Neil DeGrasse Tyson Will Feed Your Nerdstalgia With ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’
For some of us, Carl Sagan’s 1980 series Cosmos is an almost mythic memory — my kid knows that one sure way to get Dad all sentimental (and maybe even weepy) is to just queue up Vangelis’s theme music from the series. Those shots of Carl Sagan staring in pretended rapture at the viewscreen of his dandelion-fluff “ship of the imagination” were simultaneously cheesy and awe-inspiring — the man had an infectious SensaWonder that he invited us all to share — and we really are made of star stuff.
So it makes perfect sense that if anyone can pull off a reboot/update of Cosmos, it’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium (also notorious as one of the scientists who killed Pluto — though he likes to say, “I only drove the getaway car.”) Tyson studied under Sagan, and not just in astrophysics — Tyson is every bit the media expert that Sagan became, if perhaps a bit more suited to The Daily Show than just PBS. And so tonight we’ll see what this new Cosmos — no longer “A Personal Voyage” but now a more grandiose sounding “Spacetime Odyssey” — looks like. The special effects will be top-notch Hollywood CGI this time around, but the goal remains the same: to bring science to a popular audience and infotain us into some learning.
Some of the focuses have changed — Sagan’s Cosmos was often a call to humanity to please not blow itself off the planet before it could venture into space, while Tyson’s version comes to TV at a time when the USA has to book seats on Russian rockets to get astronauts into orbit, and here on the ground one of our major political parties is dominated by people who think that much of science is lies from the pit of hell. Then again, the 1980 version was pushing against that as well — I remember how thrilling it sounded when Sagan flatly stated that evolution was a fact, the best available explanation of life on earth. In the premiere episode of the new series, Tyson will narrate the story of Giordano Bruno, who was put to death by the Inquisition for any number of heresies, including proposing that the Sun was just one star among many. Today, we don’t burn scientists at the stake — we just have cable news networks that say they’re lying about climate change.
Weirdly enough, the new Cosmos runs on Fox — the entertainment network, not the “news” one — and is the result of some strange deal-making in which Seth MacFarlane connected Fox with Tyson and Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow and colleague. And good on MacFarlane for doing something to offset the karmic debt of The Cleveland Show. Will we be doing weekly recaps on Happy? Of course we will.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Sundays 9:00 Eastern/Pacific on Fox, 8:00 Central/Mountain. Re-airs Mondays on National Geographic Channel.