Bill Nye is here to tell us about the end of the world.
This Thursday, the TV host engineer will boldly reveal details of our impending doom in his upcoming science disaster series The end is Nyewhich flows on Peacock.
The six 45-minute episodes will haunt viewers with epic global disasters – man-made and natural – in a full-on VFX spectacle before offering a glimmer of hope in how science can help us survive, mitigate or even prevent such atrocities. .
Last month, attendees at San Diego Comic-Con got a taste of things to come when Nye took the stage to introduce the show. “Viewer discretion advised” Nye warned as the episodes kicked off in unnervingly plausible scenarios that could result from an asteroid strike, a massive solar flare knocking out power grids, a supervolcano, a massive earthquake, as well as the environmental ravages of climate change and global warming.
“We should be able to plan these things,” Nye told the crowd. “We need to be able to see an asteroid approaching and do something about it. We should be able to notice that it is gets really hot in here…We need to do something about the very warm ocean and the warm air.”
Co-creators Seth MacFarlane and Brannon Braga – the people behind The Orville and Cosmos– worked closely with science advisors and also with an eschatologist, an expert on the end of humanity. But they deliberately play satire to give their apocalyptic warnings, wrapping their dark humor around Nye’s goofy charm.
Each episode follows a disaster that ends the world through the eyes of an ignored scientist, professional and nervous dude, with Nye dying a horrific death each time (a la South Parks Kenny). In the second half, Nye jumps back to show us how current technologies and scientific solutions can help us avoid that fate. “We need to invest intellect and treasure to prepare,” Nye says.
MacFarlane came out on every show as a bombshell “whose willful ignorance or negligence has caused disaster,” he told the folks at Comic-Con. In the pilot, he is a congressman who refuses to issue emergency warnings, causing mass deaths from a raging superstorm caused by global warming. Later, a resurrected Nye shows solutions that use wetlands, marine wind farms and carbon capture technologies to mitigate storms and cool the Earth.
“We tried to do it in a way that doesn’t trigger for some people, especially scientific deniers,” said Braga, who also serves as a director and showrunner. Fast Company. “The humor is the essential part. You want to have fun watching the show, but you also don’t want to undermine the gravity of the situation or the science.”
Fear of good
The show sprang from a late-night pandemic appeal MacFarlane made to Braga about the oppressive fear mongering on TV, asking, “How can we use it as a force for good?” Braga recalls. “Fear is a universal emotion. It grabs you by the collar. So let’s do a show that terrifies you, then shows how science and ingenuity can get us through the worst of times and leave you feeling very optimistic.”
They brainstormed in MacFarlane’s backyard using pushpins and index cards, throwing out obscure scientific facts. “Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane, but did you know there are Category 6 hurricanes? So far they have only been found in the open ocean, but what if they came ashore?” asked Nye. “Wouldn’t that suck?”
The production was also not without its own natural disasters. After urging Braga to do his own stunts, Nye managed to rip a leg muscle four steps to run across a green screen stage.
The show manages to maintain that precarious balance between entertainment and education, but the elephant in the room remains: Scientific solutions may already exist, but is our willingness to engage them? Especially given Sisyphean’s political hurdles in enacting climate change policies or involving the public in something as simple as wearing masks.
None of this affects Nye, a stalwart in the optimism of his program, who finds hope in the increased awareness of emerging generations. “Young people will not tolerate this passivity,” he said.