Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Sundays, 9 p.m., Fox.
Say what you will about Seth MacFarlane’s comedy empire, at least he’s used his massive clout as creator and/or producer of Fox series Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show and Dads to get the network to bankroll Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, an update of the late Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking 1980 PBS documentary series. Hosted by astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson, the new version of Cosmos is a big-budget scientific journey, exploring the origins of the universe and humankind’s efforts to understand it.
Produced by a team including MacFarlane, Sagan’s widow (and original Cosmos producer) Ann Druyan and Star Trek veteran Brannon Braga, Cosmos uses dazzling special effects, a bombastic score and beautifully rendered animated sequences to present its vision of scientific discovery. The first episode offers a tour through the known universe, a look back at persecuted astronomer Giordano Bruno and a literal brief history of time, which is a lot to cram into an hour.
Cosmos’ grand scope and upscale production values can sometimes seem a little excessive, but it never lacks ambition. With the premiere airing simultaneously on 10 different networks and all episodes repeating weekly on National Geographic Channel, Cosmos has the chance to draw an entirely new audience to the wonders of science. Thanks, Seth MacFarlane.