Seth MacFarlane is known as the comedian who manages to do crazy controversial stuff yet has a discerning intellectual personality. While casual viewers of Seth MacFarlane may not know this, he was often a person who would show his sci-fi/geek side often appearing on episodes of “Enterprise” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” when they were on the air; it was only when Family Guy appeared on Adult Swim and the show garnered a fanbase (which would get the show uncanceled) that MacFarlane was able to express that side more fluently creating comedies like Ted while exploring his sciency side with a reboot of “Cosmos”.
I can imagine that Seth MacFarlane wanted to create a sci-fi series that hearkened back to the past; he was raised around Star Trek and other sci-fi series that popped up so The Orville would be a natural show for him to create. But what if the intention of the show grew beyond the intent to make a sci-fi show, what if he foolishly tried to inject some MacFarlane humor and some form of hook that would make it stand out from the rest of the sci-fi shows?
The first episode sets up the premise of the show as a “star-trek like show about a crew who take a ship through various adventures in space” except mixing in “workplace comedy with various rowdy characters and straight men to balance things out”. The two main characters play a divorced couple which is basically the shows excuse to put in as many relationship bickering/jokes as possible which gets tiring quick as constant characters obviously mention the tension in case they’ve forgotten; it does play similarities to “Galaxy Quest” in that the two main characters in that film had a similar relationship but that wasn’t the main focus of the movie compared to “The Orville” in which it is the main focus since almost every minute of it’s 44 minute runtime contains a relationship joke.
The other characters have potential and are good, they exist to fill out roles that could potentially be explored in future episodes should the show go past it’s first season. Seeing these characters on screen gives me an interest in this show in that there entire worlds are going to be flipped upsidedown; they may change for the better, for the worse but everything they’ve known and believed in will be put to the test throughout the series. But the show doesn’t make that clear as it’s focused on milking it’s two main characters until they can’t get any mileage out of them anymore.
The sci-fi elements that are around them are done in a respectable way. The world that was built for the show is highly detailed and highly researched; everything has a specific visual style from the buildings to the interiors to the devices to the clothes that they wear… The plots and science behind the show are well constructed and hold up under repeat viewings with nothing seeming implausible or out-of-place; there’s also a sense of seriousness underneath that jokey nature as everything has stakes and sometimes everything is at risk.
I have to respect MacFarlane for putting in a lot of work to craft the visual identity of the show and of course, detailing the things way work and social relations and it’s all very technical stuff that one like MacFarlane could pull off. It shows that he is devoted to the craft a creating a universe with alien races, technology, visual identity and organizations and if there’s one thing The Orville will be remembered for, it’ll be the world it built.
However… The show itself can only last so long on it’s sci-fi groundings. Take away that and you have a lame relationship comedy about two divorced people where the only humor comes from them. How is the show going to grow and evolve if that’s the only apparent source of humor? Where is the future direction of the show if it’s about a divorced couple? And do you remember
“The Michael J. Fox Show” about a WNBC anchor played by Michael J. Fox? Well that’s where The Orville got the arc they introduced at the end of the episode from. I’m not going to spoil it, but I will ask what a show’s future is if it involves one of the main characters pulling the strings on the other.
If you’ve enjoyed The Orville’s first episode then you have a rough road of yourself as the show will struggle to prove itself in the crowded TV landscape. Seth MacFarlane has done a good job at making a 80s/90s sci-fi show but it’s middled in a hook that is limited and will drive viewers away leaving the show as a creation for syndication more than anything else. The show better find a different hook and fast because at this rate, it won’t last 5 episodes.