TV review: Fox managed to make the “Cosmos” bland

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From the March 6, 2014 edition

Rebooting Carl Sagan’s original series, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” from 1980, with “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is an interesting idea. Unfortunately, the execution doesn’t match the concept.

Fox’s modern-day “Cosmos” is simply kind of boring, at least in the pilot. There are some cool visuals and appealing ideas at play in the first episode, but mostly it’s just meh. I could see “Cosmos” getting better once things get rolling after a couple episodes — once the foundational knowledge has been established — but for now it’s mostly lacking.

The pilot operates as an abbreviated science and history lesson that those of us who didn’t completely sleep their way through either class in high school will be completely familiar with. There’s a quick-and-dirty rundown of the universe and its infinity, tales about Giordano Bruno’s martyrdom for the Copernican model and a trip through the solar system.

This all works fine as an introduction to “Cosmos,” and there should be more in-depth material as the series goes on through its 13-episode run, but it’s hard to be engaged in the first hour.

Host Neil deGrasse Tyson, working with producers Ann Druyan and astronomer Steven Soter from the original series, isn’t necessarily a problem. But he’s also not a positive. Some of his shtick is charming, other times it’s a bit grating. Basically, he’s no Carl Sagan.

The biggest detriment for “Cosmos” is a lack of ambition, which doesn’t bode well for future installments. I can’t predict what the series will tackle in later episodes, but even if there’s discussion of more complex metaphysical theories, instead of just grade school teachings, I’m not sure it will be handled properly.

“Cosmos” feels very much like a science series for the dumbed-down masses. Now I’m no astrophysicist, but I spent most of the first hour waiting for something more. “Cosmos” is a digestible hour of TV that has immense potential, but isn’t there yet.

Photo courtesy Fox