From Family Guy to following Carl Sagan's cosmic journey

SETH MacFarlane isn't the name you'd expect to see attached to a serious and far-reaching documentary series.

But the Family Guy creator has a little-known interest in science and was instrumental in orchestrating National Geographic's follow-up to astronomer Carl Sagan's groundbreaking TV series Cosmos.

More than 30 years since it first aired, Cosmos is still in worldwide distribution and has been seen by more than 750 million people.

Sagan's accompanying book, also titled Cosmos, spent 70 weeks on the New York Times' bestseller list and was chosen by the Library of Congress as one of the 88 books to shape America.

MacFarlane, as executive producer, teamed up with Sagan's widow and original creative collaborator Ann Druyan to conceive a new 13-part series to succeed Sagan's Emmy Award-winning series.

Astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts the new series and he says there's more to MacFarlane that animated humour.

"He's a founding advisor to an office in Hollywood called The Science and Entertainment Exchange, serving the storytelling interests and needs of Hollywood," Tyson told The Guide.

"On top of that, he donated the Carl Sagan papers to the Library of Congress and some are now on display, including one of my letters back to Carl which I'd forgotten I'd even written. I'm happy to report that Seth is way more broadly talented than many people think."

The new series uses the latest astronomical knowledge and visuals to take viewers on a journey through space and into the past to trace mankind's major scientific discoveries, like the Earth's orbit around the sun.

"Blend of travelling across space and time," Druyan said.

"At the helm of the ship of the imagination, we're delving deep into sea of methane on Titan, the large moon of Saturn, and travelling the cosmic calendar. I don't think there has been anything quite like the original series until this series."

Their aim is to continue Sagan's legacy of presenting science in a simple and interesting way, without dumbing it down for viewers.

"Some shows dumb things down because the people who were delivering the information had no idea how else to present the information," Tyson said.

"What I found is if you think long enough about what's going on in the mind of the receiver and about the information you have to give to them, then there are plenty of ways to intersect their sense of wonder."

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - National Geographic Channel - Sunday at 6.30pm Qld, 7.30pm NSW

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