Why are Critics and Audiences Split Over Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville

Orville 1Last Sunday night, FOX aired The Orville, a science-fiction comedy show created by the one-and-only Seth MacFarlane, much more famous for Family Guy and American Dad. What is strange is how divided critics and audiences are split on this particular show. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 17 percent, which is quite low and would usually signal a definite cancellation. However, it has a 90 percent love from audiences. How in the world can this happen?

Is The Orville Pilot Recap

I guess since I write online, this makes me a critic. I will have to say that I was less than thrilled at Seth MacFarlane’s foray into space fiction, but I do think that 17 percent is too low of a grade. I would at least give it a passing grade, and yes, that would be a D, something in the 50-65 range.

The Orville opens by showing the New York of the future of 2147, and the world looks very lush and green. I will have to commend the special effects on this from the get-go.

Ed Mercer (MacFarlane), the main character, comes home and discovers his wife, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), in bed with an alien. The alien is ugly and blue, and spews blue liquid from his head because…it’s Seth MacFarlane, and he is known for pushing the envelope, and why wouldn’t you want to see how an alien has an orgasm?

This is the tone set at the opening, but really fails to deliver for the rest of the episode. The issue is that I am glad, because I would rather see a lot of great science-fiction action rather than MacFarlane’s normal gross-out humor. The rest of the episode is essentially a better-looking episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In fact, after Mercer receives the command of the Orville, which looks to be a brand-new vessel, the crew is introduced rather lazily. By lazily, he just gets his senior officers together and essentially talks to them about their positions. It isn’t very exciting, and it is more tell than show.

The first mission of the Orville sends them to a planet for a supply mission. As it turns out, this planet has some new technology that can age something or someone 100 years in a few seconds. As it turns out, this weapon is wanted by the Krill, a race who travels in green spaceships like the Romulans and look like Klingons.

There’s an interesting way where they stop the villains, which is a mix of technology and strategy. I’m not going to spoil it, but during the credits promises a lot of episodes with a lot of space action.

Is The Orville Worth Watching?

Yeah, the Orville feels like Star Trek, which is the point, apparently. In fact, the only “original” plot point comes from finding our that Mercer’s second-in-command is his ex-wife, creating awkward tension. The problem is that a similar awkwardness was done on Other Space, where the captain had his sister be the second-in-command.

Even the commercial breaks, effects, and music seem ripped off from the late-eighties/early nineties Star Trek era. It doesn’t seem to succeed as a comedy, as there are only a few jokes, and many of them don’t work. If MacFarlane was going for Star Trek parody, it was kind of already done with Galaxy Quest back in 1999, which parodied both Star Trek and its fans.

The Orville feels like a copy, and even though everything looks better, it is not even an superior copy. It feels like The Orville is a vanity project from MacFarlane, who has a track record of success with animated shows like Family Guy, American Dad, and not The Cleveland Show. He also has success with Ted, Ted 2, and not Eight Million Ways to Die in the West. It’s very clear that he is a huge Star Trek fan, and that’s probably good, because who doesn’t like Star Trek?

The answer is a lot of people. Sure, it is a show that probably invented the term “fanbase”, but some think it is only for Trekkie nerds. If that is you, then you will hate The Orville.

So Why Are Critics and Audiences So Divided on The Orville

So what is with the schism between critics and audiences? Perhaps fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation remember that the first season was terrible as that show had to establish its characters and world. The Orville seems to have its characters and setting established with a simple Copy and Paste, and perhaps audiences enjoy what has become Seth MacFarlane’s trademark lazy writing.

In other words, perhaps the audience might like the concept of The Orville rather than its execution, at least until Star Trek: Discovery comes out. Personally, I think MacFarlane is best at parody, which is visible in his Family Guy Star Wars episodes. There was also a parody of Die Hard on The Cleveland Show which was easily the best episode in the short-lived series. Maybe audiences realize that and can’t help but like it, which can be the only explanation that I can think of.

13 thoughts on “Why are Critics and Audiences Split Over Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville

  1. Just as an FYI, a 50-60% score is generally considered rotten, while above 60 generally is considered in the fresh range. From the general tone of your review, and the 50-65% you give, I’d say your review considers the show to be rotten, meaning it would help lower the 17% (well, 20% now). This is because the TM is not an average rating, but rather just a percent of critics who delivered a positive review. The actual average rating from critics is 4.55/10.

