Bill Nye the Science Guy
Created byBill Nye
James McKenna
Erren Gottlieb
Presented byBill Nye
StarringMichaela Leslie-Rule
Chais Dean
Suzanne Mikawa
Ivyann Schwan
Jaffar Smith
Narrated byPat Cashman
Theme music composerMike Greene
Opening theme"Bill Nye the Science Guy"
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes100 + Pilot (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producersElizabeth Brock
Erren Gottlieb
James McKenna
ProducerSimon Griffith
Production locationSeattle, Washington
Running time30 minutes
Production companiesKCTS Seattle
Rabbit Ears Productions
Walt Disney Television
McKenna/Gottlieb Producers, Inc.
Original release
NetworkPBS (1994–1999)
Syndicated (1993–1999)
ReleaseApril 14, 1993 (1993-04-14) –
February 5, 1999 (1999-02-05)

Bill Nye the Science Guy is an American science education television program created by Bill Nye, James McKenna, and Erren Gottlieb, with Nye starring as a fictionalized version of himself. It was produced by television station KCTS and McKenna/Gottlieb Producers and distributed by Buena Vista Television with substantial financing from the National Science Foundation.[1] The show aired in syndication from September 10, 1993, to February 5, 1999, over the course of six seasons and 100 episodes; beginning in season 2, a concurrent run was added on PBS from October 10, 1994, to September 3, 1999, with the show's first run remaining in syndication.[2] After the show's first run was completed, Nye continued to portray the Science Guy character for a number of short interstitial segments for the cable television channel Noggin, which aired during rebroadcasts of Bill Nye the Science Guy. A video game based on the series was released in 1996, and a subsequent television show for adults, Bill Nye Saves the World, was broadcast two decades later.

Known for its quirky humor and rapid-fire MTV-style pacing, the show was critically acclaimed and was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards, winning 19.[3] Studies also found that people that viewed Bill Nye regularly were better able to generate explanations and extensions of scientific ideas than non-viewers.[4]

Format

Nye portrays a hyper-kinetic, tall, and slender scientist wearing a blue lab coat and a bow-tie.[5] He combines the serious science of everyday things with fast-paced action and humor. Each half-hour show begins with a cold open, where Nye introduces the episode's theme, which leads into an opening credit sequence, and featuring Nye in a computer-animated scientific world, along with his head spinning, radio frequencies, and plastic toy dinosaurs flying. In later seasons, the theme song was cut short by a static screen. After the opening credits (in most episodes announcer), Pat Cashman says "Brought to you by...", in which a product name is related to the episode's theme. Nye walks onto the set, which is called "Nye Laboratories", filled with scientific visuals including many "of science" contraptions announced dramatically, relevant to the theme of the episode. Science-related TV and movie parodies configure the facts of the episode's theme, along with parodies of TV commercials. The show has featured many guest appearances.[note 1] Each episode features Nye visiting many places relating to the episode's theme, showing interviews of people talking about their work and other contributions. At the end of each episode, Nye thanks the viewers for watching, before explaining in a clever description of a theme's activity. The closing credits roll over bloopers from the episode.

Segments

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Episodes

Main article: List of Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
PilotsFebruary 24, 1991 (1991-02-24)April 14, 1993 (1993-04-14)KOIN-TV
KCTS-TV
126September 10, 1993 (1993-09-10)March 25, 1994 (1994-03-25)Syndication
226September 9, 1994 (1994-09-09)April 28, 1995 (1995-04-28)Syndication/PBS
313September 8, 1995 (1995-09-08)December 1, 1995 (1995-12-01)
413September 6, 1996 (1996-09-06)April 25, 1997 (1997-04-25)
514September 5, 1997 (1997-09-05)April 24, 1998 (1998-04-24)
68September 4, 1998 (1998-09-04)February 5, 1999 (1999-02-05)

