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"Cosmos", starring Neil DeGrasse Tyson
May 15, 2013 11:48 AM   Subscribe

The Seth McFarlane reboot of "Cosmos" will air on Fox in 2014. The host will be Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

2011 MetaFilter post about the greenlighting of the project.

The original Cosmos, featuring Carl Sagan, ran from September, 1980 to December, 1980, and is widely considered one of the most influential (if not revered) works of television ever to air. The definitive MetaFilter post on Cosmos, previously.
posted by scrump (100 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Someone better get Tyson some good 70s grade, low-potency reefer, some khakis, and a blue Brooks Brothers button-down.

Nothing better.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:50 AM on May 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Fox and Seth McFarlane! What could go wrong!?
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:51 AM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Okay now remember when Carl Macek got Totoro and everyone was all HOLY CRAP but it turned out really great?

We can hope, yes?
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:53 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


We saw your cube?
posted by dgaicun at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I love Mr. Tyson, he's not a poet, like Sagan. That show blew my mind.
I just introduced my 7 year old to Cosmos, I'm hoping the reboot will at least attempt to live up to the original's beauty.
posted by black8 at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am going to watch the HELL out of this. I grew up in the 80s/90s, and my parents are kind of awesome nerds, so I know of it but I didn't grow up with it like I would have wanted.

Even McFarlane & Fox can't ruin this.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fox and Seth McFarlane! What could go wrong!?

This will indeed be Neil DeGrasse Tyson's ultimate test.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


i had heard about neil degrasse tyson and cosmos and i was so fucking stoked. then i heard about seth mcfarlane and fox. ugh.
posted by nadawi at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fox and Seth McFarlane! What could go wrong!?

The show periodically grinds to a halt with overly long flashbacks/callouts to old episodes of "In Search Of" and "Project Blue Book."
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2013 [30 favorites]


I guess as long as that disgusting fucking creeper McFarlane isn't doing any of the writing it ought to be okay.
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on May 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


McFarlane, Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. This is like the reddit circlejerk triumvirate right here.
posted by hellojed at 11:57 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fox and Seth McFarlane! What could go wrong!?

Indeed. How long before the host is replaced by someone who says black holes and dark matter are leftist/liberal conspiracies? Of course, they let McFarlane cross their ideological boundaries so perhaps he'll protect the show.
posted by juiceCake at 11:58 AM on May 15, 2013


Is this where I admit that for a long time I thought Seth McFarlane and Todd McFarlane were the same person? Not sure which McFarlane could make a weirder version of Cosmos, frankly.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:00 PM on May 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


I hope they can keep it quaint and thoughtful. I doubt the periodic intrusion of commercial breaks will help.
posted by scrowdid at 12:00 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


MacFarlane is kind of a "New Atheist" type, right? Cosmos always had an element of atheism and humanism in the background, but it wasn't as noisy and overt as I think MacFarlane is. I'm glad he's making this, and I hope it's good, but I also hope that the tone we usually see from him doesn't permeate this show.

I also hope they keep the line about how the trees are our cousins.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:04 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indeed. How long before the host is replaced by someone who says black holes and dark matter are leftist/liberal conspiracies? Of course, they let McFarlane cross their ideological boundaries so perhaps he'll protect the show.

I think they were referring to Fox TV (a separate entity from Fox News) who's a villain mainly for their propensity to market shlock and cancel quality (BROWNCOATS ASSEMBLE!). In fact, I remember seeing that their last couple presidents were on the left side of the US political spectrum.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:05 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Curious how they'll work Sagan's much loved "Billyuns and Billyuns" into it.

Maybe part of an opening montage.
posted by notyou at 12:05 PM on May 15, 2013


mcstayinskool: "Fox and Seth McFarlane! What could go wrong!?"

"Say, remember that time I had a threesome with a binary star system?"

*cuts to scene of Tyson having a threesome with a binary star system*
posted by brundlefly at 12:05 PM on May 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't think Mr. Tyson would be attached to this project if he thought there was any chance of it being fucked up. My take on it is that Seth McFarlane is probably a huge nerd for this type of thing and is pleased as punch to underwrite it and let Mr. Tyson be awesome.
posted by Mister_A at 12:05 PM on May 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Ugh, McFarlane? Really?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:06 PM on May 15, 2013


Ugh, McFarlane? Really?

