Beloved scientist and goofy TV host Bill Nye’s new Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World, isn’t going down well with both old and new fans.
Following the show’s release on Friday, the internet has become a beehive of activity, with insults and outright dismissals of America’s favorite scientist flying left and right. The insults vary, with some people upset that Nye didn’t go more in-depth with the topics he has chosen to include in the series. Others, many of whom live in various continents around the world and didn’t grow up with Nye, called out the show for being lame, corny and trying too hard to fit in.
This tweet perhaps sums up the resentment toward Nye’s show best:
Good news, Steve Buscemi - you'll never have to see that "how do you do fellow kids" meme again pic.twitter.com/2yzzcXbNuA— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) April 24, 2017
Between Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom performing a song about gender to Nye’s “preachy” stance on anti-vaxxers, there are no shortage of reasons people have given for being upset about the new direction of Nye’s series.
Except that everything Nye is being criticized for isn’t really new — and it’s why he developed an audience to begin in. But as the haze of nostalgia disappears, it can be hard to remember that Nye was always the goofy, dad-like figure in the science community.
People have voiced their frustrations with the series, but one of the top rated answers seems to get at the heart of what the majority of viewers took issue with. It also echoes the joke made in the tweet above, essentially asking why Nye was given a series on an internet network like Netflix if the show makes the scientist feel out of touch with the world he now belongs to?
Making jokes about not understanding the internet is stupid. Making Bill Nye the Science Guy make jokes about not understanding the internet should be a good first step towards a career change for every single member of the production staff. It's absurd.
Bill then introduces a bunch of correspondents, who will do the segments instead of Bill. Your major asset is Bill, and pretty much nothing else, he should be ever present.
Bill is not, and has never been, a talkshow host, he's bad at it. He's good at talking directly to the camera, he should be doing that. The format doesn't work.
Bill continues with an experiment demonstrating thermal expansion, and then says that's why ocean levels are rising. This is misleading at best, while thermal expansion is one of the two primary causes of rising sea levels, it is not the most important one. Melting glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice is the much more important primary factor.
Pretty much every production decision past casting Bill Nye was a mistake. The show is bad at best, and damaging to the conversation at worst.
Bill doesn’t understand the internet
Let’s take a moment and address some of these complaints. Complaining that Nye doesn’t understand the internet, or at the very least puts on a facade about his lack of knowledge surrounding its culture, is insulting. Along with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nye is one of the most popular scientists who has found an entire audience based on his online persona.
The scientist has turned himself into a meme, joked about being photobombed and has done countless AMA sessions on various websites, including Reddit. He’s appeared on almost every late night show, he’s given multiple lectures and he’s become an iconic figure in his own right. There are people who are just discovering the show now and who live in other countries because of his presence online and just how much he’s talked about.
But for some people, his adorable persona online isn’t enough to save the series. Especially for those who didn’t grow up with the series. Coming to the show now in part because of the legacy Nye has created for himself, multiple people have written about how obnoxious they find Nye’s overall gusto.
“This show is terrible,” one commenter wrote. “I come from the UK, so I never grew up with Bill Nye. Does the guy always shout this much? He was also trying WAY too fucking hard to be 'cool'.”
Part of Nye’s charm was the he’s always been awkward. His humor consists of “dad jokes,” and when the internet came around, that didn’t change. Nye is awkward online, but he understands what he’s doing and how to reach an audience on the internet better than most. He takes part in debates on Twitter, publishes a number of YouTube videos and is active on Snapchat. The man recently just won a Shorty Award for a short video he made on climate change. To say that Nye doesn’t understand the internet is just factually incorrect.
At Shorty Awards. I'm presenting Best Snapchatter. O the suspense. pic.twitter.com/MSZPvBzioa— Bill Nye (@BillNye) April 23, 2017
Nye knows how to play a role and he’s aware of why people like him so much. He plays into that, and while it can be lost on new audiences or seem overplayed in 2017, he remains true to his persona from the ‘90s. Our nostalgia wants us to believe that he was much cooler than he was, but it blinds us.
With Nye moving to Netflix, he also has the ability to get away with being more direct. He’s taking that opportunity to be more upfront with topics that are important to him and trend online. There’s a reason he chose topics like sexuality, climate change and vaccinations. These are subjects that he deeply believes in talking about — and part of that comes from talking to fans and critics online about it. He’s talked about how social media changes our lives and how it should be used, as seen in the video below. It seems unfair to criticize Nye for not understanding the internet when he’s proven time and time again that he does.
Bill’s correspondents shouldn’t be there
To some extent, the complaint about correspondents taking away time from Nye is understandable, but it’s important to remember that Bill has always had correspondents ... they just weren’t supermodels, comedians and actors. They were kids, and part of what Nye’s new show is missing is those lovable bunch of science-enthused kids who were excited by what Nye was teaching. Bill Nye the Science Guy has always been a series geared toward children, but the original ‘90s series made that much more apparent than the new version does.
The correspondents hung around with Nye during the episode and acted as his assistants. They would point out interesting things that were happening and ask questions to allow Nye to get to his next point with an easier transition, but they were essentially there to do the same thing.
Here’s an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy from the show’s fourth season. There are a number of kids whom Nye refers to as his correspondents. They don’t actually report on anything scientific, but for those who have seen the new series, their role isn’t that much different.
One of the biggest differences, of course, is the quality of entertainment. The new correspondents are professional actors or comedians who have experience being in front of a camera. They can deliver jokes or make a piece into their own. It’s a much different type of correspondent then we’re used to.
What’s important to remember is that this isn’t Bill Nye the Science Guy. This is Bill Nye Saves the World. It’s a new show with a similar, but different format than his former program. That’s also why Nye has adopted a talk-show host persona. It might not work for the scientist, and based on the criticism Nye has received it’s apparent that it’s not, but if you go in wanting a total revamp of Bill Nye the Science Guy, you’re going to be disappointed.
Bill’s science is wrong
Disclosure: I’m not a scientist and while I have an avid interest in science, I’m not going to take Nye’s claims to court.
One of the complaints that has come up repeatedly on Reddit, Twitter and in YouTube videos is that Nye has become preachy about a couple of subjects: Climate change and taking on those who are against vaccinations for children. Nye has been called an SJW and frustrating to watch because he doesn’t let the other side get a word in edgewise.
The millions of hours spent looking into the benefits of vaccinations and the unwavering evidence proving that man-made climate change is happening and getting worse every year is indisputable. As a scientist, and a man who has led a charge in Washington trying to combat political decisions that directly oppose addressing climate change.
This isn’t the first time that Nye has been called out for talking about climate change. It’s such a common occurrence that he decided to do a “Mean Tweets” video, based on the popular segment that appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Nye has said before he’s using his new Netflix series to inform people about changes in the world and how science affects our daily lives. It shouldn’t be too surprising that he’s going to advocate for climate change, a subject he’s passionate about, when given an audience of millions.
It doesn’t seem likely that Nye is going to change the format of his show if he decides to return for a second season and it seems odd to criticize Nye for the same aspects that made him popular in the first place.
There are some glaring issues with the show that can’t be ignored — like Rachel Bloom’s strange performance that feels entirely out of place. Nye isn’t immune to criticism. There are some areas of his series that don’t work as well for a streaming audience, like the performance segments. Still, the point is the series isn’t irredeemable. In fact, quite a few people actually enjoy it.
Nye’s new series if the perfect example of how nostalgia can lead us astray. We go in expecting the same experience we got when we were kids and when it doesn’t hold up, we’re more disappointed than we would be if it was an entirely new series.
For those curious, Bill Nye Saves the World is available to stream right now on Netflix.