Our Contemplation of the Cosmos Stirs Us
July 22, 2013 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Cosmos returns in the year 2014. "A Personal Journey" becomes "A Space-Time Odyssey". Presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by Seth MacFarlane, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey will be aired on FOX and follow a similar format to the beloved Sagan classic, available here.
posted by 221bbs (58 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had just been telling people: I heart Tyson, and I trust him, but one thing that I noted in regards to the original Cosmos is the lack of anime cutscenes. Although the trailer doesn't show it, I hope the new series has some of the air of dreamy contemplation that the old one has. (And just a little of the Vangelis. That song needs to be played at my funeral.)
posted by Countess Elena at 5:00 PM on July 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Looks like the subject matter material will be cool. Not sure if the new series is going to have the "rock and roll" theming that the preview has, but I hope not. One of the (many) things I really liked about the original series was the underlying sense of peace and tranquility that Sagan brought to the show. But that may not sell these days.
posted by Brak at 5:01 PM on July 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


On not preview, what Countess Elena said.
posted by Brak at 5:01 PM on July 22, 2013


And hopefully Seth MacFarlane doesn't mean the new series has some of the air of dreamy fart jokes.
posted by oulipian at 5:01 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


They should have picked a network that believes the universe is more than 6,000 years old.
posted by Flunkie at 5:03 PM on July 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


I can forgive MacFarlane a lot of nasty jokes if he's made this happen right. Salvation through works!
posted by Countess Elena at 5:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


My own hope is for some of those wonderful shots showcased in the trailer to be matched to music utterly unlike the music in the trailer. Imagine the serenity of a calm NDT calmly talking about stellar life cycles in front of that giant red star.

There is something wonderful about the conceit of sagan/tyson floating through the universe, calmly, empathetically offering explanations.
posted by 221bbs at 5:06 PM on July 22, 2013


After about a minute, I thought the trailer was some sort of weird Neil deGrasse Tyson homage/parody. Seeing as it appears to be real, I really hope this turns out well and the tone is nothing like that of the trailer, because it has loads of potential.
posted by antonymous at 5:07 PM on July 22, 2013


And hopefully Seth MacFarlane doesn't mean the new series has some of the air of dreamy fart jokes.

Allegedly, his involvement came about from meeting Ann Druyan at a fundraiser, saying he was a fan, and setting up the meetings. Fox can't really say no to him, so here's to hoping that he earns some serious atonement here.
posted by graphnerd at 5:09 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


For people in the physics community, is there any resentment of Tyson? I've read that Carl Sagan got some flack for his efforts at popularizing science, so I was wondering if Tyson was experiencing the same thing. (For the record, I hope not - I think Tyson is great (as was Carl Sagan)).

Also, I was really hoping they'd bring Vangelis back to score the new show. Would have been a nice nod to the original.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:10 PM on July 22, 2013


It's weird that that's being called a trailer. It feels more like a sizzle reel.
posted by brundlefly at 5:14 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm hoping that the fact that this was for Comic Con explains the weird Hollywood action movie tone.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:24 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Whoa, wait a minute. Is that Space Jesus?"

One of several among the dozens of images during the 3 1/2 minute trailer that bugged me... the mirror-finish teardrop-shaped CGI starship Tyson travels in with an interior that looks strikingly like the round stage from some past FOX prime-time talent show (Galactic Idol!!)... 2D animation for historical scenes looking a little cheesy (well, at least it didn't look like MacFarlane's other shows)... every human being other than Tyson so totally White... and the final shot - is that the Eye of Sauron?!?

Yeah, I'm being persnickety, but this stuff really took me out of the Sense of Wonder the trailer was supposed to install.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:26 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm very excited for this...I just upped the original in my queue. I've been stuck on that infernal "Orange is the New Black" and I'm due for a brain rinse.
posted by nevercalm at 5:27 PM on July 22, 2013


I grew up with the show Cosmos,and I've been waiting with anticipation for the new series with Neil deGrasse Tyson for several years now and it seems that time is marching along too slowly.

Neil Tyson frequently talks about applying for colleges and then meeting Carl Sagan (best YT that I could find of this is here), so it seems appropriate that Neil Tyson will remake this series.
posted by Wolfster at 5:28 PM on July 22, 2013


Does anyone here truly expect FOX to broadcast in this day and age a series in primetime that will match in any way or shape the tone and quality of the series broadcasted on PBS in the late 70's?
This is going to be loud, rushed and packed to the gills with shock-and-awe CGI imagery and commercial breaks cliffhangers. Or to quote the trailer: BWWMMM PU PU PU PU PUMMMM PRRRRR
posted by jchgf at 5:38 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The OP says FOX, but the trailer shows National Geographic.

