Katelyn Capri Films


Zenie Week 5 essay number two Analysis of media Cosmos

Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey is a science themed television documentary series that is presented by astrophysicist Neil Tyson. The series premiered on March 9, 2014 on all 21st Century Fox networks, and since has been re-broadcasted, aired in many other countries by Fox and National Geographic, and has weekly episode additions. Cosmos has grown interest and popularity quickly. Tyson stated a goal of the show was to capture the spirit of the first Cosmos, a 1980s television show that was considered a milestone for scientific documentaries. Many can not help but wonder what exactly the function of this show may be, and how it became so increasingly popular.

Using Silverblatt’s keys to interpreting media messages, one can begin to analyze and explain the significance and purpose of this television program. Of Silverblatt’s keys, there are some elements that are more relevant than others when analyzing this particular media. Examining process and framework elements will bring to light some answers to this shows success.

The communication process is a important key to look at when analyzing Cosmos. The media communicator in this case is Neil Tyson because he is the on screen narrator and presenter, who earned his pristine title in the world of science by

following in the footsteps of the renowned scientist and star of the original Cosmos, Carl Sagan. After Sagan took Tyson under his wing and personally invited him to Cornell University where he was a professor at the time, Tyson went on to earn a degree in science from Harvard and a doctorate from Columbia, and continued on to wildly succeed in his scientific career, earning recognition and awards. What Tyson was most known for however, was his efforts to encourage public interest and a sense of urgency to the issues surrounding science as it is known today. “Tyson says the new Cosmos may have a greater sense of urgency, at a time when issues such as climate change and the risk of asteroid collisions with Earth increasingly concern scientists.”(Kiger) Much of the original popularity of the show can attributed to Tyson because he is considered a respectable source on the topics of science presented in the series.

Being a science themed show, however requires many other talented communicators and scientists beyond Tyson himself. In the show, Neil uses many historical scientists as reference points, and talks about their accomplishments and background. Although very intelligent, Tyson uses architects to formulate and double check accuracy on much of the data, write the script, direct, and edit the production. Any number of eyes are on the script before it is put into production, including those from the Century Fox Networks, whos network currently owns the show, and has their own set of bias and ideas for how the show should play out.

Within the communication process, there are multiple functions that Cosmos serves to its viewers. This show is a very detail oriented and informative piece of media that describes for the most part uncommon knowledge about many topics surrounding

science and the universe. Silverblatt would say that a function of the show would be description, which he says can provide elaboration on general statements, as well as concrete examples and details.(Silverblatt 32) Cosmos certainly describes more details about topics that much of the population knows little about, as well as giving instruction and informing the public on those topics. Cosmos is a form of information exchange in the way that all audience members benefit from the shared knowledge being taken from the content in the show. Description, instruction, and information exchange are all examples of how this show is educational and informative. The positive thing about this show however, is that it is not only for education, but for entertainment as well. While many documentary form shows are easily drown out and hard to take much from, Cosmos uses amazing new age animation and illustration to keep the viewers attention and draw the story along. That entertainment feature, at least when it came to the animation and special effects, was not as present in the original Cosmos, therefor the creative expression and the digital technology of the animation artists play a huge role in the success of the show this time around. (Silverblatt 32-33)

The medium for this particular media is a television set, which like other television shows, lends itself to some challenges and some advantages to the medias’ popularity. Being a television show, it incorporates audio, visual, motion, and color. Over time, the common in house television has lost a small battle to the multi tasking generation, and so has the chance of being only one of the multiple competing activities media has to endure for the viewers attention. An advantage to this show in particular is that more than half the time, the viewer can tune into only the audio portion of the episode without

missing much information at all. Although the visuals on the show greatly assist the viewer in understanding some of the more complex topics, Neil Tyson has a way of describing complicated topics in a transparent way. Another reason for the success of Cosmos, and other television programs is that it is in a short thirty minute segment, which can hold the attention of most willing audience, and can gain excitement for the next episode.

The framework of a piece of media is the actual content and storyline of the piece starting with the introduction and title of the piece and ending with the conclusion. The framework can say a lot about the media to its audience before they even watch the show. For example the title ‘Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey’ can appeal to all types of scientists and space war fantasy readers alike. The title also stirs up interest in who may have knowledge of the first Cosmos series, and are thereby intrigued to see how the sequel will stand up to the original. Another framework element is the implicit content, that is content that is not easily understood on the surface.(Silverblatt 139) Part of the educational aspect of Cosmos is to attempt to explain to the viewer complicated topics in a way that they can understand. Seeing as all of the content in this show is known factual science, the audience reception theory would for the most part only apply to those with a religious factor (ie church vs science), those who are simply too young to understand such complex content, and those who have different perspectives on certain issues.

A more strait forward element of framework is genre, which Silverblatt explains as being a order or formula that the media falls into, a category that explains similarities

between different medias. In the case of Cosmos, the show has a documentary structure in which Tyson goes through part of history and attempts to enlighten more details to the viewers . Cosmos has a science non-fiction educational premise in which each week viewers encounter the same host talking about topics of science and the universe in different settings accordingly. Silverblatt explains on page 137 that the foundation of plot is conflict, in Cosmos there is only one character, and because the content is fact the only conflict that could arise is external of the actual show in certain individuals who don’t agree with the content for one reason or another. A big draw to the show is that the genre is not easily defined simply because not a lot of other shows are like Cosmos.

Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey is a television series that has gained popularity quickly since the show has started. This show has detailed production elements, direct and thought out advertising, and a good use of other mediums like the internet to drum up talk via social networking and a interactive website. The keys that stand out the most in aiding to interpreting the media messages on Cosmos are the communication process and the framework of the series. With the positive reactions Cosmos has gotten so far in it’s short existence, it’s sure to follow in the food steps of its predecessor and become a milestone in science documentary television.






Works CitedKiger, Patrick. "Meet the Host: Neil DeGrasse Tyson | National

Geographic Channel." National Geographic Channel. National Geographic, 01 Feb. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.Mcfarlane, Seth, prod. Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey. 09 Mar. 2014. Television.

Silverblatt, Art. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995. Print.