Watch out, Seattle: There’s a tsunami heading for the Space Needle in former Seattleite Bill Nye’s biggest-budget series, Peacock’s “The End Is Nye.”
Nye, who lived in Seattle from 1977 to 2000 while making his 1993-98 KCTS series “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” virtually revisits his old stomping grounds in an episode focusing on tsunamis caused by a shifting tectonic plate under the Pacific Ocean.
Nye is seen in a cafe in Seattle – “Take Portland!” Take Portland! he says in fake panic during an interview — but “The End Is Nye,” airing all episodes Aug. 25, was filmed in Montreal with Nye on a green-screen stage for much of production.
Visually, “The End Is Nye” is reminiscent of the 2020 series “Cosmos: Possible Worlds”. Both shows share Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) — who appeared in at least one episode as a science-denying Commerce Secretary — and Brannon Braga (“The Orville”) among their ranks of executive producers.
Nye serves as a “tourist guide to the end of the world” for viewers, with a different catastrophic event befalling Earth in each episode. Nye is not just a talking head. He enters fictional scenes and dramatic recreations when not entertaining spectators at the Museum of Catastrophic Incidents, drawing inspiration from his “Almost Live!” chops.
In episode six (“Ring of Fire”), earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions wreak havoc on five continents. The Puget Sound region is not spared.
“Why does every disaster movie start with someone ignoring a scientist?” says Nye in an episode about hurricanes and floods. “Because it happens more often than you think. There are too many incentives to ignore bad news, in this case potential damage to the economy and backlash against government mandates.
Nye’s evolution may seem like a dark turn – from leading a children’s program on the fundamentals of science to his 2017-18 Netflix show, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” which explored the threats of pandemic and climate change, to “The End Is Nye” – but the science educator says the messages are similar across all three shows. But, he acknowledges, the tone has changed to suit the times.
“The reason we made six hour-long disaster movies is that when things are good in the world, people watch romantic comedies,” Nye said. “When things are horrible, people watch disaster movies. It’s just a crazy thing of human nature.
There’s also an element of fearmongering that feels like a polarizing playbook page on cable news. If you can’t beat them, join them?
“As Seth MacFarlane says, the conservative media scares people and we need to scare people. These are desperate times that require desperate measures,” Nye said. “In the first half hour, the world ends, and in the second half hour, we show how the world could be saved through science!”
Nye is quick to add that he’s not too pessimistic about the future.
“I’m more worried and more optimistic because young people aren’t going to put up with this,” he said. “Young people are going to come of age and change the world.
“Everyone is talking this summer about the age of our elected officials,” he continued. “All these people have been in Congress for decades. The president is of a certain age. These people will age, retire or die and they will be replaced by young people who I am sure are concerned about climate change, concerned about pollution, concerned about the 9 billion people living on a planet that once housed less than a billion and so on and so on.
Nye, 66, filmed ‘The Science Guy’ for around $160,000 an episode – but “on this Peacock show, we’re spending $160,000 every morning”.
“The End Is Nye” is produced using a mix of green screen/digital effects and practical sets. He attributes the Montreal filming location to the economy (“We got a deal, apparently it was reasonably priced”), nearby locations that fit the show’s stories and COVID-19 precautions.
“In Montreal, it was, like, an 80% vaccination rate, socialized medicine in a civilized country, and so we didn’t have to shut down,” Nye said. “We were tested for COVID three days a week – not rapid tests, overnight PCR tests. No one got sick. But if you were to try this in many US cities, your chances of success would diminish.