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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Bill Nye Saves the World!

By Phil Plait

Every now and again, I have to metaphorically shake my brain a bit and think, “Did that really happen to me?”

Like, say, when I tell you that today, Friday, April 21, 2017, is when the show Bill Nye Saves the World premiers on Netflix ... and I was the head science writer for it.

I know, right?

BNStW is part late-night talk show, part news magazine, but it’s definitely all Bill. Watch the trailer:

It is so cool to see that! And I remember when we shot every single one of those scenes, but I was off to the side, so I remember them from a different angle. That’s a weird feeling. 

All 13 episodes will be online simultaneously for you to binge-watch should you so desire. The show’s topics include global warming, vaccines, alternative medicine, GMOS and more. Well, nine more. You’ll see. The show has science (duh), comedy, music (OMG we had Rachael Bloom performing for us) and more science. Each episode also features a panel with three people talking about the topic at hand with Bill, and you’ll see lots of familiar faces (like my friends Michelle Thaller, Hakeem Oluseyi, Moogega Cooper, Wil Wheaton, Xeni Jardin, Cara Santa Maria, and many more).

We also had field correspondents who literally traveled across the planet to report on stories. Two of them I knew before the show —Derek Muller and Emily Calandrelli— but it was also a pleasure to work with and get to know better comedians Joanna Hausmann and Nazeem Hussain, as well as model and super-science-supporter Karlie Kloss. They got their own trailer, too:

Making this show was a lot of fun. A lot. The writers’ room was amazing. We had science communicators and comedy writers sitting together around a table for weeks, working with Bill to hammer out the ways we wanted the episodes to unfold, and the conversations ranged from how to define artificial intelligence to the relationship between society, science, and gender perception. 

All of my favorite memories of making this show have one thing in common: how much we laughed. I mean, really laughed. Every science writer was funny, and every comedy writer was, well, sciencey. But then, when you have Mike Drucker as the head comedy writer, along with CeCe Pleasants, Prashanth Venkataramanujam, Sanden Totten, Flora LichtmanTeagan Wall and Abby Plante, that’s pretty easy. We all had our areas of expertise we brought to the table, and one of the highest compliments I can give everyone on our team is that I learned a lot from all of them on a vast array of topics. I’m smarter now than when we started.

What could be better than that?

I’ll add too that the showrunner is Michael Naidus, who was the producer of Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show. In fact, it was Michael’s involvement with BNStW that was a big boost in my taking the job; I loved Craig’s show and I wanted the chance to work more with Michael.

Phil and Bill

Working with Bill was fun. I mean, of course it was! But it was what you’d expect: He really loves science, and it shows. For example, he (along with some of the staff) loaded up the center of the writers’ room table with all kinds of science gizmos: slide rules, magnets, a copper pipe and rare Earth magnet sphere (when you roll the magnet down the pipe it sets up eddy currents resisting the changing magnetic field according to Lenz’s law, and it falls more slowly than you’d expect), flasks and beakers and more. Whenever someone new would idly pick up a slide rule and start to fool with it, Bill was on them in a heartbeat showing them how to use it. He really delights in that sort of thing, and visitors always left entertained, happy, and with a little more of an appreciation for science.

And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? 

One more thing. There were times when we were trying to figure out our take on a topic, how we wanted to cover it and present it. We had fairly animated discussions on this pretty often, and sometimes it felt like we couldn’t converge on a solution. When that happened, more often than not Bill would step in and say something that really struck me: “We are science!” By that he meant that our show represents the best and most current scientific thinking on a topic, and wherever the science led, then that’s where we’d go

So, I hope you come along with Bill, with me, with the fantastic writers, correspondents, panelists, crew, staff, and everyone else who helped create the show. We may very well (if I may quote our host)… dare I say it, save the world!

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