnt out third-grade instructor just trying to tread water until summer break, Bill Nye was there to save the day.

Now, thanks to Netflix and the power of nostalgia: Bill Nye Saves The World. We can’t prove whether or not Dr. Nye1 succeeds in that endeavor without a double-blind study, so this review will have to suffice.

Blast from the past

Bill Nye Saves The World is yet another attempt by streaming giant Netflix to reanimate the lifeless corpse of a fondly remembered childhood show. Like Fuller House before it, this brings out my inner curmudgeon in new and innovative ways. Fuller House accomplished this by using old references to “New” Kids on the Block, whereas Bill Nye’s new show achieves it by making me google Karli Kloss2, Steve Aoki3, and Desiigner4 to figure out why they are famous.

Despite making some of us feel old enough to require carbon dating, Bill Nye Saves the World has actually succeeded in finding a fresh and innovative formula for the show. The basic science demonstrations that give a cursory explanation of various core principles still remain. But this time around, they’re integrated into a live talk show format. This new configuration works well because the show targets the same audience as the original, although that audience has grown up into their twenties and thirties.

Segments run the gamut from irksome forced skits to excellent standup sets. At the less enjoyable side of the spectrum are the bits where Bill deals with scripted material by himself or hosts a panel of scientists. While these segments have promise and certainly improve over the course of the season, it becomes obvious that Bill‘s chemistry with the camera has waned in the years away from the public eye. It takes a while for our illustrious host to get comfortable and settle back into the spotlight.

Goofiness aside, Bill Nye Saves the World manages to discuss a variety of important and intriguing science topics in an educational way without completely boring the audience. I admire that, but the show often shifts gears to new topics when it could well delve deeper into interesting subjects.It seems like the writers don’t believe in the audience’s attention span, so they just fly right through everything. Maybe this was the right decision for the majority of the audience, but it will surely disappoint the more intellectual crowd.

It seems like the writers don’t believe in the audience’s attention span, so they just fly right through everything. Maybe this was the right decision for the majority of the audience, but it will surely disappoint the more intellectual crowd.

Each episode follows a simple pattern of skit, monolog, correspondent piece, and panel discussion, before ending on a demonstration/guest star appearance. This works conceptually, but it often leaves segments feeling rushed. Given that Netflix doesn’t restrict their shows’ running times, it would have been better to opt for an hour-long format than trying to cram everything into 25-minute episodes. Instead of intriguing discussions, almost every statement the panelists make is either jump cut or interrupted to clear way for the next scripted bit of awkwardness.

Guess who

The special guest appearances also vary in quality. Some guests get relegated to short and poorly written skits, while others get to be actively involved with interesting demonstrations and hilarious interactions. These segments occasionally redeem an entire episode and make it quite entertaining.

The good Mr. Nye seemingly has no shortage of moderately famous friends. Some appear to be genuinely excited about the project, whereas others seem to be there as a favor for their agents. I won’t name names, but one celebrity brought back memories of the ninth season of Scrubs with his half-hearted participation.

Saved by the smiles

Bill Nye Saves the World sticks to Netflix’s standard plan of dropping a 13-episode season all at once. The show feels like it could thrive as a live-recorded weekly network show, discussing important topics as they come along. Instead, Netflix gives the viewers about six total hours of content to binge through in a weekend, and then they make you wait a year for more. Too bad Netflix won’t budge from their all-at-once release schedule now and then.

That said, Bill Nye Saves the World is still a blast to watch overall, one that left me clamoring for more. Sometimes you laugh at the show’s jokes, and sometimes you laugh at its quality. The important thing is that you’re still laughing. While this show’s attempt to infuse pop culture into the scientific discussion can be uncomfortable and farcical, it still fills a unique television niche that has been vacant for too many years.

No, Bill Nye Saves the World does nothing so amazing as its title would suggest. But this new version does live up to the original by creating something unique, informative, and enjoyable to watch. Let’s hope Netflix doesn’t keep us waiting too long for another season.

Score: 7/10

Footnotes:

  • Bill Nye is a graduate of Cornell with a Bachelors of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He holds three Honorary Doctorate degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Goucher College, and Johns Hopkins.
  • Tall blonde lady, famous for being a tall blonde lady.
  • Professional “disk jockey” with a net worth around 75 Million dollars
  • Panda panda panda

Author: Andy Hjortshoj

Andy is a professional blogger from Ohio. He's obsessed with television, movies, gaming, and stand-up comedy. He also enjoys making podcasts and twitch streaming.