I know the original Cosmos aired on Sunday, but is Sunday the worst possible night for this show, or what? I don’t know why, but I just find it harder to focus on Sunday, what with the tensions of having to get back to the normal grind tomorrow, and woes at the various things I was supposed to do over the weekend, but didn’t, and my vague resentment that I’m stuck watching this show rather than something cool on Netflix.
Anyway, now that we’re halfway done with the series, it’s fair to talk about ratings. The series premiered with 5.77 million viewers, which is actually surprisingly good. The Simpsons only managed 2.69 that night, and Family Guy pulled in 4.56 million. That’s unexpectedly strong on a night the network generally reserves for tallywhacker jokes.
Now, normally when I prattle on about ratings, it’s to show how crappy a show is doing, or make bad jokes about how much money the studio is losing per eyeball, or whatever. In this case, however, the ratings are really genuinely interesting. The prediction was that the show would start strong, and taper off to the point where no one cared, and the thing would get pulled and the remaining eps burned off over the summer in a marathon or whatever. Personally, I didn’t really buy that because the network is clearly doing this as a prestige piece, and they don’t care too much about the ratings. They weren’t gonna’ pull it.
Anyway: each episode dropped by an average of about 620,000 people, nothing surprising there, but then the ratings rallied a bit in Ep 5, jumping up by an unexpected 700,000 viewers. They dropped by a half million next week, but last week’s “Clean Room” episode was back up by a quarter million people. The point being that rather unexpectedly, this thing is holding the audience of its lead-in. This is surprising because, hey, Fox: All dick jokes, all the time.
While the show isn’t amazingly good, I have decided this is encouraging: A science show getting decent ratings on a broadcast network. Maybe us Americans aren’t as extravagantly idiotic as the normal Fox Sunday Night Lineup would lead us to believe. On the downside: this success paves the way for a bevy of inferior knockoffs, so be wary.
Anyway: on to the episode itself.
It was kinda’ dull.
The first half of the episode told the story of the women who actually surveyed the stars for early 20th century astronomers, and the various advances they made in science just as workaday organizational skills. A deaf woman, for instance, invented a categorization system for stars that we still use today, breaking stars into 7 main types (O, B, A, F, G, K, M), and each one of those into subtypes ranging from 0 to 9. (0 being the hottest, 9 being the coolest) Our star is a G2 class one, for instance. A couple decades later, a British woman who was going to college in the US ‘cuz them thar’ Brits didn’t cotton to no science-learnin’ for their women folk, what with the possibility ‘o them getting’ a buncha’ uppity ideas and whatnot. She discovered that the categorization system the deaf lady had developed actually was a list of stellar temperatures, though no one had realized it yet. Thesis: denied, however a generation later her professor realized she was right all along and apologized.
That’s it for the interesting part of the show. From here on, we get the normal whiz-bang CGI, though it’s a little less show-offey and pointless than it was in the first couple episodes. Essentially Tyson shows us different kinds of stars, explains how they grow old and die, explains how they become black holes, white dwarfs, novas, supernovas, and the admittedly super-cool-but-still-only-theoretical “Hypernovas.”
And that’s about it. There’s some shuck about mythology (The bit about the Aborigines defining constellations by the absence of stars was neat) and how the sun basically powers the earth and us via, well, nature, duh.
Remember what I said about the ratings above, and the inevitable slew of knockoffs this commercial success will have? Well, that’s heartening on one level. On the other hand, this show isn’t really setting the bar very high, if we use tonight as an example.
Kevin Long is a well-reviewed Science Fiction author, who has written three full-length anthologies, and has a fourth one coming out any week now. He used to blog under the name “Republibot 3.0,” but now that his stalker is dead, and he can afford to be less paranoid, he uses his real name. His personal website is here and his Smashwords page here. Or, if you prefer Amazon, his books are here, here, and here. Check out his site, and buy one of his books. He’s got a wife and kids to support!