Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox, 9/8c)
Tonight is a big night for resurrections. The most exciting of them is Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a new incarnation of the beloved science program co-created and hosted by the late Carl Sagan three decades ago. This new version is hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, an eloquent defender and champion of science who is as close to a successor for Sagan as we have right now. The show is also executive produced by Seth MacFarlane and Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan. Seeing MacFarlane’s name in the credits might not be something you’d expect, but this isn’t the first time he’s used his Hollywood clout to help preserve and empower Sagan’s legacy.
When MacFarlane first began talking about resurrecting Cosmos with Druyan and Tyson, the Family Guy creator told Tyson, “I’m at a point in my career where I have some disposable income…and I’d like to spend it on something worthwhile.” And without him championing it, it seems unlikely that Fox would have greenlit Cosmos in this age of vapid, idiotic reality shows, much less decided to premiere the science program on 10 Fox Networks simultaneously, including Fox, Fox Sports 1 and 2, and the National Geographic Channel.
Tonight’s episode of Cosmos, entitled “Standing Up in the Milky Way,” explores “the birth of Renaissance Italian Giordano Bruno’s vision of the universe as a limitless expanse of space and time.” It also includes Tyson recounting the story of how he first met Sagan, who became a mentor and friend.
If ever we’ve needed Cosmos, it’s now. Science is all too often under assault in our culture these days, whether by religious forces terrified that if science is right, they must be wrong; or by simple, old-fashioned greed and self-interest that benefits from keeping people scared, ignorant, and malleable. We need Cosmos to inspire a new generation of future scientists who will take us places we never would have expected. We need Cosmos to present science in a way that’s engaging and understandable, and to spark in viewers the same sense of curiosity and wonder at our universe’s mysteries that Sagan himself was so adept at evoking. We need Cosmos to make people step outside tonight and look up at the night sky in a way they never did before, and with questions they had never thought of before. I don’t think that’s too much to hope for, do you?
Resurrection (ABC, 9/8c) — “The Returned”
In “The Returned,” an 8-year-old American boy (Landon Gimenez) wakes up alone in a rice paddy in a rural Chinese province with no idea how he got there. Details start to emerge when the boy, who calls himself Jacob, recalls that his hometown is Arcadia, and an Immigration agent, J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps), takes him there. The home he claims as his own is occupied by a 60-year-old couple, Henry (Kurtwood Smith) and Lucille Langston (Frances Fisher), who lost their son, Jacob, more than 30 years ago.
While they look different, young Jacob recognizes them as his parents. Lucille is overjoyed at the seeming miracle of her son’s reappearance. Henry is reluctant to accept that Jacob is back. Those closest to the family want answers, including Sheriff Fred Langston (Matt Craven), whose wife Barbara drowned 30 years ago while trying to save Jacob, and Fred’s daughter, Maggie (Devin Kelley), a local doctor. Pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth) seeks a spiritual reason for what’s happening in his community. When things take an even more shocking turn, Maggie’s life-long friend, Elaine Richards (Samaire Armstrong), finds herself drawn into Arcadia’s growing mystery.
The Walking Dead (AMC, 9/8c) — “Alone”
One group finds what may be an ideal shelter, while others realize protection is all around them.