Netflix UK TV review: Down to Earth with Zac Efron
Chris Bryant | On 31, Aug 2020
The culmination of several years’ friendship between global superstar Zac Efron and healthy-living podcast host Darin Olien, Down to Earth follows the pair around the world under the banner of ecological education and global consciousness. Framed as a light-hearted travel show, Efron and Olien tour the globe learning about superfoods, renewable energy and what the future may look like.
The main issue with Down to Earth is that Efron and Olien aren’t even close to being likeable or qualified enough to pull off a show based around such staggering global issues. Efron is unable to break free of his persona – “Dude, we are literally in a cave right now. Rad.” – or provide any meaningful thought to go along with the occasionally valid content. For example, a discussion of world hunger is followed by the pair relaxing in a Hilton rooftop pool, before they moved onto a restaurant where the locally sourced cuisine is over £100 a plate. It’s laughable, and not in a good way.
Darin Olien, however, might be worse. His personal brand of pseudo-science is often front and centre, propped up and validated by genuine scientific challenges and advances. Having sold Efron some magic beans, it appears he’s landed an expensive TV show in which a skateboarding multimillionaire attracts the masses to what may well be a very expensive advert for Olien’s own lifestyle media, venturing between Iceland’s phenomenal hydroelectric system and a “water sommelier”, as though they were of equal value.
The show itself suffers dramatically as a result. Flimsy, simplistic, and padded with shots of the hosts goofing off while discussing famine, it never ventures beyond the headlines – framing Efron as foolish, feigning surprise at the catastrophes and issues the show depicts.
The awkward presenting style and odd editing choices only serve to confirm the show isn’t designed to educate. The Efron fandom get to enjoy their idol as he travels and makes jokes, Olien’s podcast and book sales will skyrocket, and several real-life experts and heroes – such as San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who proved to be an unyielding source of good during the decimation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma – will lose a little credibility in the process.
At best, the show is light entertainment for Zac Efron’s core audience, at worst it’s muddling, ineffective pseudo-science masquerading as heroic awareness-raising. The lighter moments are the more trustworthy, and Efron nervously milking a goat might even result in his discovering how much a pint of milk costs.
Down to Earth with Zac Efron is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.