Seth MacFarlane's new Star Trek parody takes itself too seriously, and 8 other new shows this fall
Posted August 31
Maybe it's because it was created by Seth MacFarlane, the man behind popular comedies such as "Family Guy," but it seemed like his new Fox show "The Orville" would be funny.
Unfortunately, it just isn't.
In trailers, "The Orville" is portrayed as a Star Trek parody. It's set in an idealistic future where a fleet of discovery space vessels are run by an interplanetary military organization, but Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) is not the ideal leader. After he caught his wife, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), cheating on him a year before, he's fallen apart and his career has gone downhill. But he's been given one last chance with his promotion to captain of the U.S.S. Orville.
The setup for Ed's character suggests that he will be an unorthodox captain, almost an antihero. Viewers are given to expect he will likely make a lot of mistakes, maybe almost get fired before making up for it with his grit and spirit. This idea is only increased when he insists on hiring his loose cannon friend Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) as his helmsman. But in the following episodes, this setup is almost completely dropped and Ed is mostly portrayed as a competent, normal captain and Gordon as a successful, talented spaceship pilot.
Part of the show's problem is its focus. Midway through the first episode, Ed's ex-wife is hired as his first officer — apparently at her own request — and the show devolves into being all about their relationship, sacrificing every other potential plot development as a result.
Sure, this seems like a humorous premise, and occasionally it is. But it quickly gets old. The chemistry between Palicki and MacFarlane is not very strong and most of their arguing falls flat and ends up feeling repetitive and annoying.
But the show's biggest fault is simply that it takes itself too seriously. It feels like it wants to be a television version of "Galaxy Quest," but the story never goes completely into that goofy territory. Instead, the first three episodes that Fox released for press screenings just get more and more serious.
The pilot is the funniest of the first three episodes, with the next two attempting to explore controversial modern topics, in the same way the original "Star Trek" series often would. Episode two touches on the ethics of zoos; episode three dives deeply into issues of gender conformity.
Because the show can't seem to decide if it wants to be funny or serious, it doesn't really succeed at either. Moments that might be emotional and deep are interrupted with inappropriate humor and, instead of laughing or crying, viewers are left confused and bored.
Also, "The Orville" doesn't appear to have the budget to really be an action-packed Star Trek drama. The graphics are cheesy, the actors seem to be comedians trying to do drama and not really succeeding and the writing is not up to par. The show probably would have been more successful if it had gone all in with humor. Instead, it's mostly disappointing.
"The Orville" would probably get a PG-13 rating if it were a movie for some language and crude humor. The violence isn't graphic and, so far, there's almost no sexual content.
You can check out the hourlong episodes of "The Orville" starting Sept. 10 on Fox.
Fox is not the only station with a version of Star Trek planned for this fall, only CBS is actually going all in with what looks to be an action-packed drama. Fifty years after its first episode aired, Star Trek is back with a series that will take place 10 years before the original story. Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, a woman who was raised by Spock's father and is now the first officer aboard the starship Discovery. Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame will appear as Captain Lorca, and it was announced that Jonathan Frakes from "Star Trek: Next Generation" will direct at least one episode. The only question is: Given the apparent pants-wearing females in this show, how do all the women end up in skirts on Captain Kirk's ship in 10 years? "Star Trek: Discovery" will air Sept. 24, exclusively on the streaming service CBS All Access.
A new prequel series to "The Big Bang Theory," CBS will air "Young Sheldon" on Sept. 25, which follows the life of child genius Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) in East Texas. Sheldon skips ahead to high school at a young age and deals with trying to fit in to a culture and family with which he has little in common. The half-hour comedy will air after "The Big Bang Theory," though it will feel different as it's filmed single camera with no laugh track.
"Me, Myself and I" follows one man's life over three distinct periods — simulatenously. Audiences will follow Alex Riley as a 14-year-old in 1991 making the move to Los Angeles after his mom gets remarried, then as a 40-year-old in the present day dealing with a tough divorce and custody problems, and finally as a 64-year-old in 2042, deciding to retire and start over after suffering a heart attack. The show airs on CBS Sept. 25.
This is an ABC show about a doctor who isn't good with people but is really good at wowing everyone with his medical abilities. Wait, is this "House"? No, but it just so happens to be created by the same guy who created "House," David Shore. Shaun Murphy (played by Freddie Highmore) is a young surgeon (as in he looks like he's 12) with autism and savant syndrome who relocates to a hospital's surgical unit where he has to navigate his new social situations to prove his worth and his knowledge. "The Good Doctor" airs on Sept. 25.
NBC's new show "The Brave" also airs Sept. 25, featuring both the behind-the-scenes team of surveillance technology analysts and the undercover special ops team that goes on missions to protect their country and its citizens in some of the most dangerous places in the world.
The first edition of a new anthology series about real-life crime stories, "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders" is an in-depth dramatization of the Menendez brothers' trial for killing their parents in Beverly Hills. Leslie Abramson stars as Edie Falco, the defense attorney. The show airs on NBC Sept. 26.
The major networks seem to be following a theme here, as CBS's "Seal Team," which airs Sept. 27, feels almost too similar to NBC's "The Brave." The main difference may be that this show also dives into the personal lives of those in the Navy Seals' elite squad, Tier One, not only showing their dangerous missions but also how those missions affect their families and mental health. David Boreanaz of "Bones" and "Angel" stars as Tier One leader Jason Hayes.
The comic book series will air its first chapter in Imax theaters on Sept. 1, followed by the full series starting Sept. 29 on ABC. "Marvel's Inhumans" follows a race of superhumans who live on Attilan, unknown to humankind, ruled by Black Bolt (Anson Mount) and his wife, Medusa (Serinda Swan). Black Bolt's brother Maximus (Iwan Rheon, aka Ramsey Snow on "Game of Thrones") wants to expand their influence to Earth. Only time will tell if this new series will be good enough to rise above the torrent of Marvel television shows and movies coming out these days.