As a current high schooler looking back upon my early years, I find a certain fondness toward the attempts of Bill Nye at presenting Science as *cool* for kids.
But I think that at the time, it really depends what the education environment is like. In my public elementary school, we were sometimes shown clips of Bill Nye videos, and I remember ridiculing how this adult was trying to pretend he's a funny guy. Still, from these videos I remember realizing "hey, science is pretty cool! It's not just all explosions that are awesome, but there's more to it".
Ultimately, it's far from a waste of time. But these videos shouldn't be the only inspiration kids are given to pursue science!
When I was going up, we watched a lot of Bill Nye videos, both the PBS episodes as well as the ABC/Disney episodes. Another similar show was Beckman's World. These are what got me interested in science. I can even vaguely remember Newton's Apple. One more show was Science Court on Saturday mornings, though I didn't watch too much of that.
I would say these shows did a very good job at getting me interested in science and many of my peers in the same time period.
I loved Beakman's World and Bill Nye. I only recall Newton's Apple when I was sick... maybe a timing problem? I think that they were great shows, but they went off the air when I was in middle school, and I don't recall watching the later episodes. I agree with Sankaku that high school is ridiculous. In fact, anywhere it school might be pushing it. My recollection of every video I ever saw in school is that my main goal was to find as many rude things to say about it as possible... but I was a pretty wretched child.
They were definitely fun to watch when I was a kid, but it wasn't ultimately what got me into science. This can clearly vary from child to child, but like others have stated, you shouldn't just plop a kid in front of a TV, and have them watch two hours of Bill Nye the Science Guy every day with the hope of getting them interested in science.
I agree with antifreeze. We watched Bill Nye in elementary school, probably around grades 3 and 4. Of course it had the normal "we are going to watch this video and do this work sheet as you watch it" kind of assignment. I always enjoyed them at that age. Of course when I got older and re-watched them, I realized how watered down they were. I also that his short lived "Eyes of Nye" was good as well.
Two things about the Bill Nye show - and this is very much just my opinion.
One: I can think of no better way to make science repulsive to middle school girls. I saw it with my own daughter and her friends. They internalized him as what a scientist is -- despite the fact that I was one!! -- and thought, if that's a scientist I don't want to be one.
Two, and this ties into the first reason: I really hate the whole "wacky mad scientist" shtick. Way, way too stereotyped and gimmicky.