  2. Maybe an article about why there’s a difference between why the Critics panned it and the Fans liked it should give the Fans more credit than “They must just like lazy and stupid writing…because they’re stupid. Not like Critics.”
    Just sayin’.

    • I’ll have to agree, whilst I enjoyed it a lot, and understand why critics wouldn’t, calling viewers lazy by association isn’t the best way to get your point across.

      I’ve enjoyed the ‘gritty realism’ of science-fiction in the post-Battlestar era, but perhaps, perhaps so many of us enjoyed it because this was a fun pre-BSG spin on an old idea and to be honest, we need some fun and escapism right now more than ‘smart’ realism.

  3. There’s a certain irony that this article criticizes McFarlane’s writing as lazy, but answers the very question posed in it’s title with what amounts to, “Ummm… I dunno…”

    Also, you’ve misspelled McFarlane’s name throughout the article. 😀

  4. Very like Star Trek, but with seat belts (at least in the shuttle) and without transporters. The first show was fun, but seemed like a film school exercise in introducing the characters. I really can’t tell yet if it will be good. Or will it run out of jokes after a few shows, and have characters and a world that are not developed and don’t inspire fan’s imagination and loyalty. It will take a few shows to see.

  5. This critique spent more time forwarding an opinion on why the Orville is bad rather than actually answer the question of why the Critics and the Audience did not mix.

    The true answer is that the Critics are seeing the show from the stand point of a person not familiar with the utopian-style light-hearted world that epitomized the 1980s to 1990s adventure Sci-Fi genre, which Seth admitted in multiple interviews as being his main inspiration for making the show (not just from Star Trek). They are comfortable in the now, living in the edgy, darker current trend of Sci-fi and anything drawn to a more positive light is viewed as trope-ish or cliche. Apparently a compelling story these days means that there must be more drama and tragedy; there are no more clear-cut good guys and bad guys, the hero doesn’t always win, and the world is destined to end badly.

    The audience are the exact opposite. Perhaps many realize that the world they already live in is already miserable. Some perhaps like to wallow and appreciate all that misery, but the audience of The Orville do not. Apparently, they want more than what is Now and Horrible, they want to a fast-forward look at how the future can be. True, they may appreciate the concept more than the execution, but more than any of that, they appreciate that Seth is trying when all others have abandoned hope and have jumped on the bandwagon of dark dystopia. To the audience, the critics have become nothing more than representations of the tragedy portrayed in the cinema industry today. Things that need to be forgotten in order to move on.

  6. I didn’t think the episode was that great as a comedy. Most of the jokes fell flat. The plot was somewhat interesting. At least enough to carry it to the end. I think his best shot at having this show develop would be to develop the characters and possibly also have morality plays. Do this with jokes along the way (more prevalent then in Star Trek). We just have to remember that this show wasn’t intended to be Hugo award winning material. It is intended to be an escapist run romp with a Star Trek motif. Keeping this in mind, I liked it.

  7. I enjoyed it. Jokes were ok/juvenile but the visuals are like the best quality cgi ever on tv – ever! The characters are likeable. It’s kind of sweet instead of snarky. Critics are basically too hardened to realize when a new show has heart. This show does.

  8. As many of the responses have mentioned, maybe you should actually review the show. All you did is use your podium to rant about how much you don’t Seth McFarlane.

    The show was slow. I think most of the jokes were in the previews. Beyond that I think the special effects were good. Time will tell if it gets better.

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  10. You are absolutely wrong.
    Just get TOS and TNG and watch them again. MacFlaren managed to capture main thing – the Start Trek spirit !
    Yes he adds , not so bright humor of it’s own but nevertheless it is looks like continuation of the original Star Trek.
    And I even do not like that style so much, I am a fan of more deeply thought DS9 with rich back arc story, but damn, compared to STD… they killed Star Trek spirit completely. After Kelvin timeline appeared I thought that you can’t go any lower destroying the world of Star Trek, but makers of Discovery managed to do it, destroying not just Star Trek “history” and races looks, but main thing – it’s spirit.
    The Discovery is dark, depressing, maniacal pile of propaganda. Stupid propaganda, nothing to do with left or right, the TNG itself was full of “democrat’s” ideas, but they were presented as issues, made you think, not landed on you in massive attempt to do a brainwashing.
    And Orville running in same time emphasize it even more.

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