I love shows about nature and space. Learning about our planet and others; about space exploration, and the technology that does it. Its addicting to me. I’ve spent whole weekends watching everything I could find on Netflix. I binge watched Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and the BBC Planet Earth series. I’ve watched shows on the Voyager probes, Hubble space telescope, and Russian rocket engines. I loved One Strange Rock, and recently I discovered Down to Earth with Zac Efron on Netflix.
I found all of them just incredibly informative and fascinating, but I think, Down to Earth with Zac Efron, Cosmos and One Strange Rock really captivated me most. As everyone already knows, information by itself can be dull. There is a reason there are jokes about how boring things are like “reading textbooks”. These documentaries, to me anyway, presented their information in a way that made me want to watch more. Though they do it in slightly different ways.
Down to Earth is about sustainable living, focusing on food, energy, and shelter. Zac travels the world with his friend Darin Olien. I’m not sure if the show mentions precisely how the two met, but Zac apparently agreed with many of Darin’s beliefs after coming across them, arranged to meet him, and they hit it off. The show feels like Zac wanted to learn more about sustainability and Darin said, “Ok…. Follow me!” Very much a mentor/mentee or teacher/student relationship, and we the audience are in Zac’s shoes, learning at the same time he is. The production value of Down to Earth isn’t as high as on One Strange Rock or Cosmos (which are in HD), but it doesn’t need to be. It’s about the knowledge not the visuals, where One Strange Rock and Cosmos are about both.
One Strange Rock was hosted by Will Smith. His approach felt more like a person who is in the same, fascinating class you are in, and is explaining the topics covered in a class you missed. It feels like he loves the topics as much as I do. He leaves a lot of the “sciencey” explaining to the 8 astronauts that were interviewed for and (essentially) co-host the show. This show had a strange effect on me, it actually had me energized at the end. It made me want to go out and do something. After watching Down to Earth we immediately went to Disney+ and started One Strange Rock. They felt similar to me in their approach.
Cosmos had Neil deGrasse Tyson, whom we all know is a scientist himself. He relayed the information as a teacher would to his students. He was charismatic and entertaining, and even thought the information was complex, he was able to convey it in a way that I was able to digest. Occasionally it took some time. I would pause and think about a topic, or maybe rewind and play it again, but I was able to get it. The result was sometimes exhausting, like I had just been in a particularly difficult but rewarding class at school.
My wife and I binged watched Down to Earth the day after it was released on Neflix, and I’ve watched both One Strange Rock and Cosmos several times. All are amazing and worth checking out if you are into educational documentaries.