If you’re looking for a good show to watch right now, look no further than Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. Season 3 just started, which I haven’t seen yet, but seasons 1 and 2 are some of the best sci-fi I’ve seen in a long time. My partner and I recently rewatched those two seasons to prep for season 3, since there was such a long break in between, and I’m so excited to see what the latest episodes have in store. The reviews have been amazing.
In a previous post, I wrote about how the aspirational sci-fi tale is an important part of the genre. A show like Star Trek: The Next Generation falls into this category, as it depicts main characters who are typically good and always striving to do to the right thing, especially when they are faced with tough moral or ethical dilemmas. I really love Star Trek and love that aspect of it.
One thing that I noted about this type of tale, however, is that it becomes tricky to write a proper character arc over many episodes and seasons for characters who are always good and doing the right thing.
Star Trek: TNG might suffer from this a bit, but makes up for it by offering the viewer interesting plots and dilemmas to reason through along with the characters.
This is where I think The Orville is actually able to improve upon its predecessors. Standing on Star Trek’s shoulders, The Orville has a strong focus on character development, primarily with the two main characters, Captain Ed Mercer and Commander Kelly Grayson, played by Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki respectively. Ex-spouses, these two go from being freshly divorced with many relational issues to gradually becoming good friends again and even falling back in love. This interpersonal drama is the main character hook for the show and is actually very compelling. Of course, “will they won’t they’s” always are!
The thematic wrapping of this premise is the sci-fi adventure promised to the audience, with both hilarious moments and true ethical dilemmas in between. Somehow MacFarlane and his team have been able to create an aspirational sci-fi tale that is equal parts comedic and compelling without going overboard in one direction or another. It really speaks to the talent and writing ability of that team to be able to keep this balance. I believe it’s part of what makes the show so dynamic. And make no mistake, the secondary characters also undergo their fare share of character development, again keeping the show, and each episode, interesting and compelling.
It’s easily one of the best, if not the best, shows on television right now!
So if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t delay! Start watching The Orville today! (#rhymealert)
That’s all for now!
Update on July 2, 2022: I feel compelled to add an update to this post since we’re five episodes into season 3 and it’s turning out to be quite disappointing. I’m not sure what happened, but I can only surmise that the move from Fox to Hulu brought with it more studio oversight for Seth MacFarlane. Topics that he covered so masterfully in the first two seasons are now being butchered in this season, and it just doesn’t make sense unless the studio is dictating to him how the episodes should go.
Season 3 so far has none of the charm, character development, and interpersonal relationships and banter that made seasons 1 and 2 so good, with their balance of sci-fi and comedy. It’s suffering from the exact downside I noted above, which is that various adventurous plots are trying to take over for the lack of characterization.
I might right a separate post more focused on this later. But anyway, seasons 1 and 2 are still excellent, but season 3 might as well be a different show.