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Series / Bill Nye the Science Guy

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"Oh, believe me, you don't want to mess with Bill Nye. He will end your ass, with SCIENCE!"
Doctor Insano, The Spoony Experiment

"Science rules!"

One of the best and most famous examples of the kids' Science Show genre from the 1990s, Bill Nye the Science Guy is a show produced by a joint venture between PBS affiliate KCTS Seattle and Buena Vista Television that lasted for five seasons and 100 episodes from 1993 to 1998. 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 science guy, 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"). Although not technically a "scientist" in the sense of being a PhD with a particular specialty, Bill Nye holds patents for things ranging from jet engine components to ballet shoes, explains scientific concepts both accurately and clearly,note  and each show featured a professor in whatever topic was being discussed that week in the "Way Cool Scientist" segment, which allowed those researchers to explain their topic from the laboratory or the field. With '90s kids now in college and graduate school, it's relatively common to find science majors, Masters students, and PhD students who point to Bill Nye as an inspiration for their interest in becoming scientists themselves.

Almost every episode of the show is structured by recurring segments alongside a number of internal Catch Phrases and idioms. The most notable example of the latter is the introduction of new experimental equipment with the formula of "[Somewhat-Generic-Description-of-Device] OF SCIENCE!" note , and a good example of the former is the show's affinity for taking songs that were well-known at the time (usually from Alternative Rock), cutting the song's length in half, and replacing the lyrics with lyrics related to the show's topic. 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.

In the early 2000s, Nye became the on-air spokesman of the Noggin cable channel, which carried reruns of Science Guy on top of Nye bringing back his Science Guy persona for some original specials and shorts. Afterwards, Nye continued to make regular appearances on TV in similar educational content.

A series of specials called The Eyes of Nye, which were much closer in form to a TV Documentary series (like Nova) and oriented more towards teenagers and adults, aired in 2005. In 2008, Nye hosted a series on the now-defunct channel Planet Green called Stuff Happens, revolving around the unintended environmental consequences of the stuff we do and use. He also occasionally guest-starred on the reality show Living With Ed (2007-2010), hosted by his best friend Ed Begley, Jr. On the show, the two had an ongoing rivalry to "out-green" each other; off-screen, he was really Ed's neighbor, within a few miles. His latest series is the Netflix exclusive Bill Nye Saves the World (2017-18), which was clearly targeted at adult audiences who grew up with Science Guy. Today, Nye is an outspoken environmental activist, and the go-to guy to explain interesting science stories on cable news outlets CNN and MSNBC.

As Science Guy 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, and Nye often explored subjects that had scientific reasoning behind it (such as populations, communication, probability and odds, and music) more than Beakman's World did.

Pacific Interactive adapted the series into an adventure game, Bill Nye the Science Guy: Stop the Rock!, in 1996.

Bill also has a series of YouTube videos called Consider the Following (named after a segment from this show) that are located on the Planetary Society's channel and continue his mission of spreading science.

Check out this Trope List OF SCIENCE! [fanfare]

