Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves the World acknowledges its roots, but provides an updated, edgier version as the Science Guy hosts his own talk show.
For many of us, Bill Nye the Science Guy was a staple of our childhood. Not only did it teach us science in a fun, energetic way, it also made us curious to learn. Bill Nye returns in 2017, almost 25 years later, continuing his tradition of educating the masses with hands-on experiments and funny scenarios to really cement those scientific facts in our heads.
It is immediately obvious upon watching Bill Nye Saves the World that the Netflix Original is aiming to remind us why we fell in love with this wacky guy to begin with. Nye is who he has always been — witty, odd, passionate, and excitable — though no one can deny he is now older and speaking to an audience who won’t gain as much pleasure from silly sound effects.
The platform Nye is now using is appropriate for his material. This isn’t a show aiming to educate kids; rather, it’s a show aiming to educate the world. The tone is a little more confrontational, the jokes are a little dirtier, and Nye himself appears to be just a little bit done with people’s habit of believing whatever the internet tells them is true. This new series is set out to do exactly what it says on the box.
But is it effective? In theory, yes. Nye is a brilliant mind who continues to be just as invested in relaying scientific truth as ever. The talk show incorporates visual experiments, but goes beyond the studio to bring us footage of the outside world thanks to his various correspondents. We even get interviews with panels of experts, people who bring further clout to Nye’s already extensive knowledge.
In practice, however, I just can’t seem to get into the rhythm of Saves the World. In preparation for watching this new series, I jumped on Netflix and watched an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and the nostalgia immediately returned. It was so easy to slip back into that show — the puns still landed, the information was still engaging, and although it’s clearly dated thanks to the outfits and the graphics, it’s so much fun that you can easily look past that.
Saves the World misses a beat for me right at the top with the theme song. It’s an obvious reference to the original, but it never quite lives up to its catchy tune. Beyond that, Nye seems less energetic, more antagonistic, and a little bit off his game. Getting in the groove of a new television show is always a bit difficult, however, and I will admit that episode 6 feels much more natural than episode 1.
Nye also tries to land those same gags he was known for in his past, but the formatting of the show means they miss more often than they hit. Yes, having his staff throw “bacteria” balls at him while he wears a lab coat covered in sticky material is both memorable and educational, but the tone of the show leans more toward adult humor. These grade school jokes seem awkward in comparison.
Nye’s new show is not a total loss. The series still benefits from Nye’s trademark style (that bow tie!) and updated technology. This series proves to be much edgier than the original, which could be exactly what audiences need right now, especially considering many of those who will be tuning in were fans of Science Guy and are much older (and more cynical).
While Bill Nye Saves the World attempts to capture the nostalgia of the original show, it would do better to find a way to stand on its own, with fewer familiar gags and additional edgy content that Millennials will gravitate toward.