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Neil deGrasse Tyson, ‘Cosmos’ land squarely in geek universe

The geeks have risen up!

That’s, at least in part, the reason “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” host and world renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks his show got picked up to run in primetime on a major network.

“None of this happens overnight of course,” Tyson told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz.

Had the show been made five or six years ago, Tyson believes it wouldn’t have landed on a major network.

Instead, the follow-up to the original, “Cosmos: A Person Voyage,” hosted by astrophysicist Carl Sagan in 1980, would have probably fallen to a lesser cable channel, with fewer views, and less attention. Not that the original “Cosmos” didn’t stir up quite a bit of attention when it first started on PBS. Until 1990, it was the most watched PBS series in the U.S., and internationally is still the most watched series ever on the Public Broadcasting Station.

But it took 34 years for the follow-up to Sagan’s original ‘Voyage,’ and Tyson thinks it’s because the ground was finally tilled, and scientists became human in the guise of pop culture.

“When you just consider, for example, the number one sitcom on television is, ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Look at the success of ‘CSI’ and it’s many incarnations and that features good looking scientists where you care about their lives,” said Tyson. “That’s something that’s basically without precedent.”

Tyson said that before the success of those shows, the portrayal of scientists on film was limited to the lab-coat-donning-person-behind-the-table-with-the-test-tube. The audience didn’t care if the scientist was married with kids or sad or happy, they just needed answers.

The culture has shifted and Tyson said he has a hypothesis for why.

“The Internet allows people to gather together virtually, if not in person, and I think what happened was, all the geeks found each other.”

Tyson said it has allowed geeks to go from a sub culture, to a culture. And they make a difference. “These are people who don’t let you run around with fuzzy thinking – they challenge you on these issues,” he said.

“There’s a huge community of people that I think have risen up,” said Tyson. “I think ‘Cosmos’ is just landing squarely in this universe.”

“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” is a 13-part series that made its debut March 9 on Fox. It will also air on the National Geographic Channel.

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