Science junkies meet couch potatoes for a TV spectacle both should enjoy. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a new, 13-episode documentary series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that kicks off tonight at 9:00p (ET) on Fox, National Geographic, and eight other cable networks. It will also be be shown in more than 175 countries across the globe, says the L.A. Times.
The paper has an interview with executive producer Seth MacFarlane, who implies that he helped fund the project.
I was crossing paths with [Tyson] … and I always thought to myself, I have a connection there to the scientific community and things are going well financially and I wanted to see what I could do to throw some of this extra money around in a positive way. Science is, in many ways, more and more underfunded. I was thinking in terms of research projects, I asked him if there were any research projects that need funding in any field of science.
Tyson mentioned it would be wonderful to do a remake of Carl Sagan‘s famous TV series from the 1980s, Fox TV signed on after MacFarlane brought the idea to them, and here we are.
“For argument’s sake, let’s say “Family Guy” is not family-friendly, then I would say “Cosmos” is the first thing that I’ve done in my career that you can sit down with your entire family. It’s for young people and old people. … I think that there is a hunger for science and knowing about science and understanding of science that hasn’t really been fed in the past two decades. We’ve had a resurgence of creationism and intelligent design “theory.” There’s been a real vacuum when it comes to science education.
The nice thing about this show is that I think that it does what the original “Cosmos” did and presents it in such a flashy, entertaining way that, as Carl Sagan put it in 1980, even people who have no interest in science will watch just because it’s a spectacle. People who watched the original “Cosmos” will sit down and watch with their kids.”
The producer also explains why, even as a an atheist and a liberal, he was actually with Newt Gingrich when Gingrich became an advocate for space exploration a couple of years ago:
You look back at the ‘60s and ‘70s and there was great pride in scientific achievement in this country, particularly in the area of space travel. Our advancements as human beings were important to us and something that we wanted to see continue to evolve. In 1969, we all thought that we would have a permanent manned presence on the moon by the year 2000. And then in 2012 Newt Gingrich suggested we should have a moon base and everyone thought he was crazy. And I was thinking, I’m a liberal Democrat but I’m 100% with this guy. He’s exactly right. They thought this would happen 10 years ago and here he is making this suggestion and suddenly he’s a crackpot. …
In the ‘90s, there were sci-fi shows on TV that at least made an attempt to explore things like quantum physics that have some basis in reality of theoretical physics, and now we get vampires, witches and zombies, which is also a symptom of that.
MacFarlane expounds further on the series in this video, where he’s joined by deGrasse Tyson and writer/producer Ann Druyan.