Commentary Topic: New COSMOS show
*This version updated to include day-of-show changes by hand.
Audio podcast of the show is here. You can listen instead of read it--and BONUS: You get to hear some great artists!
This past weekend Science pulled up in front of our parents' house on a Harley, tipped its mirrored aviator sunglasses down with a gloved finger, and winked at us through the gossamer curtains of the front picture window. Science beckoned us to escape the settled routine of our insulated and overprotected lives, sneak out the back door, hop the porch steps, slip a leg over the back seat, and clap our arms tight around its ribcage. We weren't blind. We saw the leather tassels, the metal studs and the steel-toed boots. We knew, even as we straddled the machine, and felt the warm leather between our thighs, even as the exhilaration of the moment washed through us and our breath quickened, we knew this COSMOS, this sequel to the gentle original, was going to be sexy as hell.
And it did not disappoint. Oh no. If the expertly scored soundtrack, the 3-dimensional renderings, the special effects, and the animation didn’t do it for you, then the delicious, bordering-on-illegal swagger of host Neil deGrasse Tyson certainly did. Oh, Mr. deGrasse Tyson. A plain navy blue button up shirt and dark jeans have NO BUSINESS lookin’ so good on a body. Like the original series’ opening, much of the episode was spent traveling outer and deep space virtually, via a fictional “starship of the imagination.” Learning happened. Education was achieved, but so was the wish, by millions of viewers, that Neil deGrasse Tyson to captain the next Star Trek reboot. He’s got the “staring off into deep space from a captain’s chair like a badass motherfucker” down cold.
Tyson, who is likely the most meme'd astrophysicist in human history, also happens to be (1) the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, (2) Research Associate in the department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, and (3) America’s latest Science boyfriend.
Humans acrosss the gender and preference spectrums have enjoyed the phenomenon of the Science boyfriend for decades. Some notable beloved Left-Brainers from our country’s pop-culture past include:
Nikola Tesla (The electrical engineer who demonstrated the relative safety of electric power right here in Chicago in the 1893 Worlds Fair. Evvvverybody wanted him alternating THEIR current.) SCIENCE JOKES.
James Burke (BBC Science correspondent and host of BBC’s “Connections” series. Eeeeh…he had a British accent, it was the 70’s, mistakes were made)
Jeff Goldblum in like eight different movies.
Bobak Ferdowsi (the Mowhawk-sporting Aerospace Engineer and Flight Director on the Mars Curiosity team- MMH. - America still thinks of him during…private moments.)
Bill Nye the Science Guy (hmmm that one kinda devolved into just a friends-with-benefits thing for America, clandestine back-door hook ups at the atheist conventions.)
And of course, Carl Sagan.
So many of us wouldn’t even have thought to look to the stars if we hadn’t first heard from Sagan that we were made of them. This just doesn’t feel right, though, moving on to a new COSMOS without some kind of…closure?
Carl passed away in 1996, but as the sequel to his series dawns, millions of us cast our memories back to him, to what he started, so:
Goodbye, turtlenecks. Goodbye corduroys, orange windbreaker, and mint colored tops that may or may not have been a bad decision (we won't judge). Goodbye matching bell-bottomed suits and thick-knotted ties. Goodbye adorable side-swept hair and bushy sideburns, and gentle storytelling combining wonder and awe with facts and models backed by the smooth jams of 1980's synthesizers.
Goodbye narratives so kindly and expertly written, that somehow invited, educated, tantalized, excited and altered the mind all at once. You tried so hard to get through to us.
You're a hell of an act to follow. Sure your program looks dated now, and there's plenty of new information that just plain wasn't around for you when you were making the original series. But you were the first one, for many of us, to shrink the universe to the size of our television screens, and show us our cosmic address. That we’re not just floating aimlessly in an empty nothing. We have a home:
INSIDE THE SOLAR SYSTEM
INSIDE THE MILKY WAY
WHICH IS ONLY ONE OF DOZENS OF GALAXIES IN OUR “LOCAL GROUP”
AND ALL OF THOSE HOUSED IN THE VIRGO SUPERCLUSTER--
ONE OF MILLIONS OF SUPERCLUSTERS IN THE OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE
You gave us the glorious vastness and incredible beauty of space and our place in it. There isn’t a “thank you” big enough.
And as for you, Neil, Mr. PICKIN’-UP-THE-TORCH-WHERE-SAGAN-LAID-IT-DOWN, just because you're the latest observatory boytoy doesn't mean you get a free pass. You’ve got some incredible shoes to fill, and we know you know it. This is so much more than just a show, and if the first episode is an accurate indicator, we won’t be disappointed, and neither will future generations. One favor, though, Neil? Dial down the sexy, for god’s sake, there’s only so much lotion and batteries in this universe and we are only human.