Seth MacFarlane is very excited to begin his run as the captain of The Orville. The upcoming FOX dramedy, set about 400 years in the future, stars the Family Guy veteran as Ed Mercer, the newly appointed captain of the U.S.S. Orville. Mercer’s elation is tempered by frustration when he learns his new first officer is Kelly Grayson (played by Friday Night Lights and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Adrianne Palicki), who also happens to be his ex-wife.
The series’ ensemble features an interesting blend of comedy veterans (Norm MacDonald, MacFarlane’s American Dad cohort Scott Grimes) and more traditionally serious dramatic actors, like Legends of Tomorrow and Alias star Victor Garber and Penny Johnson Jerald, who already has some starship experience from her days on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The show’s early promos have promised a mix of Star Trek’s storytelling and aesthetic with Galaxy Quest’s irreverent sense of sci-fi humor.
In a newly released clip, MacFarlane’s Mercer endures an awkward first meeting with Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon), a Klingon-esque officer who comes from a single-sex species.
While promos for the series have been intriguing, The Orville is a big creative risk for both FOX and MacFarlane. The network’s recent track record with science fiction and genre shows has been bumpy, to say the least. For every success story, like Gotham or Lucifer, there have been a handful of mismanaged failures, like Sleepy Hollow, Minority Report, and Almost Human. And while it’s probably unfair to hold the current network masterminds accountable for the relatively ancient transgressions against Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Dollhouse, that pain still lingers for many genre fans.
MacFarlane, one of the titans of 21st century animation, has had a much more mixed record with live-action endeavors. His feature film directorial debut, Ted, was a hit, but the dirty teddy bear’s sequel underperformed, and his western spoof, A Million Ways To Die In The West, was a critical and box office bomb.
Despite his bumpy live-action history, MacFarlane’s love of Star Trek is genuine and well documented. Former Enterprise captain Patrick Stewart has become a frequent collaborator of MacFarlane’s, and he hired former Star Trek writers and composers to work on the Neil deGrasse Tyson-starring revival of Cosmos he executive produced. Indeed, an argument can be made The Orville’s previews have invoked the spirit and feel of classic Star Trek more than the actual upcoming revival series, Star Trek: Discovery (which is admittedly aiming to reinvent the franchise). The Orville has a lot of factors working against it, but it appears MacFarlane’s heart is in the right place, as he attempts to marry his love for the science fiction institution with his trademark brand of irreverent humor.
The Orville premieres September 10, 2017 on FOX.
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