The docu-series, presented by Fox and the National Geographic Channel, is a continuation of the 1980 PBS show “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” the brainchild of the late astronomer Carl Sagan. The new take on “Cosmos,” spearheaded by science buff Seth MacFarlane, maintains the same goal of educating viewers about space and the universe, but takes advantage of modern technological advances, animation and CGI to create an immersive spacetime experience.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the program’s host, was joined at the premiere by “Cosmos” writer, director and exec producer Ann Druyan (pictured with Tyson, left, and) and MacFarlane), who is Sagan’s widow, as well as exec producers MacFarlane, Mitchell Cannold and Brannon Braga and co-exec producer Jason Clark.
Tyson said that, as an academic, the whole experience of creating the show was “novel” to him, especially having his own trailer.
“I said ‘Wait a minute guys. You know that I’m a scientist right?’” Tyson said. “I had to remind people.”
He also added that he hopes to target three groups of people with “Cosmos”: those who already knew they liked science, those who don’t know that they would like science and those who feel sure that they don’t like science.
“’Cosmos’ is for all those people and everybody else with a beating heart because if it exceeds it’ll affect you not only intellectually but emotionally, and all good storytelling should do both,” he explained.
Bill Nye, TV’s reigning science guy, made an appearance on the red carpet and said “Cosmos” has always been special to him since Sagan was once his astronomy professor.
MacFarlane, who is a titan at Fox thanks to the success of “Family Guy” and other comedy series, said he watched the original “Cosmos” as a kid and was drawn to this new venture because he is a “science enthusiast” at heart.
During the live interactive Q&A that followed the screening of the series’ first episode, MacFarlane kept things lighthearted by adding bits of humor but also demonstrated his interest in science and dedication to the show.
Questions were fielded from Facebook, Twitter and live viewings at planetaria around the world, including London, Singapore and the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando.
When asked about the show’s target audience, Druyan said “We wanted to reach to everyone because we believed that this knowledge is a birthright – it belongs to all of us.”
MacFarlane then interjected, “You want to reach the Kardashians,” garnering laughs from the audience.
The “Family Guy” creator said he referred to some of the same guidelines that applied to the original “Cosmos,” in terms of forging a connection between science and entertainment.
He paraphrased a favorite quote from Sagan, who said, “I want this to be interesting to people who have no pre-existing interest in science and are going to watch just for the spectacle.” MacFarlane and Druyan’s goal was to preserve “the idea that this was certainly educational and inspiring but that it would have a certain P.T. Barnum element as well, which the original ‘Cosmos’ had in an immense way,” MacFarlane said.
Tyson added his own views on who he hopes will tune in each week.
“I’m worried about scientifically illiterate adults,” he said. “They run the world. They wield resources. They’re in charge.”
The questions became increasingly science-driven as the night went on, but Tyson’s answers in particular were both thorough and thought-provoking, prompting MacFarlane to exclaim “You just blew my f—— mind!”
With about 10 minutes to go in the Q&A, MacFarlane even pulled out a small bottle of liquor from his pocket and he and Druyan each took a swig.
Following the screening and Q&A, attendees were shuttled up to the reception at the Griffith Observatory where Tyson, MacFarlane and the rest of the team greeted guests and celebrated alongside exhibitions related to the solar system.
The first episode of “Cosmos” will be broadcast on over nine Fox networks on March 9, a testament to the company-wide effort to make the show a global event.
The full Q&A can be viewed here: http://new.livestream.com/fox/cosmosliveevent/videos/44232902