I really, really hope this doesn't suck.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:42 PM on July 22, 2013


Not sure I'd heard about Seth MacFarlane being involved....I look forward to the "We Saw Your Rings" number when they cover Saturn.
posted by uosuaq at 5:50 PM on July 22, 2013


(Seriously though, a new Cosmos for a new generation is a great idea, and who could be more perfect for it than Neil deGrasse Tyson?)
posted by uosuaq at 5:51 PM on July 22, 2013


I love Neil deGrasse Tyson, but FOX? And Comic-Con? This trailer is utterly bizarre and doesn't spell much good.
posted by monospace at 5:59 PM on July 22, 2013


The mere fact that any remotely science related show, with a real scientist, is going to appear on Fox is just short of miraculous, and worth any and all deviations from the original version.
posted by shen1138 at 6:01 PM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


The OP says FOX, but the trailer shows National Geographic.

May not be much difference.
posted by a person of few words at 6:05 PM on July 22, 2013


For people in the physics community, is there any resentment of Tyson?

I've never noticed any resentment of Tyson, though to be fair, I haven't heard much of anything about Tyson specifically. There is, of course, the general low-level grumbling about physics and astronomy programs getting too dumbed down, but I suspect that's been going on since forever.

I did have a professor who despised Carl Sagan. I think it was something about taking too much credit for some books he (Sagan) translated early in his career. On the other hand, my undergraduate advisor (same department) went to school with Sagan, and by all accounts was still friends with him till the end.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't like the trailer. The CGI is crap, the cel animation is crap, the compositing is crap, the cuts are crap. Maybe it's just some random shit they threw together for Comic Con. I dunno. But if you wanted to sell me a science/philosophy show based on that trailer without the history of Cosmos behind it, I'd laugh in your face.

There, I said it.

However, NdT is a pretty great guy, and if anyone can popularise the scientific method and rational thought in this decade, it's him.

[deep intake of breath, wistful head shake, shrug, moue]

Ganbatte, Neil.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:11 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I was really hoping they'd bring Vangelis back to score the new show. Would have been a nice nod to the original.

Well, really, Vangelis did not score the old show. Every piece of music in the original series was already in existence before the series was produced. I'm guessing they just bought the rights to use as part of a television series.

One of the (many) things I really liked about the original series was the underlying sense of peace and tranquility that Sagan brought to the show.

The soundtrack album The Music Of Cosmos (Side 1, Side 2) was something I bought when I was 12, and which influenced my musical explorations and interests very deeply into my teenage years. Everyone else was into Foreigner and Journey; I was tripping on Vangelis and Synergy. That album has such an odd dreamlike quality, as tracks crossfade and moods change. Basically nothing on that album is presented in its entirety, but the entire effect of the album is really grand.

I also hope they won't go for the rock-n-roll esthetic for this new Cosmos. But I wouldn't mind if they branched out into some psy-trance. Maybe a little Shpongle or Infected Mushroom or something. (And yeah, using some Vangelis would totally RAWK!)
posted by hippybear at 6:17 PM on July 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Vangelis was big for me too in the original series. It was intense, and mellow at the same time. With Carl just hanging out looking at stuff, and the cool music, it seemed to be saying it was totally okay to think about things.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:27 PM on July 22, 2013


double block and bleed: "The OP says FOX, but the trailer shows National Geographic."

Expect them to throw in something about how Supermax Prisons are the coolest thing ever and cops are badasses who can do no wrong, then.

I actually think this trailer has just the right amount of cheese. It's the whole cosmos, it's earned some Very Serious Epic Music and whatnot.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:30 PM on July 22, 2013


If anyone is hardcore missing the original series like I am, this is the comprehensive post with all the primary episodes and a couple bonus ones.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:32 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh hell yes. I'm looking forward to this. And, yeah, I'm hoping for some Vangelis.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:33 PM on July 22, 2013


The Vangelis was big for me too in the original series. It was intense, and mellow at the same time.

If you liked the excerpt from Heaven And Hell used as the Cosmos theme, you should really check out the entire album it's taken from. It's one of the best things Vangelis ever created, top to bottom, front to back. (And yes, that is Jon Anderson from Yes singing So Long Ago, So Clear at the pivot point between Heaven and Hell.)
posted by hippybear at 6:33 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


They should just reuse the Blade Runner soundtrack.

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Through a telescope. Check it out, this shit's awesome!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've always loved dry documentaries, which are a dying breed on cable. National Geographic seems to be going the way of TLC and the like with unwatchable reality show crap. At least I still have the Smithsonian Channel.

