Two years ago, Zac Efron grew a huge beard and started traveling the world looking for sustainable solutions to man-made problems that plague the environment. Part travel series, part nature documentary, and part brand extension, Down to Earth Season 1 seemed like a gentle balm to panicked viewers months after the Covid-19 pandemic hit Netflix. It’s a serious, plausible, and sometimes scathing attack on conservation, health, ayahuasca, and eco-friendly chocolate, but Efron’s honest story is really fun.
We can all return to earth on Friday when Netflix debuts eight new episodes, each about 40 minutes long. Our previous chapter was set before the pandemic, shot deep into it, so instead of traveling the world in different directions, Efron spent Season 2 with co-host and wellness expert Darrin Olien and their team. Digging wild and wild country: Australia.
This season is more focused than ever. This may be due to its stable position at the bottom, but the series seems to have found its thematic footing; It’s more stamina based than season 1 and more health based. While there are still many restaurants and organic food businesses, they generally complement the idea of reducing the damage to the planet.
Efron, for his part, has lost his bushy beard between this season and the last couple of seasons, but he is in great shape, looking simple, down-to-earth, energetic and down to earth. And that may include sniffing koala droppings.
Throughout the series, and especially during the premiere, Efron meets some of Australia’s most famous animals. First, he joins the nonprofit Science for Wildlife and their koala sniffer dog, Smudge, in their ongoing search for koalas following the continent’s wildfires in 2019 and 2020. (For those wondering: koala poop might smell like “eucalyptus.” destroyed”) Then it’s time for a quick trip to a farm to learn about sustainable agriculture and join an Australian ship to learn how they are saving 15 endangered species, including Tasmania. Demons were probably named for their terrifying screams. From sniffing swallows and making silly faces for the camera, to bravely walking into a cage full of monstrous demons with a piece of meat in hand, Efron is always on top. And that’s the first episode.
The humility Efron showed last season carried over into Season 2 with his campaign. The Shorn star presents himself not as an expert, but as a person who empathizes with the issues he discusses. He makes funny jokes (like mushrooms/”funny guy”) and likes to make geek references from time to time. (For example, he tried his best Yoda voice while walking in a mangrove forest, and a researcher compared a koala tracking necklace to a RoboCop tracking device, explaining how it worked.) He or Olien are genuine additions. Be it a welcoming ceremony or a walk in the woods in search of (non-magical) mushrooms, Efron puts his charisma to good use.
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In particular, Down to Earth Season 2 makes a concerted effort to promote local experts, organizations and researchers, particularly in the world of agriculture and food. Throughout the seasons, experts talk about the ecological balance promoted by local farming practices and how colonizers upset that balance. Christian Hampson, founder and owner of an Aboriginal-owned company, told us during a visit to Irabing that “in many cases the early colonizers starved alongside piles of food because they didn’t recognize it as edible cultural food.”
Joining Efron and Olien this season is at least one new addition; Zac Efron’s Johnny Bravo performance helps dispel the notion that our recycling infrastructure is more complex than some might think. Is it useful? Not really, but you know what they say? Two Efros are better than one, right?
Some viewers may find the simplicity of ” Earth ” unpleasant. Despite its focus on the environment, the series has largely avoided politics, and sometimes its optimism can downplay the seriousness of the problems facing our planet. However, Efron’s on-screen charisma (and his smooth and fun storytelling) manages to smooth out what might have felt dense and boring. Besides, you won’t find anyone who appreciates bread more than this man. He may have enjoyed carbs in Iceland last season, but it seems he’s more impressed with his damper buns this time around, calling him “crazy.” Maybe it was just an actor playing the role, but he really meant it.
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