The Orville: New Horizons

STREAMING REVIEW:

Hulu/Disney+;
Sci-Fi;
Not rated.
Stars Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Jessica Szohr, Anne Winters.

For its third season, Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi series ‘The Orville’ moved to Hulu, where it gained a bigger budget and a lot more creative freedom.

However, the series manages to retain its charm despite some flashier visual effects and an expanded scope. That’s because the core of the show continues to be its likable main characters and their camaraderie.

The show takes place in the early 25th century and follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, an exploratory vessel of the Planetary Union.

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With the series’ second season having concluded on Fox in April 2019, fans had to wait more than three years before the new episodes finally arrived in early June under the “New Horizons” banner. Much of the delay was due to the pandemic, but the creative team put the time to good use updating the show’s sets and costumes for a 4K presentation. Even the show’s aspect ratio was slightly adjusted to give it more of a cinematic widescreen feel.

Rest assured, this isn’t a reboot by any means. Ongoing storylines pick up where they left off, with the first episode dealing with the continuing threat of the Kaylon, the race of robots who have vowed to wipe out all biological species in the galaxy, and how the crew continues to resent Isaac (Mark Jackson), the Kaylon crewmember who initially betrayed the Union before turning on his people and being given a chance to continue to serve on the ship for a shot at redemption.

To that end, the show introduces a new character, Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters), the ship’s new navigator who hates Isaac because her previous ship was destroyed by the Kaylon.

The series continues to operate out of the “Star Trek” playbook, which is to say mixing space opera with a dose of social commentary that sparks discussion without being preachy (which is more than can be said about “Star Trek” nowadays).

The show’s visual style continues to mesh modern CG effects with an aesthetic that is more-or-less evocative of ’50s sci-fi serials. Perhaps the biggest shift in the switch to Hulu is that the series, often accused of being a “Trek” parody, has toned down its overt humor to shed some of that reputation. The biggest drawback to this approach was that the humor made it easier to overlook some questionable plot points (or outright plot holes) that would seem more egregious if the presentation was meant as serious drama. Still, the emotional authenticity of the character dynamics and tightly constructed season-long story arcs end up making this a minor quibble.

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The transition to streaming also brings with it much longer episodes than a conventional broadcast format. Instead of typical 42-minute episodes, most of “New Horizons” episodes are over an hour each, which a couple that are long enough to be the equivalent of two-parters had they been broadcast. So while the season is nominally 10 episodes long, from the consideration of runtime it’s more like 14 or 15, around what the first two seasons were.

One of the planned episodes ended up not being filmed due to the pandemic, so MacFarlane adapted it into a digital novella, Sympathy for the Devil, that is available through Audible and other online retailers.

Another highlight is the show’s music, where the score is big and cinematic, paying homage to the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner and John Williams. But the show also finds plenty of excuses to get its cast to sing, particularly Scott Grimes. There’s also a surprise performance by a special guest star whose appearance proves just how outside the box this show can get.

Following the completion of “New Horizons” on Hulu, all three seasons became available to stream on Disney+ as well. Here’s hoping “The Orville” gets renewed for season four.

 

Sci-Fi Series ‘The Orville’ Heading to Disney+ Aug. 10

SAN DIEGO — The Jan. 23 Comic-Con panel for the sci-fi series “The Orville” included an announcement that all three seasons of the series would be available for streaming on Disney+ starting Aug. 10.

The first two seasons originally aired on Fox and are available to stream on Disney-run Hulu. The 10-episode third season, dubbed “The Orville: New Horizons,” premiered as a Hulu original June 2 and concludes Aug. 4.

“The Orville” was created by Seth MacFarlane, who also stars on the series as Capt. Ed Mercer, commander of a starship that explores the galaxy in the 25th century.

“I’m thrilled to bring all three seasons of ‘The Orville’ to Disney+. Making this show has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my career, and I’m immensely grateful to Disney for providing us the opportunity to expand our Orville community further. I can’t wait for new audiences to experience this series,” MacFarlane said.

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The cast also includes Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, J Lee, Mark Jackson, Chad L. Coleman, Jessica Szohr and Anne Winters.

All 36 episodes will continue to be available to stream on Hulu.

No announcement was made as to whether the series has been renewed for a fourth season.

