Bill Nye Saves The World‘s reviews are in, and they’re mixed – to put it mildly. The 13-episode Netflix series, which debuted April 21, has at once managed to anger conservatives who didn’t care for Bill to begin with, and at times even managed to put off liberals who are already on his side.
Here’s the thing about Bill Nye: it can be difficult to separate the message from the messenger, especially if that messenger can sometimes be a condescending jerk. And that’s Bill Nye in a nutshell: even if you believe what he espouses and are generally on his side, the way he pushes his agenda can be off-putting. That level of condescension, unfortunately, comes through in Bill Nye Saves the World.
— Christine Almstrom (@calmstrom13) May 9, 2017
As a scientist, there’s nothing in Nye’s belief system that’s particularly controversial (that is, unless you’re a religious conservative). He believes that Evolution is scientific fact, and that Creation is religious dogma that has no place in public schools. He believes that man-made climate change is real and that governments around the world need to be working to put an end to it sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, Nye has also espoused beliefs that are a little more out there. For example, he’s “open” to the idea of putting climate change skeptics in jail, according to Reason. Similarly, he believes kids who are home-schooled are “stupid,” according to Wonkette. He’s even come off as supporting eugenics, according to Townhall.
So with all of that baggage Nye brings to the table, it’s perhaps not surprising that reviews of Bill Nye Saves the World would be decidedly mixed, as well as depend largely on the viewer’s political beliefs.
— Chris Anderson (@chr1sa) May 5, 2017
Right from the first episode – “Earth Is A Hot Mess” – Nye went straight for one of the most contentious and politically-charged scientific debates of the day: climate change. And as you can tell from the title, he’s on the side that posits that man-made climate change is real, and the governments need to be doing more to address it.
Unlike his previous TV venture, Bill Nye the Science Guy, which was aimed at kids, Saves the World is geared towards adults. During the show, you can see Nye extracting DNA from a strawberry or explaining how people who choose not to vaccinate their children contribute to the spread of disease.
Variety reviewer Aja Romano points out that Nye’s exposition assumes that the audience is on his side — an assumption that can, at times, come off as condescending.
“A longstanding criticism of the skeptics community is that its members often profess mocking or condescending attitudes toward anyone who believes in things skeptics are opposed to — primarily religion… This attitude is prevalent on Nye’s show, which frequently takes a scathing and dismissive tone toward non-scientific belief systems.”
Similarly, Indie Wire finds Nye’s attempts to be relevant to Millenials — employing such things as fist bumps and awkward use of Millenial slang — almost cringeworthy. Similarly, Metacritic reviewer SandraC3 and several others used words like “awkward,” “uneven” and “cringeworthy” to describe the show.
And those are just the reviews from viewers who didn’t already dislike Nye to begin with. Reviews from conservative reviewers are even less favorable. For example, National Review — which, it bears noting, is an unabashedly conservative website — takes a far less favorable view of Bill Nye in general. In his review, David Harsany looks at the show not just on its own merit, but in light of Nye’s career as a whole. He finds both lacking.
“Bill Nye has some detestable views about humanity. In his Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World, the former children’s-television host supplies viewers with various trendy notions to adorn his ideological positions with the sheen of science.”
If Bill Nye Saves the World is going to come back for a second season and beyond, it may well be that conservative viewers and other viewers whose views butt up against mainstream science are going to be put off by it simply because of its ideological basis. However, beyond ideological concerns, it’s obvious that the show is going to need some tweaking to keep viewers — even those who are on Bill’s side — tuned in.
[Featured Image by Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP]