The TV Column: 'Nova' Man Neil deGrasse Tyson Is Bursting With Bright Ideas

"Nova" host Neil deGrasse Tyson onstage yesterday with producer Paula S. Aspell. (By Frederick M. Brown -- Getty Images)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, January 9, 2009


After an exhausting first afternoon of the I Think I'll Just Take Some of These Dinner Rolls Home to Feed My Hungry Children Winter TV Press Tour 2009, debating with PBS suits whether Charles Dickens would or would not have written for television and whether his TV series would have been better than "The Sopranos" -- yes, seriously -- critics were happy to kick back on Day 2 and mull whether the swearing-in of Barack Obama will mean "the end of the war on science or is it just a temporary cease-fire."

Super-slick astrophysicist/TV personality Neil deGrasse Tyson -- who so far as we know is still waiting to be asked by the Obama administration to become the head of NASA -- explained patiently that while the Bush administration "is widely regarded as campaigning against science," there were, in fact, "very specific branches of science that were resisted in the Bush administration" but "it would not be correct to say that all branches of science were thusly affected."

That said, the affected areas were "quite tasty to the press because they involved global climate and stem cell and this sort of thing," Tyson said, flashing critics his blindingly brilliant made-for-TV super-smile.

Tyson, who was there to help PBS plug "Nova" -- yeah, right -- assured TV critics he has his finger on the pulse of the Obama situation:

"I know many people who are close to [Obama] and informing his science policy, particularly his space policy," Tyson said, smiling.

He told critics that "there are some rough edges at the beginning [of a new administration], trying to sort of shape the relationship between investments in science, space exploration, and what the consequence of that is on the education system of the nation and on the stability of our economy -- because we all know that innovations in sciences and technology in the 21st century will be the engines of tomorrow's economies.

"So over the months the policies start to take shape," he continued. "We all have high hopes and confidence that it will be implemented in a way that would restore America's place as a technological leader in the world," Tyson concluded, because even Tyson eventually has to stop to take a breath.

"Nova" senior executive producer Paula S. Apsell, onstage with Tyson, thanked critics for the "enormous amount of . . . negative critical feeling" they created among some viewers for "Nova's" show on "The Bible's Buried Secrets," which explored the hypothesis that humans wrote the Bible.

"The fundamentalists really took issue with that," she said happily.

And, of course, angry people watch shows they think they're going to hate. That's TV 101. NBC really needs to hear this.

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