If it takes him to get Cosmos back on the air, so be it. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:07 PM on May 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


You guys are all going to come creeping back in here in 2014, eating crow with Tyson's special awesome sauce. MARK MY WORDS Y'ALL
posted by Mister_A at 12:07 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


C.A.S.: "Someone better get Tyson some good 70s grade, low-potency reefer, some khakis, and a blue Brooks Brothers button-down.

Nothing better.
"

I don't know where you were getting your weed in the 70s, but... um...

...I'm hungry...
posted by Splunge at 12:08 PM on May 15, 2013


I rented Cosmos from the library because it is one of the highest rated TV series on IMDb.

Super-disappointing. I assume it was one of those Had To Be There shows. All the visuals were laughably primitive. Sagan in his lo-fi spaceship was campy to the max.

Lots of similar TV shows since then look better and are more entertaining and informative. Modern BBC science series like Planet Earth, Life, or Human Planet are an order of a magnitude better looking and awe inspiring than Cosmos, which is incredibly dated.
posted by dgaicun at 12:08 PM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


If it takes him to get Cosmos back on the air, so be it.

Aha, the Monkey's Paw gambit!
posted by elizardbits at 12:09 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


If it takes him to get Cosmos back on the air, so be it. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Yeah, but I don't want to give money to him, so I'll probably pirate it instead of buying a copy or watching it on TV.
posted by FJT at 12:09 PM on May 15, 2013


Oh wow, FJT, way to hit back at the man! Really principled stand there.
posted by Mister_A at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Such high hopes. Such vast fears. The new show is its own little anxiety factory.
posted by jiawen at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess as long as that disgusting fucking creeper McFarlane isn't doing any of the writing it ought to be okay.

Okay, clearly there's something going on with him I don't know about, so... what's responsible for this sentence?
posted by Ryvar at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2013


Ryvar - Exhibit A
posted by BrianJ at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2013


Aha, the Monkey's Paw gambit!

Oh cool so we get Carl Sagan back.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I never watched Cosmos back then, but I attempted to a few years ago. I think the most charitable description would be "a product of its times". It was like Omni, in TV form. Which is entertaining, but not particularly educational.
posted by DU at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


...quaint and thoughtful...

...Cosmos always had an element of atheism and humanism in the background, but it wasn't as noisy and overt as I think MacFarlane is...

Sagan's Cosmos is an impassioned plea for humanity to transcend its ideological communities in the endeavor of understanding and marveling at the universe that we share (I think the final episode "Who Speaks For Earth" speaks most clearly to this point, and even more so that chapter in the book).

Sagan was never as crass as MacFarlane. Few are. But his naturalism and humanism were always explicit in Cosmos even if they weren't hammered over the viewers heads like MacFarlane's crude failed attempts at ironic sexism/racism/homophobia.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:14 PM on May 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Is this MacFarlane's bid for redemption? Like Bill Gates' vaccination program?
posted by whuppy at 12:17 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will watch, with no hope at all. That way I won't be disappointed.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:17 PM on May 15, 2013


I've never actually seen the TV series (other than short clips here or there) but reading Cosmos the book in 5th grade literally changed my life, opening my eyes to the wonders of the world and the universe. I've never really been religious but getting to hear Sagan give a talk at UT years later is (along with seeing U2 in concert) about as close to a religious experience as I'll ever get, I think.
posted by kmz at 12:19 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


90% of Family Guy is bodily fluids and *-ism humor for the last few years because it plays well in Peoria, but at least 10% is pretty smart. I think deep down MacFarlane is a very smart person. And we know he geeks about space. And I really, really don't think Neil DeGrasse Tyson would sign up for anything that wasn't 100% up to his standards. And his standards are extremely trustworthy. I think we all need to relax.

The real reason to be mad about this is everything is a reboot now. They could have just givn NDT his own show.
posted by bleep at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


ZOMG, no, DU. I am not a good nerd -- I've always been terrible at science because as a kid I was constantly fighting with my teachers about evolution -- but Carl Sagan was like the Mister Rogers of science. And, due to my mistaken early impression that dinosaurs died in the Flood because they couldn't fit on the Ark, I only discovered the awesomeness that was Sagan's commentary a few years ago. Cosmos is most definitely both entertaining AND educational.*

Seth McFarlane, on the other hand, is neither.


