One of the best examples of the kids' Science Show
genre from the '90s. Each episode is centered on an area of scientific study, varying in level of focus from a single concept to an entire discipline. The show's eponymous host, dressed like a cross between a Mad Scientist
and a birthday party magician, would teach the subject with a genuine level of excitement and interest most men reserve for the Super Bowl
The show was hosted by Bill Nye, a scientist,
comedian and former Boeing engineer who got his start in television on the Seattle
local comedy show Almost Live!
(where he got the "Science Guy
" epithet after correcting the host's pronunciation of Gigawatt
) before starting his PBS
show in 1993. (He also made several appearances on Disney shows prior to this, specifically the new version of the Mickey Mouse Club
. Fitting, as this was produced by Disney.)
The show has a few internal Catch Phrases
and idioms, most notably the introduction of new experimental equipment via the following formula: "[Somewhat-Generic-Description-of-Device] Of Science!
Then, in almost every episode, they'd take a well-known song (usually Alternative Rock
), cut the song length in half, then replace the lyrics with lyrics related to the show's topic
. And a guy on YouTube
uploaded every single one of them
. On three occasions, actual rock artists did the song: Chris Ballew of The Presidents Of The United States Of America
did a parody of his band's hit "Peaches", The Posies
reworked their song "Flavor of the Month" with lyrics about ocean exploration, and grunge rockers Mudhoney
did a cover of the show's theme song.
This show ran on PBS in the mid-1990s, but Bill Nye is still on TV. He has a series of specials called The Eyes of Nye
, which are much closer in form to a TV Documentary
series (like Nova
) than his previous show. Today, he's an outspoken environmental activist. His series on Planet Green, Stuff Happens
, is a show about the unintended environmental consequences of the stuff we do and use. He also occasionally guest-stars on the reality show Living With Ed
; he's really Ed Begley Jr.'s neighbor, within a few miles, and the two have an ongoing rivalry to "out-green" each other. Bill Nye is also the go-to guy to explain interesting science stories on Cable news Outlets CNN
As it ran during the same stretch as Beakman's World
, the two shows get compared often,
though Beakman's World
tended to leer more on other aspects of knowledge than simply on science.
Pacific Interactive adapted the series into an adventure game, Bill Nye the Science Guy: Stop the Rock!
, in 1996.
He also has a series of YouTube
videos called Consider the Following
that are located on the Planetary Society's channel
and continue his mission of spreading science. Furthermore, he's also created another YouTube
channel including The Eyes of Nye as well as all 100 episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4mokV2xmoTqS85lxccjnYg
Oh, and Bill Nye was Humanist of the Year
in 2010. Make of that what you will.
This show provides examples of:
- Adam Westing: Bob Ross appeared on an episode about the human eye painting a giant eyeball with "happy little rods and cones".
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: DID YOU KNOW THAT this would often be done Once an Episode to reveal two or three interesting, random facts related to the Topic of the Day? NOW YOU KNOW!
- Big Word Shout: SCIENCE!
- Bleached Underpants: Fans from outside the Seattle area are sometimes surprised when they find out about the mildly risque sketches he sometimes did for Almost Live!.
- Breakout Character: He was Doc Brown's assistant.
- Bowties Are Cool: He may not be a doctor (although the honorary doctorates might say otherwise), but he's still a Trope Codifier!
- Butt Monkey: If someone on the show gets beaned with a soccer ball, hit by a pendulum, or knocked over by an athlete, it's going to be Bill.
- Catchphrase: Bill has several. Notably, "Take a look at this!" before showing off models and experiments, "For crying out loud!" during his more ranty moments, and "Isn't that wild?" after dispensing some interesting information.
- Clip Show: The episode "NTV Top 11 Video Countdown" is little more than a compilation of music videos from previous episodes, with an exclusive performance of the show's theme by Mudhoney at the end.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: [insert sciencey topic here]-Girl, a recurring character who's there to... well, rant enthusiastically about the topic at hand.
- Couch Gag: Sound effects relevant to an episode's topic would get added to the intro where appropriate (e.g. Chomping noises over the Stock Footage of the dinosaur eating for the episode "Digestion" where normally it would be silent).
- Cross Over: On an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Bill plays himself meeting the actor who plays that show's Mister Wizard Expy Prof. Proton, Arthur Jefferies.
Bill: Arthur Jefferies! This is certainly an honor meeting you. Without Prof. Proton I wouldn't have my show.
Arthur Jefferies: I know, that's what I told my lawyers!
- Do Not Try This at Home:
- Kids were encouraged to try most of the experiments shown on their own, sometimes with recommended adult supervision. For the exceptions, such as lying on a bed of nails, they were sure to say this two or three times.
- Parodied with a Spoof Aesop when Bill goes off to demonstrate how much space there is between the Sun and its closest stellar neighbor (the Sun is in a soccer stadium, Alpha Centauri is on a beach a few hundred miles away). Bill goes racing off in a car with the camera running on fast-forward and the announcer remarks, "Don't drive like this at home, kids! You could leave tire marks on the living room carpet!"
- Educational Song: The various songs at the end of every episode.
- Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: Bagpipes are mentioned twice in a gag describing sources of noise pollution.
- Excited Kids' Show Host: Bill is aimed at the key over-six demographic. He's always really excited about the topic and good at rendering complex concepts into language that children can understand.
- Eye Pop: Bill does one when he sees a skeleton in the "Bones" episode. But because he's a real human, it looks a little off.
- Fun with Flushing: In the episode on digestion, every time Bill says "all the way" a toilet flushes off-screen.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Here. Just look at how positively gleeful he is while doing it. "That's a lot of dam power!"
- "ANAL SPHINCTER"
- "Let's Talk About Stress" (the title of one of the said Educational Songs. Guess what song it's parodying).
