As a kid, I loved the big event documentary series from Sir David Attenborough.
The famous Life On Earth, The Living Planet and The Trials Of Life each had a profound effect on my formative years. I spent many nights poring over the extensive books based on the shows, each glossy photo reminding me of the corresponding scenes on television. The scale and scope of the shows forcing a pre-teen me to understand - or, at least, start to understand - my place in the world.
It wasn't until later in life that I discovered many kids my age had experienced the same thing. We laugh at television because it spends so much time giving us reality trash, but the medium, especially the television documentary, has a rare ability to transport us from the minuteness of our own living rooms, and into a world without limits.
In a weird way, and in the relative lack of any other landmark television documentary series, I think I'm hoping that Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - a follow-up to legendary astronomer Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which started on National Geographic last night at 7.30pm - might have a similar effect on my own daughter, and on her generation.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey certainly has the requisite parts to leave a strong impression.
It's incredibly rare to find a documentary series that can dazzle, educate and entertain in equal measures, yet Cosmos has all three qualities in abundance, thanks to host Neil deGrasse Tyson - a noted astronomer who delivers the most moving moment of the episode when he tells how, as a teenager, he spent a day with his hero, Carl Sagan - and producer Ann Druyan, Sagan's widow and a protector of the all-welcome legacy the late astronomer brought to his work.
In the course of the first hour, Tyson tells of our place in the context of all existence, and compacts the history of our universe into a single calendar year, called the Cosmic Calendar; the idea was borrowed from Sagan's original series and updated for this follow-up.
Some of the best CGI you'll find on television allows Tyson to take us to the depths of our oceans, beyond the barriers of what we know to be real and true, and give us a fly-by of the surfaces of the other planets in our solar system.
Clever animated sequences, as well-made as anything you might find on a Saturday morning, relay the story of how Giordano Bruno envisioned the universe as an expansive place populated with many earth-like planets, and tell how Bruno was burnt at the stake by the Catholic Church for refusing to waver from those beliefs.
It is perhaps my only complaint about the episode that the Catholic church is almost set up by the creators as a villain for the series, with this animated sequence painting them as violently opposed to free thought despite the fact that Bruno was allowed to research alternative beliefs while an ordained priest in the Dominican Order.
Sure, the Roman Inquisition was awful, and the Catholic church may well have slowed scientific progress in the Middle Ages, but, whether they meant to or not, many great thinkers in history were born out of the educational institutions the church founded.
The entire series also boasts an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack, composed by Alan Silvestri (The Avengers, Flight), and has a brilliant collection of producers, including Druyan, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, and Star Trek producer Brannon Braga - all of which only adds to the grandeur, the spectacle of a series such as this.
It seems important to learn one's place in the world, in the universe, as I did with those Attenborough documentaries all those years ago. I guess that's why I hope Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey can have that kind of a profound effect on my daughter, and on viewers of that age.
And if any documentary series has the pieces in place to have that kind of effect on a generation, the first episode of Cosmos suggests that this one might be it. I loved it. I hope my daughter does too.
* What did you think of Cosmos? Post your comments below.