'The Orville' - Season 1 TV Review

"The Orville" is Seth MacFarlane's simultaneous parody and homage to "Star Trek." An argument can be made he's taking a swing at other SF sources as well, but "Star Trek" is unquestionably his primary source. In fact, this is "Star Trek" in everything but name.

I don't have a good history with MacFarlane: I never liked "Family Guy" or "American Dad!", so I haven't watched them. I didn't much like "Ted," and hated "A Million Ways to Die in the West." And yet he apparently played a major part in getting Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Cosmos" funded, so apparently he has a pretty strong interest in Astronomy. The point is, I approached this one with caution.

The Orville is an exploratory spaceship, with an ensemble crew led by Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane). The crew is slightly more dysfunctional than any Star Trek crew, and a bit cruder. Mercer's pilot is his best friend ("Gordon Malloy," played by Scott Grimes) - he's a bonehead, but an excellent pilot. His first officer is his ex-wife ("Kelly Grayson," played by Adrianne Palicki), whose infidelity led him to a year-long slump that almost stopped him ever getting a command. Etc.

But - and these are the two reasons why I got through the series - the humour isn't as crass as I expected from MacFarlane (it's definitely still a bit awkward and crude, just not as much as some of his other stuff), and his characters inevitably dig themselves out of their momentary obnoxiousness to prove themselves decent and humane. My favourite joke of the season was from Malloy who, after a video call from a ship in need of help, said "Captain, respectfully submit that the attractiveness of the ship's occupant makes the rescue imperative." Which brings me to another interesting detail: the attractive occupant was Charlize Theron. I may not be a fan of MacFarlane, but Theron (his co-star in "A Million Ways to Die ...") apparently is. Likewise, his other co-star from that movie, Liam Neeson, did a cameo in another episode as a talking head. I guess they like working with him ...

By the third episode ("About a Girl"), the series was tackling the politics of gender reassignment. This is a very Star-Trek-like thing, using science fiction as a platform for social commentary and an indirect look at current politics - and this is something that carries through the whole series. In the end, I found "The Orville" rather enjoyable.