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In Defense Of Seth MacFarlane’s ‘The Orville’
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The Orville

Much like John Carter and The Lone Ranger, The Orville seems to be one of those ventures that professional critics and fanboys alike hated before a single frame was viewed; it became cool to deride them.

Here are a few examples of why this criticism seems unfair. And a word of caution: everything from here on will be SPOILERS.

Captain Mercer (series creator Seth MacFarlane): He’s not a stud like Kirk or confident like Picard. He’s a captain of a ship that’s part of a fleet of 3000 other ships. Not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and it’s fun to see an imperfect and fallible captain find his footing with each episode.

Security Officer Alara Kitan (Halston Sage) caved into pressure from her commander and only after experiencing the more immediate peer pressure, did she elect to do the right thing, leaving one to ponder this seeming and unexpected character flaw (though it is relatable as a flaw all too common in us humans).

Episode 3 is when The Orville announced itself as something atypical. The story concerned the birth of a female to a race of creatures that are all male. Conditioned conventions of values were leading us in one direction — that gender reassignment on an infant for reasons purely based on archaic, “backward” thinking regarding a culture the crew didn’t understand, would resolve with at least one of the parents seeing the light. They didn’t, and the show ended with them having the surgery performed. Tradition and cultural tastes simply overrode what the rest considered moral or proper. Just like the real world we live in. It was a fake-out and a bold move, and the ending felt wrong and sad, but also conveyed the reality of having to accept issues and cultures we don’t understand and cannot influence. Depending on your POV, this episode was either PC or non-PC, making it very smart.

Similarly, the pre-flight divorce and on-board reunion of Captain Mercer and Commander Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki, the almost-was TV Wonder Woman) is handled with a level of maturity and sophistication that one may not normally associate with MacFarlane. Their breakup and slow reconciliation between has mostly been handled in a serious manner, interspersed with bitter jokes from Mercer, and they don’t seem forced.

I suspect this is the crux of the problem so many have with The Orville — it’s playing against their definitions of who MacFarlane is, and of what MacFarlane should be doing. There’s really no gross-out, or even juvenile humor, and tonally, the show is dramatically different than anything MacFarlane has done to date, and many critics’ opinions of the show were formed before they saw a single frame of it; their reviews then simply conformed to their preconceptions.

Yes, there is an obvious Star Trek: The Next Generation influence, and it’s most apparent in the costuming, set design, and character selection. This isn’t necessarily a lazy rip-off, but rather a canny move — MacFarlane has given us familiar elements to better ease us into his somewhat unfamiliar premise. I think it’s interesting that The Orville feels more like Star Trek than Star Trek: Discovery, which is dour and lacking charm; both critical elements within the Trek franchise.

Don’t take my word for it — previous Star Trek directors Brannon Braga, James L. Conway, and Jonathan Frakes see some merit in The Orville, as they’ve all directed episodes. And fortunately, while professional critics hate it (20% on Rotten Tomatoes), the mass audience reception on the same site is much more encouraging with an 89% score.

So give The Orville a look, you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Trailer

  • dufonrafal .

    Thank you, I almost didn’t watch it because of the critics, but after seeing the audience, the viewers ratings, and finally this, I want for it!

    No regrets, I love it.

  • So, basically this is going to end up being another ‘Firefly’?

  • PAUL

    This really is a better show than all of the naysayers would have anyone
    believe. Knowing that many of the conclusions drawn in early reviews might have been made based solely on Seth McFarlane’s prior works makes sense. Part of me thinks “ah ha! He tricked you by delivering something with depth!” but then I wonder if that might also be the show’s downfall as most people might not give it a chance based on those preconceived notions. I have not seen Firefly myself but I am going to be upset if The Orville ends up the same way at the end of season 1.

  • Karl Andre

    Yes at first I was disappointed because I expected this to be off the wall like family guy or space balls and I think there in lays the bad critic reception because EVERYONE expected it to be that way BUT it is not he has a little light humor and sarcasm in there but its mostly serious NOT as serious as say Star Trek Discovery BUT I have to say I like the Orville after I got over my initial disappointment not being as comedic and off the wall as I expected. It stands on its own and so far I have not disliked any episodes and I am still watching it.

  • jwhyrock

    The show is excellent. Anyone complaining is deaf, dumb and blind. The problem with people is they go into everything with preconceived notions. This is why actors get typecast into roles they usually don’t break free from. It’s the opposite of art. It’s also why amazing TV shows usually fail, because of the lack of intellect in the general public.

  • Rick firestone

    Critics don’t know what they’re talking about.. it’s a decent show..not as funny as I expected but not as dumb either.Seth McFarland is a better actor than I expected,too.. cast is talented..if I see a flaw , it’s some of the cheap C G I scenes..either due to the budget or camp value.. should do okay

  • Kevin Taylor

    I don’t understand why Orville needs defending. I love it. That being said, I had to rewatch the first episode to really get what they’re trying to do with the show. This was because I came in to that first episode expecting a farce like Family Guy. I found it completely unfunny by comparison. Once I realized they weren’t aiming for a SciFi comedy but instead a SciFi WITH a bit of comedy, that first episode took on new dimensions when I rewatched it. I’m hooked on this show now.

    My only fear is that Fox won’t understand the gem they have there and it will get the same treatment Firefly did.

  • Robert Starcher

    As a fan of Star Trek (all of them), I love this show. It’s not as heavy, sprinkled with just enough humor, and serious enough for Sci Fi fans. The sets and special effects are wonderfully done, and Mr. MacFarlane does a great job, in my opinion. Much better than having to subscribe to a new service I don’t want or need by CBS! I feel like Seth is a fan boy.

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