You might have thought it was Beyonce and Jay-Z performing, by the line of fans outside the Paley Center in Beverly Hills Sunday evening — but this crowd was, well, crazy in love with “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey.”
The final episode of the 13-part special series that aired earlier this year on Fox and National Geographic Channels globally was screened for a sellout crowd, with hundreds more viewing it from the overflow area in an FYC event sponsored by the two networks.
“Cosmos” is up for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be handed out on Aug. 25. It won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for best reality series in June and a TCA Award for outstanding news and information program last month. Naturally, with its huge critical and commercial success, there is already clamoring for another season of the show, which was inspired by the original 1980 television series presented by Carl Sagan on PBS.
The last chapter of the 2014 series, titled “Unafraid of the Dark,” features astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson describing the human quest for knowledge from ancient times into the future, and concludes with the empty-seated Ship of the Imagination leaving our planet and traveling through space as Tyson looks on from Earth.
After the final credits rolled to a roaring round of applause, Tyson took the stage with executive producers Ann Druyan and Mitchell Cannold and composer Alan Silvestri in a discussion moderated by science writer Jennifer Ouellette.
Much time was devoted to chronicling the lengthy journey to getting the show made.
“Seven years ago, no networks wanted to spend the money to make this,” recalled Druyan, who is Sagan’s widow, also noting the 34 years since the PBS show, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” originally aired. She had also co-written that series.
Enter Seth MacFarlane, and a chance meeting with Tyson in Los Angeles at an event designed to bring together scientists and people from the entertainment industry. ”He wanted to bring it to Fox, and after being momentarily distracted by the thought of Fox News, I realized it was a brilliant idea, which would also take full advantage of the global reach of National Geographic,” Tyson said.
“Seth brought us a gift that keeps on giving,” Cannold chimed in.
“It’s made me delirious,” Druyan said, while Tyson added, “I’m still moved to tears — and I was in it.”
As Cannold noted, there was a legacy at stake. Sagan’s program had inspired a generation of people to gain more knowledge about science and astronomy. Still, he said Fox’s Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly took an enormous risk greenlighting the series, which aired on Sunday nights in prime time beginning March 9 and concluding June 10.
For Silvestri, well-known for scoring “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump,” “Thor” and two “Captain America” films, the work was a joy.
“I could have closed my eyes and scored ‘Cosmos’ because of the powerful story being told,” he said. “That was the key.”
Tyson noted that while human beings are a story-driven species, in his field, unlike in entertainment, storytelling is not native — and that he aimed to do so much more than simply impart information about science. He said he was particularly thrilled to work with director of photography Bill Pope, who had done “The Matrix.”
“The camera is a player in the storytelling. The visual effects and the music create a full emotional encounter that creates an impact of strong, positive response,” he said in trying to underscore the effect “Cosmos” had on audiences.
That was evident after the screening as audience members mobbed the panelists, especially Tyson, who graciously shook hands, chatted and took photos with just about everyone who wanted one — until it was time to lift off from the galaxy of the Paley.