- "Birds do it. Bees do it. Practically every animal does it. Let's do some right now!" It's the introduction to the episode on Animal Locomotion.
- The flower episode has a bee (or a woman in a bee costume) on a gossip show suggestively talking about how she pollinated a snapdragon. That's not the only instance in the flower episode—quite frankly it's hard to talk about flowers without getting suggestive since they're all about sex.
- The stoners lying on their car in the space episode. Whoooooooa.
- Inertia Is A Property Of Matter
- Jump Cut: Used in the pseudoscience episode as "cheap TV trick".
- Large Ham: Bill Nye. Probably should be law for all science teachers.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The "T-minus 7 seconds" in the opening sequence occurs about 7 seconds before the end.
- Lemony Narrator: "Uh, Bill?" Voiced by none other than Pat Cashman, announcer of Almost Live!! and Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
- Mad Libs Catchphrase: "It's the/our X of SCIENCE!" *Triumphant trumpets*
- Meta Guy: Part of the show's humor was Pat Cashman's reactions to some of Bill's... unorthodox teaching methods.
: If you were going to eat a hot dog the same way a spider eats its food, first you'd wrap it up. (Pops a hot dog wrapped in a croissant into a food processor)
Then you'd soak it in digestive juices. (Squirts mustard on the hot dog) Narrator
: Oh no. Bill, don't do this. Bill
: Now, because we gotta keep this show moving... Narrator
: Um... Bill
: ...I'm gonna grind it up. Real spiders don't do that. Narrator
: Oh, no. Bill, don't—(Food processor turns on)
OH NO. Bill, c'mon! Aw! Oh, man... Bill
: (Turns off food processor)
Then when a spider's ready to eat, it eats its food with its sucking mouth parts. (Takes out a straw and proceeds to suck up the hot dog sludge) Narrator
: ...Bill?! *SLURP*
—Okay--That's it, I'm outta here.
- Mundane Made Awesome: When the episode is about stuff like swamps or skin, which are not usually considered awesome. The "[Insert Device] of SCIENCE!" also falls into this sometimes.
- No Fourth Wall: Apart from the narrator/cameraman's running commentary, there was plenty of Camera Abuse. On one occasion, the camera pulled back enough to show the Foley artist providing the over-the-top whacks and whooshes while Bill hit a diagram with a pointer stick.
- Once an Episode:
- Plenty of them - Consider The Following, Did You Know... (might be multiple times per episode), Way Cool Scientist, Nifty Home Experiment, and of course, the Soundtrack Of Science segment that closed each episode.
- As well as signing off each episode with a science-related "now if you will excuse me I have an X to Y."
- A trumpet will sound, sometimes accompanied by an image of two Renaissance angels with said trumpets.
- Overcrank: The "Gravity" episode shows a replay of an apple and bowling ball both falling to the ground at the same time… without the sound muted first, so you get to hear Bill Nye and Pat Cashman's voices slowed down to half speed too.
- Parental Bonus: Plenty, whether it's Getting Crap Past the Radar or more subtle humor.
- Parody: Often trailers for a Police Procedural or a suspense film about the subject at hand. For example, the Buddy Cop show "Rod and Cone" in the eyeball episode—one can't see colors, the other can't see in even a little shadow. (Rod cells are used in dim light but render it in shades of gray; cone cells detect color but need light to work.)
- Parody Assistance: Chris Ballew, lead singer of the group The Presidents of the United States, showed up to sing "Farm Food", which spoofed the POTUS song "Peaches".
- Parody Commercial: At least Once an Episode. It's one of the things that made the show popular with both the intended and periphery demographic alike.
- Repeat Cut: Used many times. Lots of phrases would get repeated by looping footage for comedic effect. Also, possibly to help get the knowledge through to the viewers' heads since the show was aimed at children.
- Retraux: Some of the skits, most notably "Richie, Eat Your Crust" and subsequent skits starring the same family.
- Quicksand Sucks: Deconstructed in the Wetlands episode, where Bill explains what causes quicksand with a model in the lab, and by going out and getting stuck in some mudflats.
- Running Gag: Multiple examples.
- Did you know that this is the compass that Compass Man uses?"
- Sesame Street Cred: Celebrities and performers would appear on the show to help explain scientific concept. For instance, the Flying Karamozov Brothers used juggling to demonstrate gravity. And in the "Inventions" episode, Samuel L. Jackson explained why golf balls are dimpled.
- Signing Off Catch Phrase: "Well, that's our show. Thanks for watching. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go (do some activity related to the episode)."
- Smash Cut: Many skits would get cut off mid-sentence onto the next skit for humorous effect.
- Stock Footage: Lots and lots of it. Often used for Cutaway Gags.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The Running Gag in the chemical reactions episode was a calm female voice saying "Here is an example of a chemical reaction" before footage of a detonating heap of powder, a feather pillow, all the way up to a multistory building.
- To The Tune Of: Nearly every song featured near the end of an episode. See second sub-entry of Getting Crap Past the Radar above for the most popular example.
- Transplant: Bill Nye from Almost Live. Billy Quan (Once again played by Darrel Suto) from the "Mind your Manners Will Billy Quan" sketch also joins in with Almost Live host John Keister still continuing to give him a hard time.
- We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Happens whenever the camera gets damaged or broken on set. Most memorably when a red-kneed tarantula was flicked onto the cameraman, causing him to drop the camera!
"THE TARANTULA'S GOIN' IN MY PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANTS!!!'"
- You Look Familiar: Cashman, noted above as the narrator, also appeared on-screen whenever a salesman or talk show host was needed. He returns in the same capacity for The Eyes of Nye, looking exactly the same as he did fifteen years ago.
Well that's our article, thanks for reading. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some TV Tropes to edit. See ya!