Tuesday, December 11, 2018

TV Show Review: The Orville - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun science fiction
Cons: Some of the jokes; hard to get to know large cast
The Bottom Line:
Blast off into space
Sci fi plus some comedy
Equals fun for us

“There is No Pizza Party.  I Repeat, There is No Pizza Party.”

While I mostly read mysteries, I do enjoy good science fiction; I just don't have room in my to be read pile for it.  So, when Fox announced The Orville for their lineup last fall, I wanted to give it a shot.  After all a mix of comedy and science fiction sounded like fun.

The show is set 400 years in the future as Captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) is finally offered his own ship in the space fleet.  His mission is to go out and explore the far reaches of the galaxy.  There's just one catch, his ex-wife, Commander Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), is also on the ship as his second in command.  They haven't seen each other since Ed caught Kelly in bed with another man.  On the plus side, his best friend Gordon (Scott Grimes) is also on board.  The crew is made up of various other humans and aliens, including Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), Lt. Commander Bortus (Peter Macon), and Lt. Alara Kitan (Halston Sage) to name a few.

Over the course of the 12 episodes we get this season, Alara must take command of the ship when Ed and Kelly are captured and placed in an alien's zoo, the crew races to rescue a ship on a collision course with a star, and the crew must rescue Dr. Finn and her two kids when their vacation goes wrong.

Now, if this is sounding like a Star Trek clone to you, you'd be right.  It may not be Star Trek, but it feels like it.  Considering how much I have enjoyed the episodes of that franchise I've watched over the years, that's not a bad thing.  One complaint I have heard about the show is that they recycled some particular storylines from that franchise and other similar shows.  I have vast gaps in my science fiction watching, so I didn't recognize any of the episodes being cloned here.  I just know that I enjoyed the shows as I was watching them.

If you sit down to watch this show expecting comedy on the level of a sitcom or a spoof like Galaxy Quest, you will be disappointed.  While this show does work in more jokes than a typical science fiction show, it still takes itself seriously enough to draw us into the plot of the week.  In fact, there might be whole acts with only one or two jokes.  That wasn't an issue for me since I was enjoying what I was watching.  Since this is a Seth MacFarlane show, some of the humor didn't appeal to me anyway.  This is the creator of Family Guy, after all.  I was actually glad that the humor was a limited part of the show as a result.  I may have cringed at some of the gags, but I definitely found others to laugh at each week.

Based on some pre-launch interviews, I was worried going into the show that it would lecture us with liberal ideas.  And yes, some liberal ideas are presented over the course of the season.  However, I felt like they managed to work them in without lecturing us, and most episodes were just intended to be fun.  Only one episode and storyline felt like it was a true lecture, and even then, it didn't work out the way I feared it would when I first heard about it.  If you are looking to be entertained, you can easily do that.  That's the sign of good writing.

My biggest knock against the show is the size of the crew.  With only 12 episodes, I didn't really feel like we got to know all the characters.  I guess I'm used to the smaller casts of most of the shows I watch, or shows that start out with a smaller cast and slowly add characters over the years.  Either way, this is a minor issue for me overall.  And it certainly isn't a slam on the actors, all of who do wonderful jobs each week, and when they get episodes that highlight their characters, they all shine.

The special effects on this show are wonderful.  It feels like we are in space for an hour each week.  In fact, it was the lead time for the effects that were one of the reasons we only got 12 episodes for the first season.  As much as I would have liked more, I'm not complaining if it keeps the quality up.

Those who enjoy good science fiction need to watch The Orville.  Season 1 was entertaining, and I'm hoping when season 2 premiers later this month, it will prove to be just as much fun.


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