Posts Tagged ‘Television’

Cosmos trying too hard.

It all makes me wonder who the audience is. 

Yes, Cosmos starts with a bang, a big bang—President Obama introduces the program (it makes me wish he were promoting NASA more)—and as it rushes on, the bells and whistles never cease to ring and shrill. Big bangs turn me off.

I’m not a TV watcher, but the Neil de Grasse Tyson, Phd. interview on public radio made me jump to watch the new Cosmos. On radio the astrophysicist seemed personable, well-bred and educated, but sharply critical when he needed to be (vis-à-vis his public school education). On Cosmos he resembled more a stand-offish, dumb-it-down sycophant-for-science. On the tube, he did not win me over.

The homage to his meeting at age 17 with Carl Sagan came too late in the hour to soften the initial image presented—Dr. Tyson standing alone where ever, you name it: California Coast, outer space, on top of the galaxy, or on a huge checker-board calendar of cosmic time. I understand the purpose may have been to demonstrate how alone and remote we really are in the cosmos, but his appearance on the bridge of starship-Tyson and in a seedlike, flying space capsule did not make me want to sit down and chat. He was a remote, impersonal, and over-dramatic.  The still clips of Carl Sagan—intimating with a young student, interacting in his classroom, sitting, relaxed with Johnny Carson—did more to contrast with Dr. Tyson than to tie him to that popular lineage.

The “whoo-whoo-look-at-this” tone intensified when Dr. Tyson emphasized one of his overwrought points: we are small, insignificant in this universe.  “Hey, tell me about it. We know. We know.” The emphatic deep-throated proclamations had the opposite effect of that intended. Rather than enlighten, they dumbed an interesting topic right down to earth and into the ground.  In much the same way—let me not rush to reveal my generation here—the glitz, the sizzle, and rush of special effects made Cosmos difficult to differentiate from the Fox commercials (a couple decibels louder than they need to be).  Give me a fireside chat, not a fireworks show. Too much, way too much cosmic bling.  Any student, including Dr. Tyson, who has really learned from a professor will tell you that it was the personal touch (usually outside of class), not the proclamations from the lectern,  that taught him best. The personal touch was lost in this blitz.

Dr. Tyson’s critical side came out in ways unlikely to win approval of the Vatican or creationist “thinkers” in the USA.  For his courage, we must commend him. He is a man of science. But presenting Giordano Bruno as a cartoon did not do the trick for me. The Inquisition is too serious to be animated.  Maybe that is why it was done that way, but something about the euphoric, apostate monk twirling amongst the planets and sun does not inspire the young to explore outer, rather inner, space. Still, the program presents Bruno as courageous.

 One more gripe.  After waiting thirty minutes to learn something new, things of interest were glossed over or lost in the inarticulate, drooping tone at the end of a sentence.  Dr. Tyson passed one item—the idea that the moon was once much closer to Earth and was driven back by what?, tidal forces?—I wanted to know more about. Was it a tickler for future programs? I’ll check other sources first.

I want to like the host.  I want to give Cosmos another chance. The program deserves that. It is a noble idea, but better ideas, than inspiring new generations through glitz, special effects accompanied by cartoonish and undignified overkill, is to go to Mars, establish a base on the moon, expand a space station. Cut the talk and do it. That is inspiration.