NEW YORK -- Bryan Cranston has an authoritative voice, which all by itself would qualify him to narrate "Big History."
But there's another reason Cranston is a fine choice for this new docuseries, which pledges to reveal "one grand unified theory" for how every event in history (13.7 billion years of it) is intertwined by science. Cranston, after all, starred in the recently concluded drama "Breaking Bad" as Walter White, the nation's favorite psychotic former high-school chemistry teacher.
"Walt was a passionate teacher," Cranston says with a laugh, "and even through the dastardly deeds that he found himself doing later on, he was still a teacher: He taught Jesse the chemistry of cooking meth."
"Breaking Bad" is behind him, and now, in Cranston's current TV project, he is as much student as teacher as he confronts each script for the 16-episode-plus-finale series, which premieres Saturday at 10 p.m. on the H2 network (an extension of the History channel).
"The series uses science and history to show how various things that we take for granted these days had their origins thousands of years ago," Cranston says by phone from the Los Angeles studio where he is busy taping his commentary.
Two half-hour episodes of "Big History" will air on premiere night.
"The Superpower of Salt" reveals its subject to be far more than the thing you cut down on if you have high blood pressure.
"New York City wouldn't be the city that it is without salt," Cranston declares in the episode. Moreover, salt helped determine the road system of America and beyond: It "has silently engineered our global map."
The second episode, "Horse Power Revolution," makes clear the noble equine's legacy goes deeper than pulling a plow and toting Paul Revere on his midnight ride.
Among many unexpected benefits the horse spurred was pants. Citizens of ancient Rome wore tunics, which were impractical for riding horses, as Roman soldiers must have realized anew while battling barbarian enemies who sported this sartorial innovation. The Roman cavalry soon got on board. From there, pants became the rage for clotheshorses the world over.
Prior to the H2 series, Big History began as a course developed to help students better understand the world by revealing "big picture" connections between different fields of study. A free, online version is available online.
"I love learning how a moment in history carries through to today's life," says Cranston.
Asked what kind of student he was during his school years, he recalls, "I was good when I wanted to be. And I could get enthused about any subject if a teacher made it come alive.
"That's what this series does. It describes the relationship we have to our history. It explains how and why this is important to ME. That's what's key!"
Blackburn is ‘bittersweet' change
NEW YORK -- Tyler Blackburn says it was bittersweet to leave ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars" to star in the supernatural spinoff, "Ravenswood," which premiered last week.
"That show has been so wonderful. It's changed my life. I've gotten close with the cast and I've had so much fun doing it, and so bittersweet is the perfect way to describe it," Blackburn said in a recent interview.
"Ravenswood" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. The show premiered after the annual Halloween-themed special episode of "Pretty Little Liars," which returns for its new season next year.
Blackburn plays Caleb Rivers, one of five teens whose lives are intertwined by a deadly curse that's plagued Ravenswood for generations. Caleb arrived in Ravenswood to meet his "PLL" girlfriend, Hanna, who encouraged him to stay and help a new friend.
"There really is no through line other than Caleb and his relationship to Hanna," the 27-year-old actor said of a possible link between the two shows, which are set in the towns of Ravenswood and Rosewood.
"Ravenswood isn't far from Rosewood. It's only a couple hours," he said, "but it's almost like being stuck in time or something. It's very ‘Twilight Zone'-esque. It's a town that has a lot of darkness and depth to it. You find out that it's because there's this curse on the town and it affects five families in particular. The whole town is basically built on a cemetery, so that sets the tone for not only the town itself but the show. It's a town that isn't very happy."