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Bill Nye Knows 'The End Is Nye' May Scare People But It Also Presents an 'Optimistic' Future

It's all about the science — plus the bow tie.

Amy Amatangelo
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Bill Nye in 'The End is Nye'

Peacock

In the new six-episode Peacock series The End is Nye, Bill Nye inserts himself into six natural disasters (hydra storms, solar shockwave, volcanos, dust storms, asteroids, and the ring of fire) to shine a light on our dire need for action. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and this summer has featured a devastating wildfire in Yosemite National Park, tragic flooding in Kentucky, and record-breaking heat waves throughout the country. Being aware of more catastrophes to come is key, believes Nye.

"Seth MacFarlane says conservative media scares people. We need to scare people. So, we are scaring people," Nye tells Metacritic. 

The series, which Nye co-created with fellow executive producers Seth MacFarlane and Brannon Braga, represents a "new direction" for Nye. Unlike his previous shows including the iconic '90s children's series Bill Nye: The Science Guy and his Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World, the first half of each episode of The End is Nye is a mini-disaster movie. 

"It's drama. I get killed six times," he says with a laugh. 

Each episode features three storylines. For example, a bride on her wedding day ignores looming volcano, a nervous flyer is in the midst of a hydra storm, and a scientist who can clearly see the impending doom of rapidly dropping water levels but is ignored. The series aims to shake people out of their "normalcy bias" which makes someone disregard warning signs even when it's right in front of them. 

But the series is not all doom and gloom: Viewers also get to see what is possible if people take action.

"The first half hour things go terribly wrong," Nye explains. "The twist is the so-called 'parallel construction' where, in the second half, we show you how things can be great with science. I give you this optimistic view of the future with science." 

Here, Nye, who is also CEO of The Planetary Society,  talks about the show's tone, how to get through to the average viewer, and why he can't shake the bow tie. 

Despite the show's title and the featured "disaster institute," the show's overall tone is very encouraging. The show is funny and entertaining. It never feels as if you are lecturing the viewer. 

We got here in a very reasonable, logical way. We built this amazing civilization that we have, but we cannot keep doing what we've been doing. Let's come up with ways to do the same wonderful things we know and love. All this stuff comes to us because of our understanding of science, our understanding of natural laws. So, let's use our understanding to make the world better for everybody. 

In 1994, I testified in front of the FCC and I said, "We are making a kids show, so it's entertainment first. It has to be entertaining first or no one is going to watch it." This is fundamental. Yes, we want it to be educational and cool, but it has to be entertaining first. If you have a sidewalk café during a curfew and there's nobody on the street, it's not going to do very well. 

Obviously climate change and the threat of natural disasters isn't new.

Scientists have been predicting how dire this is going to be for 30 years and politicians, especially at the United Nations, have watered it down — pun intended — and have softened the language over and over. That's consistent with why we haven't done anything about it. Now it's catching up with everybody. There are fires in France because it's warmer than ever there. That's climate change. When the guy from Oklahoma finds a snowball and thinks that means the climate is not changing, he has got it wrong. Because it's warmer, there's more moisture in the atmosphere so it snows more. Dude! The sooner we get to work on this problem, the better.

What do you think is the best way to get through to people? To make the average person understand the need to take action now. 

It is reasonable people don't change their mind the first time they are presented with evidence if they have an entrenched world view based on decades of living. They don't just change it all in one afternoon. But instead by presenting a drumbeat or steady repeated presentation of the evidence, eventually people change their mind. This show is consistent with that. We make a presentation six times that these are disasters you can prepare for and understanding them would be a great value. Hope is not a plan.

How did you get connected with Brannon Braga and Seth MacFarlane

I crossed paths with Brannon many times in Hollywood and a dear friend of mine Robert Picardo knows Brannon and we just crossed paths. We got to talking about this concept and here we are. Seth knows Brannon real well. He and Seth have known each other for years and worked together on Cosmos. Seth is in every show. He's so versatile.

This is a new Bill Nye but you still are wearing your famous bow tie. 

It started in high school. The boys are the waiters at the girls athletic banquet. I said, "If we are going to be waiters, let's dress like waiters." So, my dad showed me how to tie a bow tie. And when I was doing stand-up comedy, I wanted to try to set myself apart from other people. Now it's become a thing.


The End is Nye is

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Get to know Bill Nye:
Nye is perhaps best known for his iconic children's TV program Bill Nye: The Science Guy which ran from 1993 to 1999. The Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World (63) premiered in 2017 and ran for three seasons. He also appeared on The Masked Dancer in 2020 and Dancing with the Stars (61) in 2013.