STUDIO: A&E Home Video
RATED: UR (TV)
RUNNING TIME: 564 minutes
• Additional Footage
Season 3 of The History Channel’s Show About Everything gets a Blu-Ray release.
Lasers for the science. Shades for the protection. Camo for the fashion.
Cast: Wormholes, Near Earth Objects
Cable’s best (and maybe only?) pop cosmology show returns for a third season, blowing the freaking lid off of topics like parallel universes, alien biology, sex in space, interstellar disasters, and nebulas made of drinkable beer. This season features twelve hour-long episodes, and includes additional footage not seen during the show’s original broadcast.
Taking care of moon bidness with mah cane
To wildly misappropriate a quote from Carl Sagan: If you want to make a pie from scratch, it wouldn’t hurt to watch a few episodes of The History Channel’s The Universe first.
The Universe: The Complete Season 3 blends together high-minded ideas and lightweight topical science, distilling them down into animated segments and interviews, and generally keeps things fun and entertaining along the way. It’s a great tool to remind viewers – especially older kids – that Cosmology can be just awesome. The Cosmos keeps getting weirder and weirder the more we learn about it, and The History Channel’s flagship Cosmology show makes good progress carrying this across.
The Universe: Season 3 comprises the following episodes, listed in order of original air date:
11/11/08: Deep Space Disasters
11/18/08: Parallel Universes
11/25/08: Light Speed
12/2/08: Sex in Space (Ooh La La!)
12/9/08: Alien Faces
12/16/08: Deadly Comets and Meteors
12/23/08: Living in Space
1/6/09: Stopping Armageddon
1/13/09: Another Earth
1/27/09: Strangest Things
2/4/09: Cosmic Phenomena
2/11/09: Edge of Space
Episode favorites include the scandalous Sex in Space, which demonstrates the newly designed “2Suit” space outfit that makes low gravity sex possible. It’s not graphic in the least, but the episode does have a very lounge-y, late-night-on-HBO tone that’s both creepy and hilarious. Parallel Universes might be the most interesting of the bunch; it touches upon quantum theory, M-theory, and even a little philosophy to break down a really fascinating topic. It’s great fodder for science fiction and fantasy fans, and should leave more than a few curious viewers pondering the seemingly impossible. On a tangent, the Parallel Universes episode in particular is a neat companion to Ron Currie, Jr.’s recent (and excellent) novel Everything Matters!, and maybe even to the last few seasons of Lost, too.
The Strangest Things might be the episode that wins over converts. It’s a review of the Universe’s weirdest inhabitants, including black holes, randomly disappearing particles, and gigantic, swirling masses of deep space ethyl alcohol, which the show quickly points out is the same form of alcohol found in beer. Yes, the show does stretch facts a little bit to engage the viewer, but it’s usually pretty harmless stuff.
There are a handful of episodes that don’t engage, and some of them rely far too much on bad CG. Living in Space and Deep Space Disasters feature a ton of weak animation, and fail to grab the viewer in ways that some of the other episodes do. Here’s the thing – The Universe’s CG segments are fine when they’re showing off more abstract cosmology like wormholes or spacetime foam, but when it goes full hog and renders everyday objects like buildings or people, it trips headlong into the uncanny valley. Deadly Comets and Meteors and Stopping Armageddon seem like they’ve been made redundant over the years, and aren’t really worth watching unless you slept through the Shoemaker-Levy-9-induced meteor craze of the mid ’90s.
In all, though, it’s a fun show that encapsulates Cosmology in an accessible, entertaining, and mostly accurate way.
There aren’t any real extras, unless you count the unaired footage inserted into the episodes on disk. It’s a good looking transfer – some of the animations really shine in 1080p – but it doesn’t look much better than its original airing on The History Channel HD. The lifeless PCM audio track is hugely disappointing.
8 out of 10