Television: The Orville, "Old Wounds"

Okay, so . . . I'm a fan of Star Trek. Have been since I was a kid. Loved the original movies, made my parents rent the VHS tapes of the original series so I could watch that too. (Remember when not everything was streaming?) The Next Generation was my favorite. My first fan conventions were Trek conventions, which I went to with friends and, on one occasion, with my journalism teacher. So, you know, that's my pedigree. I'm a Trekker or Trekkie or whatever we call ourselves nowadays.

As for The Orville, well, I have seriously mixed feelings.

Seth MacFarlane stars as Ed Mercer. The year is 2417, and apparently over the course of 400 years we've really upped our technology and met a massive number of alien species. Okay, fine, I wouldn't poke at Star Trek for this, so I won't flag The Orville for it either. But I think maybe I no longer have the optimism that I used to, the belief that the human race was "going places." (Besides straight to hell.)

The opening scene is just so standard and cliché that I could hardly stand it. Mercer comes back to his quarters to find his wife in bed with a blue alien. Ugh.

Fast forward a year and he's being offered command of the titular Orville. And—wait for it, cuz you'll be astounded—the ex is his XO. (No, not Kiss Hug. It means "Executive Officer.")

So much of the exposition is in dialogue it's tragic. And the story is so rote it's, well, double tragic. And Mercer's best friend Gordon Mallory, whom he hires as a helmsman, is pretty unlikeable. When he's introduced, he's not too terrible; he comes off as a bit nerdy in a Simon Pegg way. But when he "drives drunk" in the next scene, he gets frat-boy obnoxious and my enjoyment of the show spiraled downward like the stupid shuttle. Exhibiting drinking and driving as "cool" is not a great move.

Part of my problem with the show, too, is that it doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to be. A parody? Straight comedy? Or an actual sci-fi show? There are elements of all these things, and I'm not saying these things can't work together, but as presented they don't appear to be stirred into the same soup. That's a weird metaphor, but I don't know how else to explain it. Sci-fi soup with chunks of comedy? Could be tasty but, as far as this episode goes, the blend isn't quite right.

The Orville is a throwback kind of show, which as far as I can tell is the intention. I'm just not sure how many people will make the time for it, or appreciate where it's coming from, particularly in the current television landscape. We have amazing shows, stuff that is better than movies (as the summer box office shows). In comparison, The Orville might come across as that dented can of off-brand beans at the bottom of the grocery shelf. If the price is right and you're desperate enough, you might buy it?

That said, I'll give it another couple episodes to see if it finds its footing. Many shows start out rough, particularly the sci-fi ones. There's something promising in The Orville, I'm just not sure what yet. Or whether it will live up to that promise.

1 comment:

Christine Rains said...

I'm still on the fence about it. It could be a good sci-fi show that is funny but you're right when you say it doesn't know what it wants to be yet. I also think people have to like Seth's humor to appreciate the show, and as I've gotten older, I don't think some things are that funny anymore.