History

Origins and creation

Bill Nye was originally an engineer for the 747 airliner at Boeing, having moved to Seattle in 1977 after he was accepted for the position.[6] Nye began to perform stand-up comedy in his spare time after he entered and won a Steve Martin lookalike contest at a comedy club, which led to him meeting fellow comedians Ross Shafer and John Keister.[7] Nye eventually left Boeing in 1985 to join Shafer and Keister in writing and performing for Almost Live!, a then-fledgling sketch comedy television show produced by local NBC affiliate KING-TV.[5] During his tenure on the show, Nye began cultivating a science-explaining TV persona; the first instance of the persona occurred in 1985 when Nye called Shafer on-air to correct his pronunciation of the word "gigawatt", to which Shafer retorted, "Who do you think you are – Bill Nye the Science Guy?"[5][8][9] As a result, Nye was subsequently asked to give scientific answers to the show's call-in questions.[9] His persona's first on-air appearance, as it is contemporarily known, occurred on January 10, 1987, by circumstance when the primary guest for that night's performance of Almost Live! called in to cancel their appearance; with no backup guest planned to fill the resulting empty time, the show's writers elected to have Nye demonstrate the household uses of liquid nitrogen.[7][10] During the demonstration, Nye submerged an onion in liquid nitrogen and proceeded to shatter it, receiving acclaim from the studio audience.[5]

As Nye produced more demonstrations for Almost Live!, he began to develop the idea of a show featuring his "Science Guy" persona; KING-TV declined his proposal, though he eventually received assistance from station alumni James McKenna and Erren Gottlieb.[5] Together, the group pitched the show as Watch Mr. Wizard meets Pee-wee's Playhouse, though the latter part was later replaced with MTV after the arrest of actor Paul Reubens for indecent exposure in 1991.[5][11] Their pitch lasted for four years, being declined by Fox and other networks over various concerns, until they convinced Elizabeth Brock of local PBS member station KCTS-TV to take a chance on the idea.[5][12] KCTS-TV commissioned a pilot for Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired on April 14, 1993, on the station itself before airing on PBS stations nationwide for the rest of the month.[6][5] Nye successfully obtained underwriting from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.[6] Nye's program became part of a package of syndicated series that local stations could schedule to fulfill Children's Television Act requirements;[13] because of this, Bill Nye the Science Guy became the first program to run concurrently on both public and commercial stations.[13]

Theme song

The Bill Nye the Science Guy theme song was written by songwriter and former math teacher Mike Greene,[14] who also sang the "Bill Nye the Science Guy" refrain and the distorted voice saying "Bill Nye the Science Guy". The word "Bill" is repeated throughout as a percussive shout. In developing the theme, Greene first came up with the melody, which he stated was inspired by Danny Elfman and his work with Oingo Boingo. When Greene was enlisted to write the theme song, the show's producers requested that the song "not sound like a kid's show"; the final result was accordingly uncommon for the time.[15] Greene initially sent a demo of the theme with him singing to the theme's producers, then sent two alternate versions with professional singers. The producers ultimately chose to keep Greene's voice as they found it funnier.[14]

Set to a house beat, Greene enlisted rappers to repeat the word "Bill!" as a percussive shout, deliberately imitating the shouting featured in House of Pain's 1992 song "Jump Around".[15] "I can't name them, because it was against their contract to do outside things without permission from their record company," Greene noted. "It was kinda funny, because they were in my studio one day to record a song. I was working on the Nye theme as they walked in and I told them, 'Hey, do me a favor and go in the booth and chant 'Bill, Bill, Bill' over and over again.' They had no idea what it was for, but they're cool, so they did. It sounded great, so that's the version we kept. The show didn't air until a year later, so it wasn't until then that they understood what this was really for."[14] In a comment that Greene posted on Reddit in 2018, Greene mentioned that he believed that the rappers were from several groups in his studio on the day of recording, but the only rapper he could specifically recall was Bronz of A.L.T. & The Lost Civilization. The spoken female vocals were provided by Leslie Kyle-Wilson.[16]

Production

The show was created in 1992 by Bill Nye, James McKenna and Erren Gottlieb, produced by McKenna/Gottlieb Producers, Inc, in partnership with KCTS in Seattle. The following year, the production companies entered a distribution agreement with Buena Vista Television, a subsidiary of Disney.[1] As part of the agreement, the profits of the show were split between Disney and the production team, with Disney owning full distribution rights across broadcasting, home video, and digital streaming. McKenna and Gottlieb all met while McKenna was a producer on Almost Live!, a Seattle-based comedy show.[17]

The announcer for the program was Pat Cashman, whom Nye knew from his time on Almost Live!.

Before his show launched, Nye had previously worked alongside Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future: The Animated Series, where he played Doc Brown's assistant and demonstrated several experiments.

