Apr 24, 2017

Channel Surfing: Bill Nye Saves the World - "Earth is a Hot Mess"

Scene from Bill Nye Saves the World
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
Usually the word "reboot" has a strong negative connotation. Everywhere you look in pop culture, it's present. However, there is one career reboot that is not only welcome, but possibly welcome to the modern era. Bill Nye Saves the World is a show that explores science that is relevant to the modern era. What better person to host the show than Bill Nye: the man who may be the most responsible for this generation of scientists thanks to his 90's series Bill Nye the Science Guy, which featured him in wacky bow ties managing to turn science into wonderfully constructed skits that mixed slapstick with information. He's a figure so prominent that not until Neil DeGrasse Tyson has there been any scientist who became a celebrity with as much influence. Despite not having a show for almost 20 years, he still packs a crowd with any and all personal appearances.
It would be hard to call his new show irrelevant, though it may be disappointing for those expecting the whimsical editing of the original. Along with himself being older, Nye's new series is largely geared towards a slightly more mature audience. His take on global warming doesn't really have much in the way of heightened comedy, even if he throws in some goofy colloquialisms to appeal to his live studio audience. There's even panel segments that are comparatively cut and dry. Are they informative? Yes. Anyone wanting to learn about global warming will get something out of this. However, there's a certain feeling that Nye's return to TV has a bit of an agenda. It isn't a terrible one, but it does make the first episode feel preachy.
Then again, global warming has been an important subject in the time since Nye was last on TV. Most of his more popular interviews stem from him getting into debates with opposing viewpoints. It is likely why part of the episode's tone feels greatly tired. Nye is clearly passionate, but he also gives off the impression that he's tired of people not appreciating science's value. He even gets the crowd chanting towards the end as he suggests that they need to work on preventing global warming more effectively. If someone were to randomly introduce themselves to the appeal of Nye through this episode, it would almost be a failure. While the other episodes may not have as much of a pressing closeness to Nye, the choice to open with a subject that comes off as sentimental buzz words to the audience doesn't really make his return sound that great.
With that said, a lot of the other elements of his show are promising from the start. His live audience allows for the enthusiasm to be measured clearly. It also makes his general format of jumping from experiments to video packages and interviews feel more interesting. Yes, it's Bill Nye the talk show guy, but he definitely has something worth listening to. He may lose something without closed sets and stylized editing points, but he gains the ability for a personality to age with his audience without having to pander to the childlike wonderment. It's still there, but now that the people who watched the show as children are now scientists, he can get away with being more dry. Admittedly it does seem like Nye does pander to the audience a little too frequently, but his show is so singular in its potential impact that it doesn't matter.
Bill Nye Saves the World is proof that Netflix can produce shows that matter beyond binging Marvel series or House of Cards. By the end of each half hour, there's a good chance that the viewer will come away more educated. They will see science in a more relative way. It helps that Nye is someone who never lost his passion for science, and also his ability to appeal to audiences. While science is important to everyday life, it's strange how often audiences can't find an accessible way to understand it. While Nye cannot do everything, his series' title is one that is both ambitious and hopeful. It may be literal. He may save the world with education. If not, he just will conceptually save it with ideas on how to be a better person on Earth. Consider this show entertainment as well as humanitarian material.

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