*At least for those of us who spent our childhoods wondering why God didn't tell Noah to make the ark a bit bigger.
posted by brina at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2013


dgaicun: "Modern BBC science series like Planet Earth, Life, or Human Planet are an order of a magnitude better looking and awe inspiring than Cosmos, which is incredibly dated."

Well, yes, because film technology is exponentially better than it was even ten years ago. This is, I think, one of those things where the message of the show has far more longevity and appeal than the medium.
posted by scrump at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I want to take a long, peaceful nap-I play Cosmos via Netflix on my phone, plug in the earbuds, and listen to it as an audio book. Such sweet dreams may come.

God Bless the Sagan.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's a shame, because it's extremely inspiring, but I can understand if Sagan's lyrical style doesn't sell well these days. However it goes, it's nice to see Cosmos getting a chance to reach more people.

I think of Brian Cox's Wonders series as a sort of Cosmos cover, it touches on a lot of the same points.
posted by lucidium at 12:22 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, FJT, way to hit back at the man! Really principled stand there.

Meh, it beats yelling at a jpeg of him all day.
posted by FJT at 12:23 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


bleep: "The real reason to be mad about this is everything is a reboot now. They could have just givn NDT his own show."

I suspect that this is a deliberate choice because so many of us who grew up with Sagan's "Cosmos" now have children, and those children are about the same age that we were when we first saw the Sagan version.

I think it's very hard to overstate the impact of the original "Cosmos" on our age cohort, and Fox knows that by calling back to the original, they're more or less guaranteeing that we're going to be watching the new one with our kids.
posted by scrump at 12:25 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel bad for Tyson. Legions of nerds lining up to point out that he's not Sagan reincarnated almost every time his name is mentioned. When of course he isn't, and that's completely unfair to him. We can't get Sagan back, however much we want to. Let Tyson be Tyson.

And as for the whole "poet" thing, I'd argue he is very much a poet and every bit as much full of awe at what he beholds as Sagan ever was. It's just a different kind of poetry, told by a different man who comes from a different place. Not everything has to be a sonnet.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:28 PM on May 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I recognize the basis for the Seth MacFarlane hate, but give it a chance. People can contain multitudes, you know.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:30 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


It sounds as if a lot of the detractors in this thread are expecting this.
posted by sourwookie at 12:31 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


FUCK SONNETS MOAR SPACE PLZ
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:31 PM on May 15, 2013


I have high expectations for this reboot after listening to the interview with Ann Druyan on the Little Atoms podcast earlier this year.
posted by poseathon at 12:33 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


middleclasstool: "I feel bad for Tyson. Legions of nerds lining up to point out that he's not Sagan reincarnated almost every time his name is mentioned. When of course he isn't, and that's completely unfair to him. We can't get Sagan back, however much we want to. Let Tyson be Tyson."

The demographics of the United States show that about 12% of the population identifies as "Black or African American", and another 16% or so identify as "Latino or Hispanic".

I think it's pretty important in its own right for nearly 30% of our country to see a passionate, extremely well-versed hard scientist, on a major science show, on a major network, who looks like them.
posted by scrump at 12:35 PM on May 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


An excerpt from the pilot: Stars are like boobs, the bigger the hotter
posted by Renoroc at 12:39 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this MacFarlane's bid for redemption? Like Bill Gates' vaccination program?

Bill Gates' anti-Malaria efforts elevate him to robber baron status, where otherwise he would have been more of a standard corpulent monocled baron.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just realised that I produced a 70s reboot for Fox back in the day, the Leonard Nimoy series In Search Of for the makers of the Blair Witch Project, that was such a clusterfuck I'm well aware of the many ways that this could and probably will go bad.

I hate to fart at the party, but bear that in mind.

Even Richard Linklater shouldn't have touched the Bad News Bears. Some things are better left alone.
posted by C.A.S. at 12:44 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, we've learned a thing or two about the Cosmos in the last few decades. EAGLE NEBULA FTW!
posted by Mister_A at 12:47 PM on May 15, 2013


Seriously, I'm amazed you can get those two in a room without a massive explosion. They're like matter and antimatter. Remember "Twins" where one person got all the good qualities and the other got all the bad? That's basically Tyson and McFarlane right there.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:53 PM on May 15, 2013


Chrysostom: "I recognize the basis for the Seth MacFarlane hate, but give it a chance. People can contain multitudes, you know."

