The Orville is a beautiful show. It has all the makings of a wonderful sci-fi experience with enough boyish humor to keep us entertained. It doesn't take itself too seriously, it keeps us interested and arguably does a better job of staying true to the Star Trek mythos than Discovery itself.
But...there is a problem.
Whilst the first season of The Orville was quite good and had solid audience and critical ratings, it did suffer from an error that is all too common in TV today. Where does it fit? Sure, the concept of a humorous sci-fi show with many tropes and slapstick elements is a fun one but for how long. Family Guy and American Dad were genuinely great shows when they came out but suffered tremendously once the storylines became redundant and repetitive. You see, the shows that last today have an original idea or particular niche sustaining them. With Star Trek you have the space odyssey of the stars. With Star Wars you have traditional Biblical savior themes with space opera. Sure, now it seems pretty good, awesome even, but therein lies the problem. One season, two seasons even three and suddenly you have no more story. How many penis jokes can you make before it becomes stale? Sure, true moral stories with relevant backgrounds in modern times are good, but there is still the question of how many the Orville can do before it becomes another one of those shows that exists just because the network thought it was relevant at one point. We have all seen this happen before. Take Firefly for example. A truly cerebral show that really could have pushed the sci-fi genre in new directions. It died after the first season. Ratings are never kind to shows that are seen as too ‘similar’ or identical to existing TV shows. Firefly was great but it was basically a western in space. Elements of Battlestar and Star Trek were far too common, thus the masses failed to identify it as different or relevant and ratings plummeted. I feel like Seth does have the creativity(not to mention originality) to sustain it beyond the second or even third season, but eventually the quality will take a hit. We’ve already seen the big, bad fascist empires in space(read: Klingons). We’ve already done the Cold War. Race issues, gender equality, democracy, justice, egalitarianism, science vs man are all wonderful concepts that have been done to death in the traditional Star Trek way the Orville is representing them in. Plus, there is the also the problem with his viewing audience demographic.
Who is it for?
I get Star Trek. It’s aimed at us Trekkies and more recently with the special effects, the general viewer too. Millennials can be impressed with the diversity and political correctness while we can sit back and enjoy the nostalgia. I get Supernatural and it’s appeal to young, white males because of the wish fulfillment. I get the appeal of Gotham to the nerd populace. What I don’t get is who exactly is The Orville for. Star Trek viewers may make the occasional guffaw at the borrowing of tropes but again they have a higher quality graphical experience with Discovery that recently got much better in storytelling. The political correctness and reflection of times is also something nearly every show of today has so that’s out. You could say the special effects, but while the TNG special effects looked pretty damn exciting in the 90s, they look horrible now. And that is the problem with The Orville having that quality in CGI really. The sets look flimsy, the CGI like a fan film and the costumes are just well....
But I do like it and want it to succeed.
I really want The Orville to succeed. The times are really crap these days. War and other things have created our vision of the future to be entirely too dystopian. To have such a series in the modern era that focuses on the good of the future, the promise, the optimism that we had back in the day is truly something to preserve. And here’s my rather humble suggestion to Seth Macfarlane: take bold steps to the future. Don’t let the past define your series. The spaceship story is good but just take a look at DS9. A space station story was unheard of in the time it came out but it is now considered one of the best of the series. The reason? A wartime Federation was unheard of at the time it released but doing so provided the space(pardon the pun) it needed to survive and thrive. It might not be easy. It might not even make sense now. But there are so many places you can take the series. Anthology. Drama. Sci-fi. History. Just because something started out one way doesn’t mean it has to end that way. Lastly, end the comedy. Just do it. The jokes are juvenile and forced and to be honest, you don’t really need them. The driving force behind your series is the power of its storyline, let it redefine and make your story bold and successful. And, as always, good luck and Godspeed.