For now.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:32 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


double block and bleed: I imagine there is a sort of dumbification treadmill of TV channels, where we need to go to more and more dry channels to get real content. A few hundred years from now "the comprehensive existential information ontology channel" will play nothing but reruns of "the fart family", a reality show about a family that is allergic to everything but beans.
posted by idiopath at 7:39 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


To me, the music sounded vaguely like Adagio in D Minor, from the Sunshine soundtrack, which is fine by me.
posted by empath at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always loved dry documentaries, which are a dying breed on cable.

Free Speech TV, Link TV, and (believe it or not) HBO are all your friends, if this is what you enjoy.
posted by hippybear at 7:44 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


For a partial answer to the question on how NDT is regarded by his peers: I'm a professional astronomer, and a guy I know who got his PhD with the same well-regarded advisor now does research at the Natural History Museum / Hayden Planetarium and speaks highly of NDT. Though it hasn't received much publicity, Tyson has built up a research team there in addition to his presenting a public face for our science that mixes clarity, accuracy,and use of new media--plus he's in a position to be a role model and to inspire people.

The one thing he's out of step with compared with the rest of the community is his enthusiasm for manned space travel in spite of the huge costs compared with robotic missions.
posted by Schmucko at 7:53 PM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well Tyson's spaceship is cooler than Sagan's, but that unsettles me.
posted by mazola at 7:54 PM on July 22, 2013


On Tyson's position in astronomy, it also might be worth noting that he's much more like Sagan than, say, Feynman, in that he's well known but not necessarily a "giant" in the field scientifically. Nobody is going to fault him for not being Feynman though.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:08 PM on July 22, 2013


Well, that was a bit...flashier than I was hoping for. Still, I'll hold out hope that we'll see some of this kind of thing from Tyson in Cosmos.
posted by yasaman at 8:15 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, no, no, no, no. MacFarlane ruins everything he touches. He's like Midas in reverse.
posted by mochapickle at 8:33 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I must be in the minority, because I actually hope they can keep at least some of the energy and bombast from this trailer/sizzle reel in the final product. I love the original Cosmos, it's a spectacular achievement and still deeply affects me (especially Harmony of the Worlds), but this is not the 1970's anymore. NdT has made it clear that he wants to aim this sucker right at the bullseye of the popular consciousness and make the biggest splash he can (thus, Fox), and the kind of dreamy, detached overview that Carl Sagan did so wonderfully simply would not sell today.

Beyond that, it's simply not NdT's style. We've all seen him speak on science and astronomy (and if not you should fix that), and he is big and bombastic and favors huge sweeping impressions and big blow-you-out-of-your-shoes moments and thoughts. Just as much as Cosmos was a product of Carl Sagan's imagination, this revisit should be about how NdT would present it. I don't want someone aping Carl Sagan's style just because that's how the original was done; if they're going to go through the trouble of making a new Cosmos, it should reflect the approach of the creative force behind it.

And on a purely personal level, I think that the way hard science is presented could use some bombast and a big rock soundtrack. Physics, chemistry and biology are the tools we use to understand how everything works, and I think that some jaw-dropping, "Isn't this fucking awesome" presentation could go a long way towards convincing people that science is, well, awesome.
posted by Punkey at 8:35 PM on July 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


Actually, if they can somehow get this sucker shown in IMAX 3D, with the biggest, loudest sound system available? Sign me up.
posted by Punkey at 8:37 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


For people in the physics community, is there any resentment of Tyson?

No resentment per se, but Tyson is TOTALLY wrong about Pluto.
posted by chimaera at 9:01 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, I hope there are some icy dwarf planet burns. Like, "We are now travelling through the orbits of the outer planets. Jupiter... Saturn... Uranus... Neptune... Our journey is complete. Oh, wait! How could I forget... this miscellaneous space debris too insignificant to examine closely. Moving on..."
posted by No-sword at 10:50 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


and the final shot - is that the Eye of Sauron?!?

No, it's the eye of Sagan - note how the title COSMOS appears.

And I understand Punkey's point about "big and bombastic" perhaps being more Tyson's style than Sagan's contemplative approach, but I hope it's not all like that. We'll need rest periods between the bombastic bits - I think a chiaruscuro approach might work better than "all bombast all the time".
posted by e-man at 10:57 PM on July 22, 2013


Well, it's a comic-con audience, so they're going to have to go big to get attention.
posted by empath at 11:04 PM on July 22, 2013


I've never encountered any resentment of NdT. I think the difference between his reception and Sagan's might be generational, ultimately. I get the sense that teaching and communication skills are much more valued amongst younger faculty/postdocs/graduate students than by Sagan's contemporaries. Some of that may be driven by how funding has changed; all NSF grant proposals, for instance, must describe not just the science you plan to do, but also the (generally educational) broader impacts of that work.

Or maybe if you're cynical you'd speculate that we're facing a more resource-constrained situation than thirty years ago, and so physicists and astronomers are happy about anyone who gets them good PR :) .

