Neil deGrasse Tyson has taken over as host of Cosmos from Carl Sagan. But, is Tyson up to the task? Sagan was one of the most famous astronomers in history. He had a style that gave the average viewer a chance to learn complex subjects in just a few simple sentences. Sagan inspired a generation.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Journey has received some criticism from people who say the show is too critical of religion. Sagan certainly provided a pro-science viewpoint in the original version of the show. He also spoke of the dangers of religious intolerance. Producers of the show used the first episode to tell the story of the destruction of the Library of Alexandria by religious extremists.
The use of animated shorts in historical re-enactments is dividing the viewing public. Animator Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, is executive producer of the new series.
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, may have introduced more people to the scientific method than any show in history, when it was first broadcast in 1980.
In the original series, Sagan display a line-figure animation of evolution on Earth, condensed down to 40 seconds. He said, "Those are some of the things molecules do, given 4 billion years of evolution." The second episode of the new series pays homage to that statement. The title of the episode is "Some of the things molecules do."
During a short mention of human evolution in the first episode of the new Cosmos, a Fox affiliate in Oklahoma cut to a promo for an upcoming broadcast. Station managers told the press the cut was accidental.
Some of the Things Molecules Do will delve further into evolution, and is even more likely than the first episode to generate controversy. The segment will describe how wolves were bred into modern breeds of dogs and will tell of the development of the human eye.
Carl Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, lobbied networks for two decades to bring Cosmos back to the airwaves. Most channels were certain the American public would not watch a science show during primetime. Many viewers question the wisdom of broadcasting the show on Fox. The original was a runaway hit on PBS.
Tyson first met Sagan 34 years ago, when the original series was still on the air. The elder scientist invited the teenage Tyson to spend a day with him. At the end of their visit, Sagan handed a book to the young man, autographed with the words "To a future astronomer."
Neil deGrasse Tyson may not have the finesse of Sagan, or be breaking as much new ground for televisions firsts, the way the original series did 34 years ago.
But, Sagan himself saw something special in 17-year-old Tyson. That is an endorsement that is second-to-none.