The show has been likened to the next-generation version of Watch Mr. Wizard.[18][19] The show ran about the same time as and covered similar topics to Beakman's World, in fact sharing one crew member, editor/writer/director Michael Gross.

The show was primarily funded by the National Science Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the annual financial support from the viewers/stations of the PBS network. Other funding sponsors included Ore Ida, The Boeing Company (which Nye worked for until 1986, Boeing was also based in Seattle until 2001 when it relocated its corporate headquarters to Chicago, Illinois), and Intel. The Syndicated airings were credited as "Produced in Association with the National Science Foundation", while the PBS airings changed it to "Produced in Association with Walt Disney Television".

The show began with a 26-episode order for the 1993–1994 Season.[20] After its initial success, it was renewed for a second 26-episode order for the 1994–1995 Season, followed by 13 for the 1995–1996 Season.[21] Lastly, it was renewed for two more years, bringing the final episode total to 100.[22] The final episode aired in 1999, well after production ended in 1997.

Despite Disney's association and ownership with the show, it has never aired on any network owned by Walt Disney Television in the US (such as Disney Channel and the American Broadcasting Company, known as simply ABC, which Disney did not acquire until 1996, three years after the show premiered.)

Noggin shorts

Nye in one of Noggin's original shorts

In September 1999, Bill Nye signed a multi-year deal to develop and star in original programs for Noggin,[23] a cable channel co-owned by MTV Networks and the Children's Television Workshop (now known as Sesame Workshop). In addition to producing the new content, Noggin acquired all 100 episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy; this made it the first-ever program acquisition by the channel.[24] Noggin and Nye chose not to develop new episodes of the show, and instead created original shorts featuring Nye, in character and costume from Bill Nye the Science Guy. In the shorts, Nye's "Science Guy" persona worked as the "head sparkologist" of Noggin,[25] and he tried to find out what topics sparked viewers' imaginations. Bill Nye told Multichannel News that he was interested in creating multiple original shows for Noggin, including a math-based series and one "showing kids how to exercise good judgment."[24]

Bill Nye also hosted "Noggin's What Sparks You? Special," a half-hour special that aired on April 7, 2000.[26]

Impact

In conjunction with the production of Bill Nye the Science Guy, KCTS-TV conducted several research studies that evaluated how effective the program was as an educational tool. In one study, it was found that viewers of the program made more observations and sophisticated classifications than non-viewers.[4] In surveys of elementary students who watched the program, most children concluded that Nye made "kids like science more". When surveyed whether Nye was a scientist or actor and comedian, most students asserted he was a scientist, though many said both. Students also described Nye almost equally as both "funny" and "smart", and believed he was a "source of good information."[27]

Awards

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Bill Nye the Science Guy

During its run, Bill Nye the Science Guy was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards, winning nineteen.[3]

Home media

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has released every episode individually on DVD,[28] but never released a full series set. Instead, each episode was released separately on its own DVD, for a total of 100 DVDs costing a combined $1,500. In the United Kingdom, it was distributed on VHS by ViewTech, Bristol. In 1994 and 1995, Walt Disney Home Video released five volumes of Bill Nye the Science Guy, such as "The Human Body: The Inside Scoop", "Powerful Forces: All Pumped Up", "Dinosaurs: Those Big Boneheads", "Reptiles & Insects: Leapin' Lizards", and "Outer Space: Way Out There". All five volumes were released on VHS, containing two episodes. As of May 2017, the 1996 episode "Probability" is edited from its original airing, with a segment removed featuring a cast member saying there are only two genders. Netflix denied allegations they edited it (their new series Bill Nye Saves the World features Nye stating gender is on a spectrum) saying "It was delivered to us that way by Buena Vista TV."[29]

A set of 31 episodes is also available for purchase on the iTunes Store, though they have been split into two separate volumes; one containing 14 episodes[30] and the other containing 17 episodes.[31]

Despite Disney's involvement in the series, the series has not been available on Disney+ due to a dispute with Nye over revenue sharing.[32]

Video game

A computer game based on the series, titled Bill Nye: The Science Guy - Stop the Rock!, was released in 1996 for Windows and Macintosh by Pacific Interactive.[33]