As for me, though -- Carl Sagan's appearances on TV talking about the latest from Voyager helped get me interested in astronomy when I was young. I saved up my allowance for most of a year to get a copy of Cosmos, then had to get past an impromptu reading test before the bookstore clerk would let me buy it (admittedly, it was a few years before I read it straight through). Anyone who can inspire kids today the same way Sagan inspired me is OK in my books.
posted by janewman at 12:31 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Carl Sagan had the advantage of a still-breathing NASA. Cosmos would have been less attractive if space travel had been outsourced as it is now,
posted by Cranberry at 12:59 AM on July 23, 2013


The series changed my young life when I saw it in 1980. I'm a bit worried. Tyson is OK. But he naturally has too much cool and not enough awe and wonder at nature to do what Sagan did. But maybe that's OK. It'll be different.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:03 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cranberry: I expect the new Cosmos should be much, much prettier than the original, thanks to Hubble.

That said - we may not get pretty versions of Hubble images any more. Funding for education and public outreach for NASA observatories was cut off in the proposed 2014 federal budget (can't even blame congress for that, unfortunately). All the Hubble press/image people are funded through that. Losing that great conduit of hot-off-the-presses science direct to the public would be a tragedy.
posted by janewman at 1:06 AM on July 23, 2013


Really looking forward to new Cosmos. I hope they do it justice and most of all I hope they retain the slow, leisurely pace of the original show (trailer to the contrary). I think I love the original series most of all because of Sagan's calm, relaxed rambles through countryside and his clear, mellow narration. I liked listening to someone explaining their love of something and Sagan's passion was crystal clear throughout*.

Cosmos is probably the only series that I re-watch on an annual basis simply for the way in which Sagan delivers his lessons. In the realm of modern tv shows about space and the universe, the "CGI-Universe-ASPLODES-hey-check-out-this-satellite-veering-past-Io" type show we have nowadays just simply cannot compare. I am fingers crossed that Cosmos doesn't go for the wham-bam aspect and retains the original pacing but this does give some cause for worry (at least to me - I'm sure there are plenty out there who find the original's pace slow and dreary).

I've just been listening to NDT on the Startalk Radio podcast talking to the GZA (Part 1 of The Science of Hip Hop). It's as weird, awkward and awesome as you might suspect from that set-up.

*I also happen to believe Sagan's marijuana use positively affected his method of education. The way in which he delivers his learning and his clear love of the world around him seems extremely similar to the way in which folks who have experimented with drugs choose to communicate. His smooth, slow cadence but with obvious passion and a particular joy that can sometimes seem missing from other educators. I often feel that I particularly identified with his teaching as a result of this. I might be getting the cart before the horse with this but to me, his drug use certainly made me think I could identify more with him than, say, Patrick Moore.
posted by longbaugh at 4:14 AM on July 23, 2013


The new Cosmos almost can't have the same slow pace and calm, reflective delivery as the old one because NdT and Carl Sagan have completely different personalities. A faster pace may draw in viewers in who might not otherwise be interested. That's not a bad thing. I just hope they don't turn it into Mythbusters.

I like Mythbusters, but I don't wat the same things from it that I want from Cosmos
posted by double block and bleed at 7:04 AM on July 23, 2013


Did anyone else get the impression that NdT is actually a Time Lord?
posted by rocketpup at 7:35 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brak: " Not sure if the new series is going to have the "rock and roll" theming that the preview has, but I hope not."

Really? I'd totally be okay with a soundtrack by Mogwai, 65daysofstatic, or Explosions in the Sky. A post-rock soundtrack feels like it'd be incredibly appropriate for the new Cosmos reboot, just as the Vangelis soundtrack was perfectly appropriate for the original series.
posted by schmod at 8:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


the final shot - is that the Eye of Sauron?!?

Cor, Blimey! All the better for the Seeing Of The B-

I look forward to the "We Saw Your Rings" number

Aw, shit.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:15 AM on July 23, 2013


They should get Ben Kingsley to narrate it in his Mandarin voice. There's a tv show I'd listen to!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:21 AM on July 23, 2013


is that the Eye of Sauron?!?

I believe it's the Helix Nebula, sometimes referred to as the "Eye of God."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:37 AM on July 24, 2013


No, no, no, no, no. MacFarlane ruins everything he touches. He's like Midas in reverse.

I totally agree about MacFarlane's crap-touch powers, but I'm not sure the lesson of Midas was that his power made everything awesome... I AM still waiting for a Glenn Beck special on the story of "Midas: the luckiest guy in history."

(Of course you're totally using Midas correctly as everyone uses it today, my real beef is with the way that's come to pass. Now get off my damn lawn!)
posted by nickgb at 11:34 AM on July 25, 2013


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