Yeah, come on guys. MacFarlane is made of star-stuff, too!
posted by brundlefly at 12:55 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


nearly 30% of our country to see a... scientist ... who looks like them.

Outside of some Puerto Ricans with visible African ancestry, only a small percentage of U.S. Hispanics would identify more with Tyson than Sagan.
posted by dgaicun at 1:03 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


MacFarlane's a creep, but he's only listed on executive producer for this (not writing or directing), and seems to be filling the traditional role of EP (i.e., handling funding and network concerns.) NdGT is the one who pitched it to him, and to be fair to MacFarlane, he seems to be keeping his ego in check on this one, if the NYT article from a year and a half ago can be believed.

I'm more worried about it being produced by a commercial station, but if anyone can make it work, it's NdGT. Cosmos was quite frank about issues like environmentalism and nuclear proliferation, and I wonder if there'd be some corporate pressure to shy away from anything that could be viewed as "political"

(Then again, now that the Koch brothers are major PBS contributors, maybe that isn't something that would be avoided by airing on public television.)
posted by kagredon at 1:09 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Tyson, but there's something about Sagan's cadence of speech that is just enchanting. Sure, some of the visuals in Sagan's Cosmos are dated by today's standards, but the material is still solid. And it's Sagan!
posted by xedrik at 1:09 PM on May 15, 2013


Mr. Tyson is deservedly well-respected and has earned his many accolades.

However, I am not looking forward to the expansion of his already-irritating cult of personality that has sprung up around him. It's not his fault, and he certainly didn't create it, but man do they get on my nerves.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:14 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lots of similar TV shows since then look better and are more entertaining and informative. Modern BBC science series like Planet Earth, Life, or Human Planet are an order of a magnitude better looking and awe inspiring than Cosmos, which is incredibly dated.

I can't imagine not being inspired by the show, so I am predisposed to thinking you are being contrary for the sake of being contrary. However...

Leaving aside the "more entertaining and informative" subjectivity, the 25th anniversary editions with updated computer graphics and information address some of the issues you raise. They are available in a number of places, including Netflix. I watched them recently, and they were great.

I think what the series you mention are missing, despite being shiny and new, is represented in the show's full title: "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage." It contains within it the entire universe and one human being's experience.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:21 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


90% of Family Guy is bodily fluids and *-ism humor for the last few years because it plays well in Peoria, but at least 10% is pretty smart.

Well, it used to be a bit better, but lately it's gotten very very strange and uncomfortable. I commented about this back in the Oscar thread. Recent episodes of Family Guy have had Meg rightfully tear into her parents for a good five minutes about how terrible they are and sending them into tears only to take it all back right before the closing credits, and Quagmire killing a man with his car with the help of Peter and Joe because he's a hyper-abusive boyfriend for his sister.

The Brian and Quagmire subplot is particularly bad; for some reason, in recent seasons, the writers decided to make it a plot point that Quagmire seriously hates Brian's guts. The writers care about this enough to keep referring to it, even though it's only rarely funny and sometimes borders on the cruel.

Anyway.... MacFarlane has said the show has probably gone on longer than it should. I don't know how much writing he does for it now, but he definitely still does several voices, and he keeps cashing Fox's checks. Maybe Fox has something on him -- or, maybe the Seth MacFarlane Comedy Colon Blockage was the process of him gaining enough credit with Murdoch's Mothership in order to make a new version of Cosmos?

I will say it doesn't seem quite right that Cosmos is being made on Fox and not PBS. I always saw it as one of PBS' greatest triumphs.
posted by JHarris at 1:21 PM on May 15, 2013


Ann Druyan is involved. This is the basis of my hope for the new series.
posted by newdaddy at 1:24 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hi dgaicun,

I think that catering to the must-have-flawless-cgi-or-its-lame crowd would be a mistake. Clear exposition, compelling writing, contextualizing, simple examples - these 'make' a science broadcast in my eyes. Sufficient supporting graphics are a good supplement. Sufficient.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:27 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tyson was hand picked, when he was young, by Sagan to basically carry on his legacy (good choice IMHO).

MacFarlane is into "space stuff" because of Groeining.

