Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey to be biggest rollout of TV series in history

Fox & Nat Geo To Preview ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ At Inaugural White House Film Festival

Seth MacFarlane’s passion project will get an unprecedented global launch next month, but first it has a date in D.C. Fox and National Geographic Channel said today they will screen a preview of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on Friday as part of the inaugural White House Film Festival. Writer-director-exec producer Ann Druyan will introduce the screening. The 13-part series, a sequel to Carl Sagan’s influential Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980), premieres March 9 on multiple Fox Network Group outlets then continues on subsequent Sundays on Fox on with expanded editions Mondays on Nat Geo. In other White House film fest news, the American Film Institute said today it will collaborate on the event, which screens winning short films created by K-12 students. President Obama will deliver the opening remarks Friday to a crowd of more than 100 students, teachers and parents in the East Room.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Premieres In a Three Network Television Event

More than three decades after the debut of "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage," Carl Sagan’s stunning and iconic exploration of the universe, MacFarlane teamed with Sagan’s original creative collaborators to conceive "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," which is a 13-part series premiering on Global Television, National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD on Sunday, March 9th at 9pm. The series continues Sundays at 9pm on Global and Mondays at 10pm on National Geographic Channel.

"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" is the saga of how humankind discovered the laws of nature and found their coordinates in space and time. The series brings to life never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge, transporting viewers to new worlds and across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest – and the smallest – scale. Renowned astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson, the recipient of 19 honorary doctorates and People magazine’s “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive,” hosts the series.

Keeping its eyes on the skies, National Geographic Channel is participating in a worldwide television event that takes viewers beyond the stratosphere – "Live from Space" is a spectacular, groundbreaking two-hour special from Arrow Media that broadcasts live from the International Space Station (ISS) and Mission Control in Houston on Friday, March 14th at 8pm. With unprecedented access to and footage from the ISS and Mission Control, National Geographic Channel goes into orbit with astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata from the ISS, with celebrated journalist, producer and television personality Soledad O’Brien hosting live from Mission Control in Houston.

The epic documentary "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" reflects the unusual partnership of "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Tyson raves about MacFarlane's skill as executive producer and Hollywood insider. The 13-part series, hosted by Tyson, will play at 9 p.m. Sundays, starting March 9, on Fox.

"I was skeptical that Seth would succeed in getting Fox interested," Tyson said. "My sense is we had an audience with the suits because Seth is a major property of Fox. They warmed up to it and what significance it could have in their portfolios. Seth joked that Fox needed something to show the FCC every time they're brought up on charges."

Before the TV premiere, "Cosmos" will receive 10 screenings Tuesday around the country, including at the Kennedy Space Center. The free screening starts at 8 p.m. in the Rocket Garden at the Visitor Complex. Doors open at 7, and a live question-and-answer with producers, based in Los Angeles, begins at 9. Fans may RSVP to

Tyson stressed that this "Cosmos" is a continuation, not a remake, of Carl Sagan's landmark 1980 series. Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, said the new series surpassed his expectations because of the production values.

"We had access to creative people who had been working in films," he said. "Here they are with the tools of Hollywood and bringing them to the story of the universe. A depth of wonder and awe runs through the series. I think it affects you spiritually."

Director of photography Bill Pope worked on the "Matrix" trilogy. Director Brannon Braga's credits include "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "24." Composer Alan Silvestri scored "Forrest Gump."

The camera becomes a participant in the storytelling. Animation, special effects and clever devices (a cosmic calendar, a ship of imagination) help Tyson tell the sweeping story.

MacFarlane suggested animation techniques and offered script suggestions. "He's made tons of television and movies, and he's science literate," Tyson said. "He's perceptive about what would work in the heart and mind of an audience. As the scripts were prepared, he gave us very perceptive comments about pacing and information."

But MacFarlane's Hollywood connections were most crucial. "His greatest contribution is he brought us to Fox," Tyson said. "We were shopping it around to the usual suspects where you would take a science documentary."

"Cosmos" will receive a major roll-out March 9 across 10 networks in the Fox Networks Group. The series will be available across 220 channels in 181 countries. After the U.S. premiere, the series will air at 9 p.m. Sundays on Fox and at 10 p.m. Mondays on National Geographic Channel.

The premiere ends with Tyson's poignant tribute to Sagan. The world-renowned Sagan invited Tyson, then a 17-year-old from the Bronx, to spend a day with him in Ithaca, N.Y., where Sagan taught at Cornell University.

Sagan's generosity and thoughtfulness inspired Tyson as a scientist and a human being, he said. Executive producer Ann Druyan, who is Sagan's widow, was moved by Tyson's story of the meeting, Tyson said.

"Everyone agreed there should be something about that in the program, because one of the themes we're trying to capture is 'here is a torch you pass from one generation to the next,' " Tyson added. "I got a little teary-eyed remembering that moment. I said to myself, 'Wow, if everybody behaved that way, it would be a different world.' "

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