Is Netflix’s ‘Down to Earth with Zac Efron’ Too ‘Bro-y’ For Its Own Good?
Netflix’s new eco-minded docuseries Down to Earth with Zac Efron was released on July 10th, 2020. Zac Efron and his pal Darin Olien (who is also a self-proclaimed environmental activist and entrepreneur) travel to several international locations, including Iceland, Sardinia, Peru, London, France, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica. While the Netflix co-hosts dive into the real science behind renewable energies and locally-produced food sources, many viewers were thrown by the “bro-y” nature of the show. Does Olien and Efron’s dude-like vocabulary take away from Down to Earth?
How have Netflix viewers and critics responded to ‘Down to Earth with Zac Efron’?
In the series trailer, Efron introduces Down to Earth’s whole concept:
Food, water, and energy are all the main staples for modern life. We’re going to meet some top eco-innovators…to see how change is an inside job.
He suggests that the Netflix series will be an awakening on how to approach sustainable living via the show’s scientific interviews. Together, Efron and Olein discover healthier eating habits and learn about new energy resources.
It’s no doubt a valid — albeit large — topic for anyone to jump into. But Olien and Efron, who appear to be the ultimate bros, talk about the issues on the series in a way that feels almost fratty. (It doesn’t help that Efron is almost always rocking the brand RVCA). Perhaps this explains why the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes is only 57%; Down to Earth is not a failure, but not a hit with the critics either.
What the reviews are saying about cohosts Zac Efron and Darin Olien on ‘Down to Earth’
Cosmopolitan’s review, for example, was a bit unfavorable towards the show.
“Down to Earth is … a fun excuse to watch a hunk like Zac travel the world and occasionally take off his shirt, this show is not much more than that,” the critic quipped.
The review further questions the lack of depth on any topic Down to Earth covers. The publication cites a few somewhat unfocused segments in which Efron and Olien are trying to explore sustainable ways of living and the environment. The Cosmo critic also lamented that the Down to Earth co-hosts didn’t dig deep enough into the science behind the topics, or offer actual viewers any “action items” they could make after watching the program.
The Daily Beast reviewer mostly agreed, finding the show to be a “delightfully, earnest mess.” The review points out if this were a college course, “it would definitely be a 101 class.” Burn!
Although Efron appears genuinely interested in the topics at hand on Down to Earth, he rarely does more than respond with a “wow” or a “dope.” For this reason, the show is sometimes “cringe-worthy,” per the Daily Beast, even as it attempts to raise awareness on powerful issues.
Twitter’s reaction to the show — and to Zac Efron
According to Elle, Efron’s Twitter fans came out in droves in response to Down to Earth. Tweeters applauded him for “his transformation from beloved High School Musical star to tantalizing travel show host.”
However, a good chunk of these Twitter reactions focused more on admiration not only for Efron’s physique and good looks than anything else. Not that we’re complaining, but the frequent shots of the Greatest Showman star shirtless in Down to Earth don’t exactly contribute to the intellectual aspect of the series.
Efron and Olien’s bro-tastic vocabulary only serves to distract a bit from the message of sustainability and science-based approaches to energy. But, perhaps Netflix assumed Efron’s personality and camaraderie with Olien would get people to watch it in the first place. Making complicated topics more accessible to the average Joe is not inherently a bad thing. But even Twitter fans thought the Down to Earth with Zac Efron co-hosts used words like “gnarly,” “bro,” and “sick,” a few too many times than were necessary.
Still, we can’t deny that Efron is using his platform — which began way back on the Disney Channel — for a higher good. If Efron and his bro Olien want to save the world, they might not be there yet — but Down to Earth is a bigger first foray into the discussion about climate change, quality of life, and human’s understanding of the impact of nutrition on our bodies than most movie stars at Efron’s level dip their toes into. So for that, we give Efron a super chill bro-nod.