The Orville

Thoughts from the First Two Episodes

The Orville is a weird beast.

The media will criticize it for the easy and obvious reasons: “It doesn’t know if it is a satire or an earnest drama.” “Seth McFarlane has a juvenile, even jejune, sense of humor.” “There is a black woman but she’s too wise and thus a stereotype.” And so on.

Here’s the thing about TV, though: At the end of the day, a show is either enjoyable, or it’s not.

The Orville is not a show for the ages. It’s not much to talk about around a water cooler. Its cinematography won’t be studied in even the most obscure electives at film school. The musical score is a forgery of motifs from its more earnest forebear. It’s not even the funniest thing on television, or even close.

But it works. It shouldn’t, but it does.

It’s a Star Trek for today.

In an era where Twitter has turned television into a nationwide game of “gotcha,” the only way a physics-ignoring interplanetary drama featuring human-with-funky-makeup aliens can be taken seriously is to not take itself seriously.

Episode Two nearly lampshaded this when acting captain Allara asked the helmsman how long it would take to reach their new destination and his reply was, “As soon as you like, Sir. You’re the captain.”

Translation: Our travel speed is a function of narrative convenience; this has always been true since the day warp engines were invented and there is no use pretending otherwise.

Star Trek had its moments. But far and away, each series is dominated — if we are being honest — with a lot of low-concept, low-stakes episodes that few even care to remember. It was TV.

What McFarlane and co. have correctly bet on is that adding some humor to an already-absurd premise doesn’t ruin a show; it makes it enjoyable even to today’s jaded audiences.

I’ll never tell you The Orville is a must-see. But you know what? I’m watching it, and that’s more than I can say for most of the Star Trek corpus.


September 19th, 2017
Alan Hogan (@alanhogan).  Contact · About