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'Cosmos' dazzles in debut

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By Todd Leopold

The "ship of the imagination" is roaring ahead into its second voyage.

"Cosmos," the new, updated version of Carl Sagan's popular 1980 documentary series exploring the hows, whats and whys of the universe, premiered Sunday night on Fox, the National Geographic Channel and various corporate cousins.

Its "ship of the imagination" -- a vehicle to take viewers through wonders large and small -- now has a new captain, astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, but the reaction to the show's debut shows that entertaining, informative science never goes out of style.

"I'll be eagerly tuning in for future episodes," wrote the Los Angeles Times' Jennifer Ouellette, praising Tyson as "affable" and "engaging" and noting the debut episode's lively use of ideas -- such as the "powers of 10" -- that could turn to cliché in other hands.

"Tonally the show strikes just the right balance between education and inspiration," wrote The Verge's Bryan Bishop, though adding that he believed the premiere tried too hard.

"It feels like it's missing its own point: that the greatest wonders aren't CG (computer generated) spectacle, but our own marvelous universe," he wrote.

Science fans -- and fans of the original series -- have been awaiting the new "Cosmos" for months. The show has the imprimatur of Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, and is being produced by "Family Guy" mogul Seth MacFarlane, an avowed "Cosmos" geek.

Through it all, Tyson has maintained his good humor as he's promoted the show.

"The universe is hilarious!" he told GQ in a recent interview. "Like, Venus is 900 degrees. I could tell you it melts lead. But that's not as fun as saying, 'You can cook a pizza on the windowsill in 9 seconds.' And next time my fans eat pizza, they're thinking of Venus!"

Tyson told CNN's Brian Stelter that one of the ideas behind "Cosmos" is to reignite "that flame of curiosity in us all."

"One of our mission statements in 'Cosmos' is to present science with all of its glory and the majesty and the mystery and the wonder -- the things we all take for granted as children," Tyson said on Sunday's "Reliable Sources."

Tyson acknowledged that he's bothered about the debate between science and religion that's became a mainstay of political campaigns and op-ed pages.

"There was a time when science and religion kind of co-existed under the same roof," Tyson told Stelter. "I find it odd that we live in a time where people who are strongly religious want to make everyone else the same kind of religious way they are, and break down the door of the science classroom to put their religious philosophies in there."

Though there was some tweaking of religion on social media -- "SPOILER ALERT: apparently the earth is not 6000 years old... Who knew!?" tweeted JaclynGlenn -- in general, people were impressed.

"That was the best commercial for science ever," tweeted Dan Treadway.

And Wil Wheaton -- who knows a little something about TV, entertainment and science, having been an actor on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Big Bang Theory" -- was positively effusive.

"Dear everyone involved in making #cosmos: Thank you. Thank you so much. I hope you inspire an entire generation to fall in love with science," he tweeted.

"Cosmos" will continue for 12 more episodes.

 

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