Peacock Orders Original Series Based on ‘Ted’ ‘R’-Rated Comedies

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service June 10 announced a straight-to-series order for “Ted,” from Universal Content Productions (UCP), a division of Universal Studio Group, and MRC Television.

The series is based on the Universal Pictures/MRC movie Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg and the highest-grossing original ‘R’-rated comedy of all time. Collectively Ted and Ted 2 grossed more than $765 million worldwide.

Creator Seth MacFarlane is in negotiations to reprise the voice of the lovable foul-mouthed teddy bear Ted. The live-action series will be executive produced by MacFarlane and Erica Huggins for Fuzzy Door.

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This is the second series order since MacFarlane and Fuzzy Door signed an overall development deal with UCP in 2020. Earlier this year, Peacock announced a series order of “The End is Nye,” hosted by Bill Nye. The series is produced by Universal Television Alternative Studio and UCP, divisions of Universal Studio Group, and Fuzzy Door.

UCP is responsible for series such as Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Mr. Robot,” “The Act,” “Monk,” “Homecoming,” “The Sinner,” “Suits,” “Dirty John” and “Psych.”  Upcoming titles include “Dr. Death,” starring Joshua Jackson, Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater; and “Gaslit” starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn.

MRC’s series have been nominated for 94 Emmy Awards and 18 Golden Globe Awards. The current slate includes “Ozark,” from Chris Mundy and starring Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Julia Garner, on Netflix; “The Great,” from Tony McNamara, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, on Hulu; “The Shrink Next Door,” starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd and from director Michael Showalter and writer Georgia Pritchett for Apple TV+; “The Terminal List,” for which Chris Pratt stars and executive produces alongside director Antoine Fuqua and writer David DiGilio, with Amazon Studios; “Shining Girls,” starring Elisabeth Moss and produced with Appian Way and Love & Squalor Pictures  for Apple TV+; the Rian Johnson series “Poker Face,” with T-Street and starring Natasha Lyonne for Peacock; and “Hello Tomorrrow!” starring Billy Crudup, from creators Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen and director Jonathan Entwistle for Apple TV+.

MRC’s previous series included Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Counterpart,” among others.

‘The Orville’ Moving to Hulu for Season 3

Seth MacFarlane’s comedic science-fiction series “The Orville” is moving to streaming service Hulu for its third season in 2020.

MacFarlane, who created and stars on the series about a starship crew 400 years in the future, announced the switch during the show’s San Diego Comic-Con International panel July 20.

The series debuted in 2017 on the Fox broadcasting network, where it has aired 26 episodes over two seasons. Fox renewed the show for a third season, but according to reports the complicated production schedule for the new season meant it wouldn’t be available in time for use as a mid-season replacement, so the decision was made to move it to Hulu.

The series is produced by Fox Television, which was acquired by Disney as part of its buyout of most Fox studio assets. Disney also owns Hulu, which already offers the first two seasons. The Fox network was not included in the sale.

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“‘The Orville’ has been a labor of love for me,” MacFarlane said. “My friends at the network understood what I was trying to do with this series, and they’ve done a spectacular job of marketing, launching and programming it for these past two seasons. But as the show has evolved and become more ambitious production-wise, I determined that I would not be able to deliver episodes until 2020, which would be challenging for the network. So we began to discuss how best to support the third season in a way that worked for the show.

“To my new friends at Hulu, I look forward to our new partnership exploring the galaxy together.”

The second season is nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Science-Fiction Television Series and an Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects.

The Orville: The Complete First Season

Seth MacFarlane’s slick sci-fi throwback invites comparisons to “Star Trek” with its very nature, but pokes fun at sci-fi platitudes every chance it gets while still fully embracing them with a charming mix of humor and earnest storytelling.

DVD Review:

Fox;
Sci-Fi Comedy;
$29.99 DVD;
Not rated.
Stars Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, Mark Jackson.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Seth MacFarlane is flattering the heck out of “Star Trek.”

MacFarlane, a hardcore “Star Trek” fan who parlayed his fame into appearing as an extra in two episodes of “Star Trek: Enterprise,” has often said in interviews, and repeats the assertion in the DVD’s bonus materials, that he always wanted to make a sci-fi show that embraced the idea of an optimistic future for mankind, not unlike “Star Trek.”

