If you wish to remake "Cosmos" from scratch, you must first invent the universe … or at least some really cool special effects. This weekend, Neil deGrasse Tyson will be piloting the Spaceship of the Imagination through “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey,” a reboot of the beloved PBS miniseries that premieres Sunday night (9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific) on Fox:
Original “Cosmos” host Carl Sagan, who died in 1996, left a pretty big turtleneck to fill. But Tyson’s performance is earning some early raves.
“Like Sagan, [Tyson] manages lines about ‘perpetual night’ and ‘universe upon universe’ without sounding cheesy,” Boston Globe TV reviewer Matthew Gilbert writes. “And he wisely avoids theatricality, too, resisting the temptation to compete with the drama of the sophisticated graphics, as they pull us into other worlds. He’s got a low-key charm that makes him an engaging guide.”
Plus, Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is a familiar public speaker on science (and not just because of irate tweets about scientific accuracy in “Gravity.”)
“If I were forced to wear the shoes of Carl Sagan, I think I would fail at that, because he's Carl Sagan, and I'm not Carl Sagan. But I can be a really awesome version of myself," Tyson told the Christian Science Monitor. "I can be myself exactly. And that's already sort of a tested entity, so I feel very comfortable in this role."
The impetus to bring “Cosmos” back to TV primarily came from executive producer Seth MacFarlane … yes, the same Seth MacFarlane who created “Family Guy” and whose Oscars hosting duties last year were … not universally well-received, to say the least. MacFarlane also lends some voice acting to characters in animated sequences, including one in the first episode that highlights Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600.
It’s been more than 30 years since the original “Cosmos” aired, and science has unearthed many new wonders in that time. We’ve discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating; seen signs of more than 1,000 exoplanets circling stars outside our solar system, uncovered animals able to withstand the vacuum of space, and found the Higgs Boson. But the new "Cosmos," while informed by the new science, isn’t primarily concerned with all of the up-to-the minute news.
“There's a lot more science, but 'Cosmos' is not about bringing the latest science to the public,” Tyson told Rolling Stone. “There are documentaries that do that, and very good documentaries at that.”
The larger goal is to inspire emotion along with the intellect.
"There's gotta be at least one 'Cosmos' a generation, otherwise we're not doing justice to sharing with the public the role of science and bringing the universe down to Earth," Tyson told Space.com.