Good for the people?, meh, not sure.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 1:28 PM on May 15, 2013


This is probably a good reason for why scientists shouldn't be celebrities. I'm getting kind of sick of Tyson already, whereas I have nothing but admiration for Carl Sagan.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:28 PM on May 15, 2013


dgaicun: "Outside of some Puerto Ricans with visible African ancestry, only a small percentage of U.S. Hispanics would identify more with Tyson than Sagan."

Not to be reductionist, but let me be reductionist: NOT WHITE.

Which covers a lot of territory. For example, my wife, who is full-blooded Diné, puts herself into the "brown people" bucket when it comes to broad generalizations about ethnicity in the US.

And I was making a broad generalization about ethnicity in the US with my statement.
posted by scrump at 1:34 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stars are like boobs, the bigger the hotter

Um, actually..../pedant
posted by sourwookie at 1:36 PM on May 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can only hope they will have an episode that returns us to the meat planet.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 1:39 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems like a good thread to post a simulation of galactic collisions with matching Hubble photos.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somebody with a lot of money is paying to put something scientific on a mainstream network. So far so good. I'll just sit here and hope it plays out in a positive way.
posted by davejay at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


90% of Family Guy is bodily fluids and *-ism humor for the last few years because it plays well in Peoria, but at least 10% is pretty smart.

Sure, there's some smart stuff in there, and I'll admit to a good laugh from it here and there. My biggest problem with FG is that it's basically limited to being *clever* at its best, but it has no soul. None of the characters have any real humanity, they're empty shell-props for whatever commentary, call-out, or joke happens to be at hand.

I feel best about this when I tell myself this is really a satire of sitcom television itself, but I can't watch it for too long, or I start to feel the gaze of the abyss staring back.

This wouldn't be alarming in the context of the Cosmos news if McFarlane had done other work which shows him to be a bit more three dimensional, but I have no clue what any kind of inspirational humanism, poetry, or wonder looks like to McFarlane.

NdGT seems cool enough. I don't know that doing a reboot is such a great thing to do, though, particularly when trying to fill shoes as big as Sagan's.
posted by weston at 1:44 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know Seth MacFarlane will make NDT do the Cleveland voice at least once.
posted by dr_dank at 1:45 PM on May 15, 2013


Is there any chance they can get Vangelis in on this?

(I stipulate there must be at least 40% CS-80 content and all sound sources up to but not including capture must be analog)
posted by sourwookie at 1:53 PM on May 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you're fed up with Family Guy, go watch Bob's Burgers and forget that Fox even bothers airing any other animation.
posted by schmod at 1:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, I have a friend who is one of the musical directors for Family Guy and American Dad. I wonder if he will be in on this?
posted by sourwookie at 1:54 PM on May 15, 2013


Yeah Vangelis must do it!
posted by Mister_A at 1:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


but I have no clue what any kind of inspirational humanism, poetry, or wonder looks like to McFarlane.

let's hope it's not this.
posted by nadawi at 2:00 PM on May 15, 2013


Seth McFarlane..."Cosmos"...Fox...Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

These are not words that should exist in a sentence together. Ever.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:07 PM on May 15, 2013


The man who designed Sagan's spaceship, which is intended to be a sort of impressionistic cosmic dandelion, also designed the bridge (and more) of the NCC-1701D.
posted by mwhybark at 2:35 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget McFarlane's blatant transphobia.

I'll stick to the cosmic Carl version, thanks.
posted by Betafae at 2:49 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


scrump: " think it's pretty important in its own right for nearly 30% of our country to see a passionate, extremely well-versed hard scientist, on a major science show, on a major network, who looks like them."

Even better for people to see a passionate, extremely well-versed hard scientist, on a major science show, on a major network.
posted by 2manyusernames at 3:25 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I let the first "Mr Tyson" go, the second I frowned at, the third tipped me over the edge. I mean, c'mon, what's a guy gotta do to get a Dr these days?
posted by gilrain at 3:41 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Curious how they'll work Sagan's much loved "Billyuns and Billyuns" into it.


In point of fact, he never actually said that phrase on the show. IIRC it was a Saturday Night Live spoof that coined it.