See also

Notes

References

  1. ^ a b Maddus, Gene (August 25, 2017). "Bill Nye Claims Disney Withheld $28 Million in 'Science Guy' Profits". Variety. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  2. ^ "Schedule". Kentucky Educational Television. September 3, 1999. Archived from the original on February 9, 2001.
  3. ^ a b "Bill Nye, the Science Guy". IMDb. September 10, 1993. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Bell, Phillip (2009). Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. National Academies Press. p. 253.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Boss, Kit (December 18, 1994). "The Bill Nye Effect". The Seattle Times.
  6. ^ a b c Beck, Andee (April 14, 1993). "KCTS embarks on cool experiment with 'Science Guy' show". The News Tribune. p. F13 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ a b Dever, Jim (June 22, 2020). "How the Science Guy got his start in Seattle". KING 5 Evening. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  8. ^ "Almost Live!: What Seattle Sketch Comedy Gave to Us". Splitsider. September 27, 2011. Archived from the original on May 6, 2017. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Sayej, Nadja (July 25, 2017). "Bill Nye: 'You can shoot the messenger but climate is still changing'". The Guardian. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  10. ^ Stainton, Bill (July 28, 2015). "How One Question Invented Bill Nye the Science Guy". Bill Stainton. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  11. ^ "Bill Nye Is Still the Nuttiest Professor". Seattle Metropolitan. September 3, 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  12. ^ "HISTORICAL BACKGROUND FOR KCTS". Seattle Television History. University of Washington. Archived from the original on April 24, 2017. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Chotkowski LaFollette, Marcel (2012). Science on American Television: A History. University of Chicago Press.
  14. ^ a b c Greene, Mike (June 6, 2014). "Who Wrote The Bill Nye Theme Music?". ScienceBob.com (Interview). Interviewed by Bob Pflugfelder. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  15. ^ a b Great Big Story (October 4, 2018). How Bill Nye Got into the Rap Game (Sort Of) (Video). Retrieved December 13, 2021 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ Mike_Greene_Music (August 2, 2018). "Wow! This is very f…". r/todayilearned. Retrieved November 11, 2023.
  17. ^ "Bill Nye, The Science Guy | Archive of American Television". Emmytvlegends.org. Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  18. ^ Heppner, Frank (2007). Teaching the Large College Class: A Guidebook for Instructors with Multitudes. John Wiley & Sons. p. 11. ISBN 9780470180846.
  19. ^ Kundanis, Rose M. (2003). Children, Teens, Families, and Mass Media: The Millennial Generation. Taylor & Francis. p. 37. ISBN 9780805845631.
  20. ^ "Bill Nye is BVT's Educational Guy" (PDF). Broadcasting. NewBay Media: 47. April 26, 1993 – via American Radio History.
  21. ^ "Disney Rings in New Year with Belle" (PDF). Broadcasting. NewBay Media: 18. January 2, 1995 – via American Radio History.
  22. ^ "Errata" (PDF). Broadcasting. NewBay Media: 35. February 5, 1996 – via American Radio History.
  23. ^ "Nye tries sparkling stint on new cable channel". Associated Press. September 24, 1999.
  24. ^ a b Moss, Linda (September 27, 1999). "Noggin Corrals Nye, The Science Guy". Multichannel News.
  25. ^ "Bill Nye, The Science Guy". CBS News. January 7, 2000.
  26. ^ "03/14/2000 - HEAD SPARKOLOGIST BILL NYE DOUBLE TEAMS THE AIRWAVES AT NOGGIN AND NICKELODEON WITH "NOGGIN'S WHAT SPARKS YOU SPECIAL," APRIL 7". September 14, 2001. Archived from the original on September 14, 2001.
  27. ^ Rockman; et al. "A Study of Bill Nye the Science Guy Outreach and Image Executive Summary". Seattle Television History, University of Washington. Archived from the original on June 11, 2017. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  28. ^ "Disney Educational Productions". dep.disney.go.com. Disney.go.com. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  29. ^ Adams, Becket (May 5, 2017). "Netflix: We didn't edit that Bill Nye episode". Washington Examiner. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  30. ^ "Bill Nye the Science Guy, Vol. 1 on iTunes". iTunes. September 10, 1993. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  31. ^ "Bill Nye the Science Guy, Vol. 2 on iTunes". iTunes. September 10, 1993. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  32. ^ "Bill Nye the Science Guy and Disney Feud over Streaming Revenue". February 26, 2021.
  33. ^ "Software can help kids weather summer doldrums". Deseret News. April 21, 1997. Retrieved September 4, 2019.