  • Adam Westing: Bob Ross appeared on an episode about the human eye painting a giant eyeball with "happy little rods and cones".
  • All Issues Are Political Issues: Bill Nye is fond of saying that "Science is political, but it is not partisan." This view is reflected in The Eyes of Nye by the interviews with the waffling politician in cutaway gags, who even expresses a political position on ice cream.
  • 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!
  • Anti-Nihilist: Bill Nye is a humanist who believes that death is a complete Cessation of Existence, but while we're here, "We can...dare I say it... change the WORLD!"
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: The dinosaur episode tries to avert this as possible, but the rap had the glaring mistake of calling Dimetrodon a dinosaur.
  • 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!.
  • Boring Broadcaster: The show, which aired on PBS, parodied this with the occasional segment "Community Access Television: The High Dilly School" which is introduced by a very bored-sounding announcer.
  • Brand X: A number of segments require the use of empty cereal boxes, for which they had on hand Science-brand Frosted Corn Shards — apparently Kellogg's Frosted Flakes but in a red box with Tony the Tiger nowhere in sight.
  • Breakout Character: He was Doc Brown's assistant.
  • Bumbling Dad: "Clumsy Dad" in the Momentum episode
  • 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.
  • The Cameo: See "Sesame Street" Cred entry below; many celebrities put in time to help demonstrate or explain a current episode's central theme, some examples include: Penn & Teller (Light Optics), Samuel L. Jackson (Inventions), Drew Barrymore (Flowers), and Alfonso Ribeiro (Food Web).
  • 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.
    • "Not that bad!"
    • "Take a look at this! It's our [overly long-named scientific contraption] OF SCIENCE! [fanfare]"
    • "Please consider the following," and "Thank you for considering the following."
    • At the end of every episode, "Well that's our show, thanks for watching! If you'll excuse me, I have to go [insert something scientific here]. See ya!"
  • 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).
  • Crossover: 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!
  • A Day in the Limelight: The episode "Do-It-Yourself Science" is this for the "Richie, eat your crust" family, with Bill visiting their house in order to demonstrate science experiments you can do at home.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The "Patterns" episode was sponsored by "The Incorporated Corporation of Repetition, Incorporated".
  • 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.
  • Equal-Opportunity Offender: If you're a hippie, an astrologer, a talk show host, a politician, a student, a teacher, or a parent, there's a chance you'll see somebody on The Eyes of Nye portraying your particular group in an unflattering light.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Bagpipes are mentioned twice in a gag describing sources of noise pollution.
  • Evil Laugh Turned Coughing Fit: Parodied in the episode "Energy", basing an interstitial on the old radio series The Shadow:
    Narrator: Who knows what potential energy lurks in the heart of things? The Transformer knows... [The titular logo appears] Ha ha ha ha ha HA HA HA HA [he starts to violently cough and hack, with the logo and background both bouncing wildly]
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Big Sweaty Guy from the heat episode is just that as his theme song says: He's big, he's sweaty, and he's a guy!
  • 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.
  • Fun with Flushing: In the episode on digestion, every time Bill says "all the way" a toilet flushes off-screen.
  • Iconic Outfit: The blue lab coat and bow ties.
  • Jump Cut: Used in the pseudoscience episode as "cheap TV trick".
  • Kitchen Sink Included: In the episode "Atoms" Bill enters the lab which is all full of different items which he claims are all made of matter. One of the items is—the kitchen sink!
  • 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 Bros. 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.
    Bill: 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.
  • The Metric System Is Here to Stay: The show was produced over a decade after the U.S. gave up converting to the metric system, and Bill is still stubbornly sticking with metric units. Would his target audience even know what a kilometer was? Who cares, the metric system is more scientific, dammit!
  • 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 Animals Were Harmed: After Bill falls into a garbage compressor at the end of the "Pollution" episode, the announcer remarks "No actual science guys were harmed in the production of this program".
  • 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.
  • The Other Rainforest: Bill did a lot of filming there, as the production was based in Seattle.
  • 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 innuendo or more subtle humor.
    • One of the song parodies, "Science in Music, Oh Yeah!", was based on the song "Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There's a pretty slim chance his demographic would have seen the source material, so it's safe to assume that the cover was just for the parents' sake. Then there's the notorious "Let's Talk About Stress", which is a filk of Salt-N-Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex". Again, the source material only plays on adult stations, so it's unlikely that the target demographic would've heard the original and thus it can be assumed that the song was just there to entertain any parents watching along.
  • 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.
  • Pie in the Face: In the atoms episode
    Bill: All matter is made up of atoms or molecules.
    Offscreen kid: Hey Science guy? Even a banana cream pie?
    Bill:Oh yeah! Even a *splat!*
  • Precision F-Strike: Courtesy of everyone's favorite "Grrrl". In this case, Pollution Grrrl in the "Pollution Solutions" episode; it's bleeped of course, but quite noticeable since it rarely if ever happens.
    Pollution Grrrl: *picks up garbage* You see this stuff? You and I made this stuff! Do you like it?! Well, I don't fucking like it! (cue image of a dog with its ears perking up in alarm) CLEAN UP YOUR GARBAGE!!!
  • Private Detective: Parodied with the recurring character of Luna Van Dyke
    Luna: My name is Luna, Luna Van Dyke; it's a Dutch name that means *insert random terminology that relates to that particular episode*
  • 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.
    • If Bill Nye mentions anything involving water ANYTHING, a stagehand with a bucket full of water flings the water at him, it's so bad that Bill is aware of it and tries to substitute the chemical formula each time, until he slips up at the end and gets drenched with at least ten buckets of water.
    • "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. In the "Human Transportation" episode, Bill contacted James Doohan to get him out of a traffic jam, and when he was told he was "giving it all she's got," Bill fired him.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase: "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). See ya!" This catchphrase would almost always be said in the same place that the episode started.
  • Smash Cut: Many skits would get cut off mid-sentence onto the next skit for humorous effect.
  • Spiritual Successor: To "Watch Mr. Wizard", though Bill was a bit longer on the gags and shorter on the DIY stuff.
  • Splash of Color: Occurs in the recurring shot of a 1950s family watching television, which is edited so it looks like they're watching Bill Nye's show. The shot is black-and-white Stock Footage (here's the original), but the footage on their TV is in color (here's how it appears on the show).
  • 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.
  • Tempting Fate: In the episode about probability, Bill is standing in the middle of a park looking for four-leaf clovers. He determines that there's a 1 in 5000 chance of finding one, and that finding a five-leaf clover is about as likely as getting hit by a wrecking ball in the park. And then he looks down and thinks he's found one, while dodging a wrecking ball, until he stands up.
  • Think of the Children!: Bill has said in many panel debates that most (but not all) Generation Y and Millennials have been lost to religious radical movements and science denial, and that the children of these generations are the only hope for humanity's future. This is why he made The Science Guy and The Eyes of Nye.
  • To the Tune of...: Nearly every song featured near the end of an episode. See second part of Parental Bonus 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!
  • You Look Familiar: invokedCashman, 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!

Alternative Title(s): Bill Nye


Buoyant Car

Bill explains buoyancy while taking his car for a little drive in the ocean.

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