PBS is recommending its new show "The Infinite Voyage," an "odyssey through modern science," to schoolchildren--who will be hard put to miss it. Not only is public TV showing the first of 12 episodes (they'll run sporadically over a three-year period) tonight (at 8 p.m. on Channels 28, 15 and 24, and at 10 p.m. on Channel 50), but the program will also be repeated on KTTV Channel 11 Dec. 1 (9 p.m.).
And the series can even "be recorded off-air and used in the classroom," its producers say, adding, "There is no fee for this service."
Oh yes, there is. If time (even an hour's worth) is money, the fee here is way too high.
Tonight's premiere, "Unseen Worlds," is confusing and superficial. It's a TV hors d'oeuvre tray that whirls for an hour--past black holes, red shifts and big bangs, on to microscopy, protons and digital X-rays, back to astronomy and so on--without settling long enough on any of its subjects to raise much interest in a science buff, let alone an average school kid.
There's supposed to be a central theme here about how things are interrelated--from atoms to the greatest galaxy. However, "Unseen Worlds" is so sloppily constructed and thoroughly dull that even its most basic points become as nebulous as some of those galaxies.
Perhaps writer-producer Steve Eder had the much-vaunted Short Attention Span of modern youth in mind. But by flitting between topics we've seen well-covered in other TV science shows, and weaving some awfully thin connections between those topics, he's only made a mess--one that optimists can hope is not typical of the rest of the series.