For those of you who weren't already aware of this, Astrophysicist Rock Star Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to be hosting an updated, revamped follow-up version of "Cosmos", the breakthrough science/nature TV miniseries that Carl Sagan originally created back in 1980.
Now, there is one obvious cause for concern: The series is being produced and broadcast, not by PBS (as the original was), but by...FOX. That's right, the same network that produced the torture-porn series "24" as well as being part of the same corporate empire that runs anti-science, anti-intelligence FOX News. For that matter, even if it was on a different network, I'd be a bit irritated by the inevitable commercial breaks.
However, after doing some research on the series, my concerns have been mostly addressed. In addition to being hosted by deGrasse Tyson, the series is being co-produced by Sagan's widow and collaborator Ann Druyan along with astrophysicist Steven Soter, who helped produce the original version.
I guarantee you that none of these people would have signed on unless they were certain that the project would be handled properly, with the utmost respect for their work and the scientific method in general. In Tyson's case, especially, his entire purpose in life has been to do exactly what Carl Sagan did: Bring the wonder, power and joy of science to the common man in a way that they can relate to.
Here's where it gets even more interesting: The project is also being co-produced and spearheaded by none other than...Seth MacFarlane, the same guy who created the often crude/controversial "Family Guy" and who infamously sang an opening song about seeing famous actresses' breasts exposed at the Academy Awards earlier this year.
Taking the mind-blown factor to 11: Ann Druyan apparently approached HIM:
A self-professed geek, MacFarlane hit it off with Druyan after the two met at a function some time ago. When she shared with him the idea for a new Cosmos series, MacFarlane immediately sparked to it and set up a meeting with Peter Rice, entertainment chairman of Fox.As for concerns about it being dumbed-down or being mutated into some sort of pseudo-science "intelligent design"-esque crap by the knuckle-draggers at NewsCorp, this is promising:
In September 2010, MacFarlane and Druyan appeared together on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher where they shared their concern about the growing anti-science sentiment in American society, something Druyan attributed to “the failure of public education,” which has “compartmentalized science to 20-40 boring minutes a week, maybe taught by a gym teacher.” That is a far cry from the way her late husband approached science. “Carl believed that science belongs to all of us,” Druyan said now in reference to the Fox series. “He wanted to convey the thrill of its cosmic perspective to the widest possible audience. I wish I could tell Carl what Seth’s leadership on this new Cosmos has made possible. Besides, I know how much they would have liked each other.”As for it being broadcast on FOX instead of PBS...
Above all, the goal of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is meant to recapture the accessibility and broad appeal of the first series. However, the creators aren’t looking to preach to the space-loving converted. Instead, they’ll use the show’s network placement and prime-time slot to reach the people who might not have found the series otherwise. “We’re doing exactly what Carl Sagan would have done, which is to go to the broadest possible audience and try to touch each and every person,” Druyan said.To give a taste of deGrasse Tyson's style, here's a clip of him from ComicCon (where the Cosmos trailer premiered yesterday) discussing the struggle to bring science to everyday life:
Creating a show with that level of accessibility is the best hope for a return to a science-literate—and more science-passionate—society.
“That’s what Cosmos is about. It’s about a hopeful vision of the future,” Druyan said, “It’s about the future we could still have—it’s not too late—that is within our grasp if we could just awaken from this stupor that we’re in.”
It's also being co-produced by National Geographic, which is more cause for reassurance.
I remember watching the original Cosmos series with my father when I was 10 years old, and while I was too young to understand many of the concepts, I was fascinated by the sheer immensity of both knowledge and the unknown still out there to be discovered.
Next year, I plan on re-watching the original series on DVD with my own son...and then watching the new, follow-up version with him to see where it takes things.
I'm hoping my son will be old enough to grasp at least some of the series...he's only 7 years old (he'll be 8 by the time it airs), but he's already a huge fan of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and has been watching--and loving--the Eyewitness Science/Nature DVD series since he was 5 years old, so I think he'll be OK. In fact, he asked me what "Cosmos" was this morning when I mentioned it at breakfast, and I described it as sort of a mashup of those two series--an Eyewitness video if it was hosted by Bill Nye. He seemed to like the concept.
As both a science fan and an intelligent person, I'm extremely geeked about this project...and every progressive (in fact, every person who cares about our country NOT continuing to devolve into a real-world "Idiocracy" with more "Jesus Rides a Dinosaur" theme parks like this crap) should be praying (irony intended) for the new Cosmos to 1) get it right and 2) become a smash hit like the original did.