When Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville premiered, I wasn’t impressed. The show was flat, the jokes didn’t seem to land, and the plot was mediocre. At best, I figured Fox (who is notorious for pulling the plug on good sci-fi) might give this new series a half-season run before shutting down operations.
I decided to give it another shot. I know that first episodes have to introduce characters. Sometimes, that unfortunately leaves the story lacking.
I’m glad that I gave it that second chance.
Critics are panning the show. Audiences are praising it. It’s the continuation of Star Trek: The Next Generation that we’ve been waiting on for over 2 decades. Here’s the kicker: no one in The Orville is perfect. These are real characters with flaws. Deeply human flaws.
Most people I know who watched the show were expecting a parody of Star Trek, but the show is serious sci-fi, with the occasional penis joke thrown in for good measure.
In the second episode, About a Girl, two Moclan characters on the ship have a newborn girl. Moclan society is an all-male society (males lay eggs to birth young). Females are rarely born and are considered a birth defect. This is a routine correction made after birth. No one in this society gives it a second thought. The human doctor on board the ship refuses to perform the operation. That’s where the cultural clash begins.
The episode touched on gender equality, gender identity, genital mutilation (circumcision), cultural differences, unconditional love, parental rights, and the rights of individuals to make their own decisions. And, it done all of it without preaching to the audience.
That’s what many critics are complaining about. They wanted the show to take a definitive stance on the issues that aligned with their viewpoints. All wrapped up into a neat little bow inside of 40 minutes or so.
That’s the easy way out.
Here’s where The Orville outshines Star Trek: in TNG, Captain Picard would’ve convinced an entire world to change their views based on a single cultural clash. In TOS, Kirk would’ve broken regulations, got in a fight, and had his shirt ripped to shreds to save the girl.
That’s not how things work in the real world.
Few episodes of any show have been as tragic while ending on a high note.
Critics also want these issues tackled deeply on prime-time television, which is “family time” in most American households. If you go too deep into a subject, you risk losing the audience. Parents can’t explore the issues with their kids. And, you alienate many viewers. MacFarlane walked a fine line while framing the issues for the average U.S. consumer.
The Orville is still rough. MacFarlane as the captain is probably the show’s weakest link. Adrianne Palicki, his cheating ex-wife now turned first officer, may be able to offer some balance. Their chemistry was perfect in episode 2 (the episode that actually got me hooked on the show), and I hope they continue building on that.
Right now, the show can’t seem to figure out if it’s a comedy or a hard-hitting social commentary. It’s a little of both. Finding the right balance will be key to show’s success.
There are definitely some cringe-worthy scenes. However, I sat through the entire first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer before getting to the good stuff, so I can forgive any show some bad moments.
Each week has gotten better. Let’s see if Thursday’s episode can continue what has turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable series.