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Fox Network Plans to Bring Back Carl Sagan's Universe-Spanning Docu-Series 'Cosmos'
Astronomer Carl Sagan, shown in this 1981 file photo, a gifted storyteller who extolled and explored the grandeur and mystery of the universe in lectures, books and an acclaimed TV series. AP Photo/Files.

By: Frazier Moore, AP Television Writer

BEVERLY HILLS (AP).- The Fox network is bringing back Carl Sagan's universe-spanning docu-series "Cosmos," and "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane is on board for the ride.

The 13-part "Cosmos: A Space-time Odyssey" is scheduled to launch in 2013, Fox announced Friday. More than three decades after the debut of the revolutionary "Cosmos," the new series has teamed MacFarlane with Sagan's original creative collaborators. The host will be astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Fox said.

The original "Cosmos" with Sagan was first broadcast in 1980 and remains among the most globally successful American public TV series of all time. (The beloved astronomer-astrophysicist Sagan died in 1996.)

National Geographic Channel will air a same-night encore of the episodes following their broadcast on Fox.

"It doesn't really feel like a natural fit on Fox," the network's entertainment president, Kevin Reilly, acknowledged. "But we just like the challenge of it. ... Will it be our biggest hit? Probably not. But I think we can have real success with it, and a long tail and a big cultural impact."

But Reilly took a nearer-term look at Fox's plans during his session with reporters at the Television Critics Association gathering.

Almost jokingly, he broke it to reporters that he had no update on scattered reports that Jennifer Lopez has closed her deal to return to "American Idol" as a judge.

Then he described Fox's fall season of programming as "a hot hand." His prediction: "Fox is going to have success in every genre next year, and the potential for breakout success in those genres."

Looming large this fall is the new Simon Cowell-produced competition series "The X Factor," which Reilly called "the mother of all shows."

But he insisted, "We're not a one-show network. We're a seven-night-a-week network, and I want to be a year-around network and push out that May curtain call."

Also on Fox's fall slate is the big-budget sci-fi series "Terra Nova," which has struggled with multiple delays in getting to the air.

Reilly described the difficult process of perfecting the show's special effects, which include believable-looking dinosaurs interacting with its human stars.

"I've seen episodes that were essentially finished and then you look at some of the effects and they look like hand puppets," Reilly said. "Then I look at it three weeks later and they look like a little bit better hand puppets. Then a few more weeks and they start to look good. And then two days before it's finished, it looks amazing.

"You just can't share it prematurely. But they're right on schedule where they need to be," he said. "Is 'Terra Nova' a big bet. Yes, it is. But that's the business we're in."

Asked what the future holds for "Glee," Reilly described its new season as focused, taking a back-to-basics approach as it centers on core characters. In the "first batch" of shows, he said, there will be no guest-star-driven or music-tribute episodes.

He said a rumored "Glee" spin-off is "still in the wind" and might be revisited later this season.

He wouldn't confirm that "House" is entering its final season. He said star Hugh Laurie and the show's producers are mulling their options. But he hinted that the eighth cycle for "House" would be its last.

"My sense is, this is a show that wants to stay creatively vibrant and go out strong, and not limp along for four more years as a vestige of what it was," Reilly said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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