Who knew that all it would take to get America back into science was a little push from the guy behind Family Guy? Yes, the voice of Stewie, Seth MacFarlane. In the Q&A following the premiere of Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey at the SXSW Film Festival this week, both writer Ann Dryan, the widow and longtime collaborator of Carl Sagan, and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the new face of Cosmos, were both effusive in their praise of MacFarlane and his ability to sell a long-dead show about time and space and the scientific method to the overlords at Fox.
Yes, we’re still talking about that Seth MacFarlane and we are talking about that Fox. It’s an impressive feat that this thing even exists. More impressive is the bold and massive scale of what Carl Sagan’s vision has become.
On Sunday evening you’ll be able to watch the first episode of Cosmos from the comfort of your own home via your local Fox affiliate. And it will likely be impressive with its mix of vast CGI landscapes, the beautifully contoured new “Ship of the Imagination” and the modern world of science’s ability to give us unprecedented access to a bird’s eye view of the Universe. The scale of it all will certainly impress, regardless of the size of your television. But there’s something to be said about the special nature of seeing it on the big screen. It’s a marvelous hour of television.
Cosmos also isn’t just a flash in the pan. It would be easy to have flashy visuals and no substance, but the creators have spent almost a decade working on this reboot to the extent that it oozes the same passion that made Sagan’s original so popular. As Dr. Tyson explains where we are on “The Cosmic Calendar” in relation to the Big Bang, it’s simple and insightful to the point that anyone should be able to comprehend. That’s Sagan’s great legacy reborn, as a master communicator of the complexities of science to the masses. Tyson more than fits the bill, as his legions of fans no doubt already know.
The show also doesn’t shy away from allowing room in the discussion for both sides of the Creation/Evolution debate. It begins by championing the Scientific Method, but also addresses the role of a possible God-like figure. Because there are still things beyond us in space and time, things too far away for us to see. Like any great scientist, it’s open to the unknown but wants to see proof. It also tells the story of the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for his belief that God’s creation was more vast than just the Earth and its sun. It’s this kind of balance that may have a fighting chance to reach out to an American population, a good portion of which still believe that the Earth is still about 2,000 years old. Science tells us otherwise. And when science does so with this kind of style and passion, we may find ourselves surprised at who might listen in.
Then maybe the show’s producers won’t be the only ones thanking the guy from Family Guy.
Watch the trailer for COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey below: