By Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor-in-Chief and TV Writer
An early starter in the 2017 Fall TV season, The Orville holds much promise with writer and star Seth MacFarlane as the captain of a newly minted Earth Ship in the 25th Century. Alas, its lowbrow humor pulls the show down like a gravity well, causing it to crash and burn during re-entry.
Welcome to Earth, sometime in the 25th Century: Humanity has reached unheard of levels of technological and medical advancements and is looking to branch out among the stars. With over three thousand ships in the fleet in need of crew, down on his luck Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) is offered the captaincy of the medium-sized exploratory vessel Orville, roughly a year after finding his wife Kelly (Palicki) in bed with a blue alien guy. Needless to say, divorce ensued.
Gathering a somewhat quirky but capable crew to man the ship and head out into the great unexplored mass of the galaxy, Mercer and his best friend, helmsman Gordon Molloy (Scott Grimes), easygoing navigator John LaMarr (J. Lee), single-gendered alien Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon), brilliant Doctor Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), rookie security officer — and super strong Xelayan — Alara Kitan (Halston Sage) and condescending robot life form Isaac (Mark Jackson) run things from the Orville‘s bridge, but are in need of an executive officer as Mercer’s Number Two.
As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, an experienced member asked for the post, and she is none other than Mercer’s now ex-wife Kelly. With awkwardness and tense moments onboard, the crew’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime — if they can survive their commanding officers’ constant bickering.
What to Skip:
Oooof, where to start? Well, for one thing, aside from the precariously litigious theme and premise of the show, it may not be long before lawfirms for both Paramount CBS and Fox start discussing possible plagiarism or intellectual property claims about this Star Trek-like show.
Assuming that all parties realize this is more of a tongue-in-cheek spoof and not a deliberate Xerox of the more popular sci-fi franchise, one questions whether marital discord can really form the basis of a character-driven space show.
Seth MacFarlane’s edgy humor permeates each bit of dialogue, which is fine if you’re into the Family Guy type of mockery and ridicule for the lowbrow market. Despite this, you can almost tell which pages of the script originally had swear words or lewd content, by how restrained the interactions are between crew members.
While the opening scenes show an advanced and enlightened society, we still find ourselves observing senior crew members who’d rather explore space based on where the good bars are rather than seek out new life and new civilizations.
Adrienne Palicki feels miscast, but then again, the entire premise of this show feels off, though it’s early yet to predict whether the ongoing storyline will improve over the next few episodes.
In short, Spaceballs or Galaxy Quest this ain’t.
What to Love:
With its many faults, the show still boasts a fair cast who are all in on the joke and who either wanted to try some comedy after years spent in various genres. You a have hardcore Trekkie as producer and star, a former G.I.Joe and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D actress as second in command, a former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress as your ship’s surgeon, and Scott Grimes and J. Lee who are…..well, along for the ride.
One quick look at upcoming episodes shows an impressive list of TV directors, namely Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager), Trek veteran producer Brannon Braga (who had a hand in Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise) and James L. Conway (who directed episodes in all but the classic Trek show from the 60s.)
In other words, when paying (potentially and litigiously expensive) tribute to your favorite shows, go with people who’ve been there before.
Given the reach MacFarlane has in Hollywood after the success of his own projects, expect plenty of cameo appearances and special guest stars. Legends of Tomorrow co-star Victor Garber appears in the pilot as Admiral Halsey.
Finally, the visuals are at par with all current space-based shows, so you know they had the budget to avoid being ranked as a cheap knock-off.