He did say "billyuns" a lot though. (And if course used it as the title of a book years later)
posted by ShutterBun at 4:06 PM on May 15, 2013


Pleeeeeeeeeease have MacFarlane resurrect In Search Of.
posted by GuyZero at 4:36 PM on May 15, 2013


You can add me to the list of people who weren't completely wowed by the original Cosmos. I don't really know why, because I'm a huge space nerd, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that I'd also been watching Life On Earth and once you have seen David Attenborough bother gorillas, well, let's just say that other television really can't compete.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:46 PM on May 15, 2013


And in the meantime, go watch every episode of Connections.
posted by GuyZero at 5:04 PM on May 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Mike Epps presents.. In Search Of..., starring David Deutsch?
posted by Flex1970 at 5:28 PM on May 15, 2013


MacFarlane has warmed up to me over this last year, prior I couldn't stand to be in the room with him, and in fact now I find him charming, albeit trying way way too hard. He has a real sense of self about him that I can relate to, even if he believes he's the cutest thing in the whole fucking world. I like him.

Tyson-He's never disappointed. He's always on it, always ready, and I would bet-have some sort of bar to be set and then met. He's a genius after-all, with very high intellectual integrity, and understands, no...appreciates what Sagan was all about. I have faith that whatever this ends up being, it will be worth it.

My previous comment was not meant in a way that I believe the only way to watch Cosmos was to be asleep on the couch, merely that Cosmos makes a great audio book...that I happen to like sleeping to.

God Speed Sagan.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 5:39 PM on May 15, 2013


Fox and Seth McFarlane! What could go wrong!?

He'll make a sexually tinged joke about a prepubescent girl riding a dinosaur about 6,000 years ago?

McFarlane, Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. This is like the reddit circlejerk triumvirate right here.

Just checked. This news hit reddit at least a year ago. They're probably all petered out by now.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:55 PM on May 15, 2013


nearly 30% of our country to see a... scientist ... who looks like them.

Outside of some Puerto Ricans with visible African ancestry, only a small percentage of U.S. Hispanics would identify more with Tyson than Sagan.


Also, race data and ethnicity data are collected separately, so you can't add them up directly to make 30%. Without derailing this thread completely: in 2010, about 14% of the country counted itself as Black alone or in combination with other races; of those, about 5% reported Hispanic ethnicity. (Census report pdf) In 2010, 16% of Americans were of Hispanic ethnicity, of whom 2.5% reported Black alone, 53% reported White alone, 39% reported another race alone, and 6% reported more than one race.) (Census report pdf)

No matter how you count it, household name African-American scientists are disproportionately rare, and it's great that Carl Sagan's successor is going to be Neil Degrasse Tyson, for a lot of reasons.
posted by gingerest at 6:02 PM on May 15, 2013


dgaicun: All the visuals were laughably primitive. Sagan in his lo-fi spaceship was campy to the max.

If this is how you were approaching Cosmos, you were really missing the point.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:20 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll definitely be giving the new Cosmos a chance, but I'm really skeptical that it will succeed in the same way the original did (though it could succeed just as well, but in a different way).

Sagan just had a knack for evoking sublime cosmic wonder. I'm glad that Tyson is out there doing his thing, but I've never found him to be half as inspiring as Sagan.

I hope that one of two things happens: either I'm wrong, and Tyson (with the help of his crew) can give me goosebumps the way Sagan did; or the producers are smart enough to let Tyson be Tyson, and play to his own strengths instead of trying to be Sagan.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:29 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: "And in the meantime, go watch every episode of Connections."

The sidebar at that link includes playlists for Connections II and III, and the series James Burke did before that, The Day the Universe Changed. All excellent.

About the only thing missing is After the Warming, a two hour production on Global Warming that Burke made in 1989, the first hour of which is much in the same vein as Day the Universe Changed & Connections, except with a focus on how small differences in global average temperature affected history. Second hour is a look at "future History" extrapolated from what was known about the global warming threat at the time.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:30 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why 'Star Trek' beats 'Star Wars'
posted by homunculus at 6:46 PM on May 15, 2013


I'm looking forward to this. And unlike many other 70's-80's reboots, there's a good case to be made for a new Cosmos, because science has advanced so much since the original was filmed. I hope Dr. Tyson gets into some of the really new stuff like dark matter, quintessence, and the Higgs Boson - and explains it in such a way that the mass audience can easily understand.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:34 PM on May 15, 2013


