Bill Nye has been on a mission to save the world for some time.
However, it’s been five years since his last series — Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves The World — aired, and some things have changed, arguably not for the better. The world is in a darker place than it was in 2017, it seems, and with Peacock’s upcoming docuseries, The End is Nye, everyone’s favorite “Science Guy” has pivoted into new territory to keep up with the times.
“We’re living in anxious times,” Bill Nye tells Inverse at San Diego Comi-Con. “People are anxious about all sorts of things. Apparently, human nature is such that when things are happy and good, we watch romantic comedies and fun movies. When things are scary, we watch disaster movies. So we made six disaster movies.”
“I get killed in every episode.”
To help him on his new world-saving journey, Nye partnered with Seth MacFarlane and Brannon Braga — the creative duo behind 2014’s TV reboot of science-series Cosmos.
For Braga, whose roots are in science fiction and genre programming, making this show was a dream come true.
“I grew up in the ‘70s with Irwin Allen movies like The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure,” Braga tells Inverse. “I love those movies and I love disaster movies. Being able to do a science show and also get to do disasters was a blast.”
It all started with a midnight phone call from MacFarlane, who wanted to know if they could use fear as a tactic to do good instead of evil.
“He was talking about how fear mongering is prevalent in the media these days,” Braga says. “How can we use fear-mongering for good? Fear is a universal emotion. It grabs you by the collar. Can we make a TV show that literally grabs people in the first half, and then shows how science and ingenuity can get us through the worst of times and leave you with a really optimistic feeling that we can do better?”
Optimism is a limited resource these days, and Nye and Braga acknowledge that in The End is Nye. But to get to the optimism, the duo admits that sometimes, the best mode of delivering the goods is to scare the pants off the audience first.
“I get killed in every episode,” Nye continued. “Everything sucks. And then, it’s: But wait, if we took the steps and addressed this scientifically, everything would be great! Basically, that's the premise.”
There is a lot of boring minutiae that comes with any discussions about big disaster scenarios. After years of Nye spreading the gospel of science, with a focus on enriching the greater good, he’s realized that sometimes a spoonful of sugar — or, in this case, a big-budget cinematic catastrophe — will help the medicine go down.
“Our goal is to get people interested in addressing these problems,” Nye says. “In general, it's going to take investment to reverse the damage of heat in our oceans, or to control it, or to move houses and businesses inland, and so on, all while the ocean gets a little bigger.”
He continues: “For example, if there's an incoming comet or asteroid, we’ve got to do something. There is no business plan in place for deflecting an asteroid, right now.”
Massive volcano eruptions, mythical hydra storms, cataclysmic earthquakes — they’re all on the docket for season 1 of The End is Nye. While there’s no guarantee the program will continue on after this initial run, both Nye and Braga already have plans for next season.
“One of the potential disasters that could occur is authoritarianism,” Braga stated, “I never thought of that as a disaster. But it is an unnatural disaster that has caused the death of hundreds of millions of people over decades.”
And then, of course, there’s Covid-19.
“We did not do a pandemic episode,” Nye revealed, acknowledging how it’s tough to do an episode about a disaster we’re still living through. “That's certainly been considered for season 2.”
The End is Nye premieres Thursday, August 25 on Peacock.