Pilot Perception: The Orville

Orville

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: The Orville, FOX in the U.S. on Thursdays at 9/8c and City TV in Canada on Sundays at 8/7c

The Pedigree: The Orville was created and written by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), who executive produces with Brannon Braga (Star Trek), David A. Goodman (Family Guy), Jason Clark (Cosmos), and Liz Heldens (Mercy). Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directed the pilot.

The Cast & How You Know Them: MacFarlane stars with Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights). The cast also includes Penny Johnson Jerald (Castle), Scott Grimes (Justified), Peter Macon (Shameless), Halston Sage (Neighbors), J Lee (Family Guy), Mark Jackson (The Royal Today), and Chad L. Coleman (The Walking Dead).

The Premise: Like Star Trek, but Seth MacFarlane. Basically. MacFarlane plays a starship captain in command of a vessel that’s not the best and brightest of the fleet, with a crew that includes his ex-wife as first officer. In theory it’s a comedy.

A Taste:

 

What Works: Honestly, I am shallow and well-conditioned by our culture, so my first reaction to the shots of the future was pretty much “Ooh, space! Pretty!” And I actually like a lot about the premise of this show: focusing on a non-elite starship is a fun idea, and I’m totally into watching a divorced couple work through their problems while commanding a spaceship. The cast is reasonably pleasant to watch, and Victor Garber shows up in the premiere! The world-building was also surprisingly strong, though I guess that’s easier when you crib a bunch of it from Star Trek.

What Doesn’t: Okay, to talk about this, I first have to say: I generally don’t like Seth MacFarlane’s whole deal. So I was expecting this to be excruciating, filled with jokes I hated. And it … wasn’t! I’m honestly not sure if that’s good or bad — because while it made the viewing experience less terrible for me, I’m not sure it gives his fans what they want. Instead of this coming across as a Star Trek spoof with his type of humor, it was just … watered down Star Trek. There weren’t even that many jokes, good or bad. Instead, it was … slow. So slow. Everyone spoke slowly. Things happened slowly. I got bored an incredible number of times in one episode.

Our Favorite Line: “Happy Arbor Day.” (It’s mildly funny in context, I swear.)

You Might Like This if you like both Seth MacFarlane and Star Trek, I guess, but as I said, it’s not actually that MacFarlane-y, at least so far. It was so generic faux-Trek that any other year I’d suggest you try this if you’re really desperate for something new along those lines, but … actual new Star Trek starts in a week and a half, so why bother?

If You’re Interested: Watch the first episode on demand or on the FOX or City TV sites, then set your DVR. FOX has one more Sunday episode before moving to Thursdays, whereas City TV is staying with Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of FOX.)

About Kate

Kate Linnea Welsh is a New Hampshire-based writer and taxonomist. (No, that doesn't involve dead animals.) She keeps us up to date on TV news in her weekly column "Caffeine." She writes about other TV shows, books, and more at her blog and her site Read the Screen. She'd love to talk to you on Twitter: @katelinnea