Must Watch: Neil deGrasse Tyson Moderates a Debate on Nothingness

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 9:04 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


gingerest: "Also, race data and ethnicity data are collected separately, so you can't add them up directly to make 30%. Without derailing this thread completely: in 2010, about 14% of the country counted itself as Black alone or in combination with other races; of those, about 5% reported Hispanic ethnicity. (Census report pdf) In 2010, 16% of Americans were of Hispanic ethnicity, of whom 2.5% reported Black alone, 53% reported White alone, 39% reported another race alone, and 6% reported more than one race.) (Census report pdf)"

I stand before you, head bloody but unbowed, having been thoroughly schooled in The Science. Mea maxima culpa.
posted by scrump at 9:20 PM on May 15, 2013


Hey, there's no culpability here. I bring The Census Science Methodology to the potluck because it's what I have in the cupboard - other people can bring that fruit salad with the little marshmallows, or knowledge of astrophysics, or experience in science communication, or anecdotes about Sagan or Tyson.
posted by gingerest at 9:29 PM on May 15, 2013


Sagan was amazing as a scientist and narrator because he was a poet and understood the function of myth. Like Joseph Campbell, he was able to explain the significance of previous symbolic understandings/depictions of the universe, showing their points of correspondence to the understandings we have gained via empiricism and technology. Sagan was an atheist, but he wasn't going to take a historical religious idea like the "great chain of being" and just dismiss it without trying to get at the hierarchical/protoevolutionary ideas that such a conceptual amalgamation was attempting, imperfectly, to express. This is very different from believing in literal angels. Sagan knew how much we don't know, something I've never seen a glimmer of in NDT's layperson work.

There's no doubt NDT is a brilliant scientist, but that's simply not enough in this context. A show like this is about narrative and metaphor as much as it is about science; as a teacher of both subject areas, I've seen enough brilliant science students struggle in understanding basic subtext to know that these brilliances rarely come packaged together. Science requires a lot of concretized, categorical thinking, and strengths in these areas can become obstacles when you get to the point in humanities studies where you have to look behind the words you are reading. I remember coming across a book list of NDT's recommendations and wondering how widely he reads - it was just so, so basic and dry, like the reading list of a hated 9th grade teacher. Most of it was books like Darwin that can easily be distilled into the information they contain with little loss of fidelity. He also recommended the Bible because it apparently teaches you that it's easier to have someone else think for you - seems like an ironic interpretation when you're giving your reader the "correct" conclusion before beginning the text. He seems completely unfamiliar with interpretations that speak to the development of agriculture, the anthropocentric understanding of the word "day", the actual role that text played in religion when NO ONE COULD READ IT, and about a million other things that one considers when seriously studying this stuff. I don't trust someone like that to tell me about the universe even if he knows a lot about astrophysics. Trees, meet forest. These are the concepts that Sagan just knocked out of the park. NDT needs the number for Sagan's drug dealer.
posted by decathexis at 10:17 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope that one of two things happens: either I'm wrong, and Tyson (with the help of his crew) can give me goosebumps the way Sagan did; or the producers are smart enough to let Tyson be Tyson, and play to his own strengths instead of trying to be Sagan.

The thing is that you aren't wrong. He will all-but-certainly never give you the goosebumps Sagan did, because you're so constituted that a Sagan speaks more deeply and directly to you than a Tyson, and it's all but impossible that Tyson will ever appeal to you in the same way.

Me, I'm the opposite. I get why people adore Sagan, I objectively appreciate him, but he never made me feel it. I found his tone droning. Don't get me wrong: I think humanity was diminished when we lost him, but he didn't speak my language. And it's because he speaks a language different from mine and similar to yours that you find him twice as inspiring as Tyson and I find him half as much.

And that's okay, of course, because arguing personal aesthetic preferences is more than a little silly. Things'd suck if we were all the same.

FOX has fucked up a fair number of shows, but I can't imagine them trying to make Tyson imitate Sagan, and I can't imagine him letting them. This is a man who bugged James Cameron endlessly about fucking up the night sky in "Titanic". And he's certainly not a man who got into astrophysics to be the next Sagan. He's his own person, and he'll go his own way, and if the show fails, it'll fail on its own merits.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:39 PM on May 19, 2013


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