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TV Series Review

Sometimes people surprise you.

Take Ed Mercer, captain of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level craft in the Planetary Union. About a year ago—that'd be 2418, by the way—Ed got the shock of his life when he discovered his wife in bed with another … well, let's just say sentient male. That led to a personal crisis that taxed his sobriety and nearly tanked his career.

But someone opted to give the guy a second chance and a captain's chair anyway. Undoubtedly disappointing many a Planetary Union office pool, Ed hasn't messed up yet.

Well, he hasn't messed up badly enough to lose his job, anyway.

Detecting Life Readings on the Surface, Captain

Fox's The Orville brims with these sorts of personal salvage operations. Gordon Malloy may be as talented a helmsman as there is, but his career was nearly capsized by sheering off a spaceship door while trying to impress a girl. Navigator John Lamarr loves to drink soda at the helm and has a certain, shall we say, laid-back response to authority. Alara Kitan, the ship's head of security, may be super-strong, but she's just 23 years old. Are we supposed to believe this … this girl is up for that kind of responsibility (some on the ship wonder)?

And then there's Kelly Grayson, the ship's talented first officer. Oh, she's efficient enough. But she just happens to be Ed's ex-wife. And though they may still have feelings for one another, Grayson knows that whoever a first mate may mate with, it can't be the captain.

Only Dr. Claire Finn, the ship's medical officer, actually seems qualified to serve on the Orville. Indeed, she's overqualified. So why serve on the Orville when she could get a post on a much more prestigious ship? Claire says she always goes to the post where she feels she's most needed … and boy, is the need here great. But while she might make a great doctor, she sometimes worries that she's not a great mother—at least not the mother her two boys, Marcus and Ty, deserve.

So, maybe the crew's interstellar resumes aren't exactly stellar. Maybe their personal lives are problematic. But somehow the Orville's crew manages to navigate the ship out of the airlock anyway. And as they cruise through the not-always-friendly cosmos, they find ways to accentuate their strengths, minimize their weaknesses and have a little fun, too.

That said, the Orville's adventures aren't always safe—for those on the ship … or for those watching the show.

I'm a Television Critic, Not a Doctor!

The Orville feels like a concept straight out of some sort of entertainment-centric Mad Libs exercise: a Star Trek clone-spoof, created by and starring gak-meister Seth MacFarlane.

MacFarlane's work and Plugged In's discernment ethos jibe about as well together as Kim Jong-un and Gandhi. We called MacFarlane's Family Guy the "most obnoxious show on broadcast television." We described American Dad as "MacFarlane at his most foul and MaFarlanest." His movie Ted? "A veritable fire-hose stream of vulgarity."

But frankly, MacFarlane—an outspoken atheist—couldn't care less about what we say. He's called the folks who work at the Parents Television Council (a conservative watchdog organization that shares some common philosophical ground with Plugged In) "terrible human beings" and compares their criticism of him as being akin to "getting hate mail from Hitler."

So maybe you should sit down when I tell you that The Orville … isn't awful?

This is not to say that The Orville makes for fine family viewing. It doesn't. The show includes plenty of cheap, ribald jokes and has more than its fair share of problematic content.

But The Orville's sunny, futuristic Star Trek vibe seems to dampen some of MacFarlane's crasser inclinations. He clearly respects the original source material's history and tone. He doesn't undermine the heroic, erudite vibe exuded by fabled franchise so much as he just gives it a little good-natured ribbing.

With Family Guy and American Dad, MacFarlane has given us some of the most salacious shows ever to sully television. He took humor befitting a middle school boys' locker room and took it where no lewd televised joke had gone before. But The Orville, like its characters, aspires to be something a little higher, a little better.

But don't take that as an endorsement. The Orville is relatively clean only when compared to MacFarlane's other works—not, say, Star Trek itself. Still, it's a nice corner to see MacFarlane turn, and it gives me hope that this talented-if-tawdry creator may continue to cruise in this direction, even on impulse power.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Dec. 30, 2018: "Ja'Loja"
The Orville: Sept. 10, 2017 "Old Wounds"



Readability Age Range



Seth MacFarlane as Ed Mercer; Adrianne Palicki as Kelly Grayson; Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn; Scott Grimes as Gordon Malloy; Peter Macon as Bortus; Halston Sage as Alara Kitan; J. Lee as John LaMarr; Mark Jackson as Isaac; Chad L. Coleman as Klyden; BJ Tanner as Marcus Finn; Kai Wener as Ty Finn






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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