Under the Radar

'Cosmos' Won't Apologize for Science

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Maybe the most notable thing about the FOX TV series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is that it was shown at all on American network television. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts this 13-episode update of the legendary 1980 series hosted by Carl Sagan. The show, which completed its run last week on the network, has just been released on Blu-ray and DVD.

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Cosmos found a network home thanks to the patronage of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The Griffin family (and its spinoffs like American Dad and The Cleveland Show) have generated so much cash for the network that MacFarlane was able to convince the corporate executives to give him a budget and a Sunday evening time slot to talk about science.

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We haven't seen an unapologetically educational mainstream show like this one since the early days of television. Tyson is an engaging host and he makes sure the science is accessible to as many viewers as possible. The fact that it's not boring makes its in-your-face declaration of facts about evolution and global warming so alarming to a lot of viewers. In a time where high school science teachers hedge their bets when talking about the more sensitive parts of their curriculum, Tyson makes direct statements about the nature of science.

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That didn't play well with a lot of network viewers and careful observers might note that the network executive who commissioned the show is now out of a job at Fox.

This Blu-ray looks spectacular. It's obvious that the team behind the show considers this to be the primary format for their show. There's a handful of extras on this 4-disk set, including a commentary on the opening episode from series producer (and Sagan's wife) Ann Druyan. There's a making-of documentary, a filmed verson of the Cosmos panel from last year's Comic-Con and an interactive Cosmic Calendar that gives a startling take on the timeline of the universe.

Come back in 20 years and the next generation of scientists will tell us that Neil deGrasse Tyson and this show opened their eyes to science, just like Tyson describes the effect that Sagan's original series had on him. At a time when news outlets and politicians and mainstream media all carefully alter their science coverage in hopes they won't offend, Cosmos makes a bracing case for facts.

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