"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" ends Sunday (WNYW/5 at 9 p.m.), and before this remarkable Fox venture sails off into infinity and beyond, a brief farewell...
There has certainly never been anything quite like "Cosmos" on Fox -- bedfellows as strange as bedfellows could be, made stranger by the presence of Seth McFarlane, who brought this 13-part remake of the 1980 Carl Sagan classic to the network in the first place.
It was a secular romp through the great discoveries of modern science, most notably astronomical ones, and was a sturdily steadily reasoned rebuke to any and all who would deny climate change, evolution or the bedrock principals of scientific exploration itself.
With the soothing voice and understated style of Neil deGrasse Tyson, a distinguished physicist in his own right, "Cosmos" pulled viewers -- notably younger ones -- right to the edge of modern discoveries, without pushing them over that edge into a soup of theoretical jargon or overheated rhetoric.
It was smart without being pretentious, basic without being dumb, informative without being show-offy. It passed the Goldilocks test -- not too hot, not too cold, just about right.
That couldn't have been easy. Sagan set a high bar 34 years ago, and this remake clearly had no intention of raising that bar, but simply reminding viewers where it should be placed.
And to think: "Family Guy" was its lead in these past 12 weeks.
Was "Cosmos" a success? Depends upon whom you asked. Fox sales guys probably winced ever time they saw the numbers Monday morning -- but probably not too much. The numbers weren't awful -- 3.5 million or so viewers seemed to ultimately settle in for this ride. That's respectable.
Tyson ends Sunday with an episode entitled "Unafraid of the Dark," which explores some of Swiss astronomer Fritz Swicky's grand theories relating to supernovae, neutron stars, "standard candles," gravitational lens, and "dark energy."
But the close also repeats one of the more stirring passages in the history of popular science -- Sagan's own reading from his classic, "A Pale Blue Dot," which was inspired by a distant image of earth taken from 4 billion miles out by Voyager 1 in 1990:
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines,...
Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot...
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light... It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.
To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
Nice way to wrap one of the finest series on television this year.