The Orville Has Successfully Taken Off, But Where Will It Land?

The Orville group shot

Penny Johnson Jerald, Mark Jackson, Seth MacFarlane, Peter Macon, Scott Grimes, Adrianne Palicki, J. Lee, and Halston Sage in The Orville. Noah Schutz/FOX

I have never been a Trekkie. I’ve seen most of the Star Trek movies, and I respect the franchise, but I don’t have an obsession about it. That may be geek blasphemy to some, but it is the truth.

With that said, I appreciate many of the shows and humor that have arisen over the decades and owe a debt to Star Trek, whether it’s Futurama or the newest project, The Orville. Like many geeks and nerds, as soon as I saw the preview for Seth MacFarlane’s series, I knew I had to see it—what’s better than science fiction with a sense of humor, especially with MacFarlane behind it? I have been a bit critical of the more recent seasons of Family Guy, but I have never doubted the comic genius that is its creator.

With that said, I mark The Orville as success in the eyes of the true demographic: us! The general critics, in their constant ineptitude to give credit to good television and film, do not agree; Rotten Tomatoes currently rates the show at 20 percent among critics, but 90 percent among audiences. In my humble opinion, the rightful percentage is more like 75—it is not a perfect show, but it has massive potential.

Mercer and Grayson shake hands

Captain and first officer. Michael Becker/FOX

The general plot of the show, for those not yet familiar with it, is very much like that of many Star Trek series—an explorer ship looking to see what is out there in the depths of space—only it’s a comedy rather than a drama. One of the quirks is that the ship’s captain, Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane), ends up with his ex-wife, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), as first officer. Their failed marriage, which ended due to Grayson cheating on her husband with a blue alien, sets up for some great comedy, and I personally feel that the chemistry between the actors is fantastic. However, I have suggestions to make it better. For one, they need to limit the cheating jokes. Though the interplay between two former spouses creates a unique take in the space odyssey genre, I can only appreciate so many “cheating whore” jokes in an episode. They don’t need to go entirely—just pick your spots to make their impact much grander. Another note on this subject is the character of Grayson herself. As written, she lacks a a sense of humor without Mercer to play off; I feel she only gets laughs if both characters are arguing or attacking another character together. Let the character fly in her own independent comic splendor. (Also, a side note, please postpone a “they’re back together” episode at least until the the second season. It’s too predictable and unworthy of a show with such witty potential.)

Malloy and LaMarr on the bridge

Lieutenants Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) and John LaMarr (J. Lee). Michael Becker/FOX

Next up, I need to mention Scott Grimes‘s character, Gordon Malloy. I am a fan of Grimes, and it was actually a line from his character that made me laugh the hardest in the pilot episode. However, in the show’s third episode, “About a Girl,” there is a scene in which he is intentionally examined to prove how stupid men can be, but more importantly, how stupid he is in particular. I have no problem with Malloy being the Michael Kelso of this series, but something has to remembered: he is the helmsman, not a role just anyone can fill. I am not saying he can’t be dumb, but to paraphrase a line from Tropic Thunder, don’t go full stupid. My point is that he was portrayed as so over-the-top stupid in this episode that it actually lost any comedic presence it should have had. I think following the example of Kelso from That ’70s Show’s earliest seasons is a great goal: dumb but not incapable of thought.

These are some simple suggestions to a show I truly think can be a hit. My suggestions aside, this show has so much going for it: the cast is good, the characters have potential despite needing to be fleshed out a bit more, and there are enough delightfully random moments that even if a plot is subpar, each episode should have some laughable moments. That is more that can be said about a lot of more seasoned television shows. As it is, I like it, but I want to love it.  So cheers, Orville—I hope you keep flying!

The crew outside

The crew at work. Jordin Althaus/FOX

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