The Orville: Season 1 – Review

The Orville premieres Sunday, September 10, 8pm on Fox. The series moves to its regular timeslot on Thursday, September 21, at 9pm.

What if Galaxy Quest could have been a real show?

What if I told you that The Orville was that show?

When it was first announced, the entire concept of a show like The Orville seemed odd. Seth MacFarlane, beloved cash cow at Fox, set out to create a different type of Sci-Fi show that he intended to not only write and direct, but star in as well. On paper, this sounded like an overwhelming idea, but being a fan of MacFarlane I was very intrigued on how a show with such a different perspective on a very saturated genre would manage on a major network.

The Orville follows the adventures of Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) and his diverse group of crewmen on a mid-level Intergalactic ship that embarks on various adventures across the Universe. The show boasts a firm balance in both elements of drama and comedy and does well to explore both aspects as it pertains to various characters and stories on a weekly basis. I understand that I am making that sound way more sophisticated than any Seth MacFarlane product should, but I believe that with this show he’s managed to turn a creative corner by taking a well-trodden genre, usually rooted in a dramatic narrative, and infuse it with enough comedy that the final product is something that I found to be unique and enjoyable.

From the first episode, I could see that I would enjoy this show. It was light-hearted, well-paced and presided to be a fun watch that did not require much effort. The story and characters were diverse and engaging enough to keep my attention over the span of its runtime, but all the while I felt as if this show was ultimately destined to be best served as something to have on in the background while you are doing something else.

And then it happened…

I was halfway through the first episode when my wife spoke up and said that this show reminded her of Galaxy Quest, the 1999 Sci-Fi comedy film about a TV show sharing many similarities to The Orville. This immediately changed what I was seeing on screen. Through that lense, the show began taking on a completely different feel that allowed me to see a deeper level of humor that was a show trying to presently exist, but coming across as something from another era. MacFarlane shows great ability in capturing the essence of something that might have aired in the 60s or 70s and yet frame it in such a way where it appears as something new, funny and relevant in today’s television landscape. Through this guise, The Orville takes on new life, one that is even funnier than I believe intended and as I watched more I felt as if this were the closest I would ever get to watching the actual Galaxy Quest on television.

All the usual Sci-Fi tropes are embedded within this show; new captain who wants to prove his worth, first officer who is bold, daring and sassy, straight-laced crew members from various alien races whose customs are extremely bizarre, therefore funny and of course a robot who serves as the voice of reason, but these common characteristics do not detract from the overall show. The Orville succeeds in showcasing these tropes by assembling a very strong supporting cast. MacFarlane acting is not stretched anywhere outside his comfort zone, but in not doing so he is able to have the spotlight shine on the supporting cast who is comprised of many veteran TV and film actors such as Scott Grimes (Band of Brothers) and Chad Coleman (The Walking Dead) who get ample screen time and storylines tailored to better show character depth. Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention the addition of Adrianne Palicki, who puts in solid work as First Officer Kelly Grayson but will forever be Tyra from Friday Night Lights to me.

At its heart, The Orville is a fun watch, one that will be an enjoyable addition to my weekly TV schedule. If I were to miss a week or two, that wouldn’t hurt too badly. If seen through the Galaxy Quest filter, the show can take on a loveable and easy-going feel that caused me to overlook some of its weaknesses in favor of cheering on a show that is this different. I could foresee it taking several episodes to have viewers fully come around to it, but I believe the first two are quite strong in establishing character, story and a clear vision for where the show will venture during this season. I am also pleased with it only having a 13-episode order which I believe helps the overall narrative from becoming stale and look forward to rewatching the first episode when it premieres after Sunday football.

I give The Orville a B+.

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