It seems like a difficult task to make science entertaining especially for a medium like television. The potential for either talking over the audience’s head with insider jargon or dumbing it so much even your four year old feels insulted, is extremely high. It’s probably the main reason why the casual television might be hesitant about tuning into a program that is very science heavy.
Yet, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the follow-up to Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking 1980 series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, taught this reviewer more about science, particularly astronomy (and probably basic astronomy at that), than in his entire run as a student… grade school through college.
The Sunday night (and Monday night’s rerun) premiere of the Seth MacFarlane produced, Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted series, serves as merely an introduction to what the show is going to cover and yet, at episode’s end, the non-science savvy viewer will feel exponentially more knowledgable about time and space, but will also leave the learning experience remains highly entertained.
The new Cosmos works for two reasons — the visuals and the host.
The special effects, computer animation and traditional animation used in the premiere episode are breathtaking. The “spaceship of the mind” that deGrasse “flies” to show us the far expanses of the universe is a work of art. It’s ability to reflect it’s surroundings is not only just a jaw dropper of an optic, but from a creation standpoint one has to marvel at how the computer artists made this happen. It’s really see to believe type stuff. The rest of the series is filled with animated interstitials whose unique retro and modern feel dramatically bolster the story they are illustrating.
Then there’s Neil deGrasse Tyson. Simply put, the man’s voice is a national treasure. If Morgan Freeman ever stops doing voice overs, Tyson would be a more than capable replacement. His rich, velvety voice and his scholarly yet fatherly tone and presence make what could be a super heavy experience not only palpable but enjoyable. You want to sit under his learning tree like a child listening to every word he has to say.
Tyson’s best moments as a host come at the end of the episode when he reminisces about meeting Carl Sagan in the ’70s when he was a teenager from The Bronx. Listening to him speak of his idol and the man he’s replacing on the series (sort of, it’s a different series altogether) is just a beautiful, intimate moment and that’s something you won’t find on many, if any, science dramas.
If you love science, Cosmos was made for you, so this reviewer doesn’t need to sell you on anything.
For you, the person who hated science in school or think it’s a subject that is as boring as boring can be, take the advice of someone who struggled in science throughout his high school and college days. Cosmos presents science in such a cinematic way that you’re going to forget you’re being taught and will instead watch this series like you would any other show you enjoy. Go into this show with an open mind and you may just discover something awesome.