Of course, MacFarlane is also the creator of “Family Guy” and Ted, a reputation that brings with it the expectation of a certain type of off-the-cuff humor.

“The Orville” presents a typical sci-fi future that serves as an obvious stand-in for the constructs of “Star Trek” — namely an enlightened Earth-centric interplanetary alliance, a fleet of starships devoted to exploration, and the alien enemies they encounter. Paradoxically, the show is eager to lampoon the platitudes of “Trek” while at the same time fully embracing them.

The series is set 400 years in the future, and starts with a Planetary Union officer named Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) flying back to his apartment after a hard day’s work only to discover his wife in bed with a blue alien (who, it turns out, is played by Rob Lowe in a cameo that is revisited with a fuller guest appearance in a later episode).

A year later, with his life and career spinning out of control, the fleet offers Mercer the captain’s chair of the mid-size exploratory vessel U.S.S. Orville, which he accepts as a chance to move past his troubles. The only hitch is that his now ex-wife (Adrianne Palicki) is assigned as his first officer. Resentments aside, they still work well together, as she’s doing her best to atone for what she did.

With the introduction of the rest of the ship’s senior staff to establish the requisite quirky personalities that will serve the show’s needs, the mission can get underway.

From there, “The Orville” begins its tricky balancing act between being an homage to “Star Trek” and a parody of it, from aping the general style of the legendary franchise to referencing very specific scenes (the ship’s launch from spacedock is heavily inspired by the departure of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, down to a guy in a spacesuit waving goodbye).

“The Orville”

The show even uses the same camera angles for the establishing shots of the ship that were a staple of the “Next Generation” era of “Star Trek.” In its second episode, “The Orville” introduces an old-school opening title sequence that is practically a shot-by-shot re-creation of the “Star Trek: Voyager” main credits, showcasing adventures of the ship encountering various galactic phenomena while the cast’s names fly by to the strains of a lush musical score.

Enhancing the connection to “Star Trek” is the fact that many of the producers, directors and crafters of “The Orville” are former “Trek” staffers bringing those old sensibilities to the new show.

For the most part, though, the show pokes fun at the tropes of “Star Trek” or reframes them using current sensibilities, stepping back from the “Star Trek” depiction of an evolved humanity (which the “Star Trek” franchise itself began to poke a stick at once Gene Roddenberry’s involvement diminished).

The look and feel is very reminiscent of the fictional series at the heart of “Galaxy Quest,” another sci-fi “Trek” homage comedy to which “The Orville” is often compared.

The show has a distinct visual style, loading the screen with color and glossy visual effects that strike the right balance between verisimilitude and a cartoonish sense of fun, from the title starship looking like a bottle opener to crewmembers who are essentially just talking blobs of goo.

Jokes typically involve pop-culture references, comments on the mundane vagaries of life, or clever sight gags. The constant pop-culture references do expose a gap in the writing in that there doesn’t seem to be any pop culture between now and when the show is set. (A similar problem shows up in Ready Player One.)

For his part, MacFarlane is essentially playing himself as if he were Capt. Kirk, the ultimate self-referential fantasy fulfillment. McFarlane has too much respect for “Star Trek” to do a full-on parody, so he’s trying to settle on a laid-back approach akin to co-worker office banter, rather than go full tilt comedy and just stuff the frame with gags like an Airplane or Naked Gun.

In many ways, “The Orville” plays like a sci-fi version of MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, which surrounded a lampoon of Western stereotypes with the trappings of a traditional cinematic epic. (“The Orville” is also an excuse for MacFarlane to reunite with some of his West cast, with guest star turns from Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron.)

The show’s breezy style stands in contrast to the earnestness of its storytelling, which may be why its makers seem to have trouble in interviews and Q&A’s explaining exactly what the tone is supposed to be. Many episodes are even topical with their exploration of modern issues and parallels to current events.

That’s probably why so many fans of “Star Trek” from its 1990s heyday love the show so much, as it fills their need for the simple, eager thoughtfulness the franchise used to be known for, rather than the over-produced, action-based noise that has taken over since it was rebooted.

Some of the high-concept morality plays also bring to mind episodes of the parallel-reality series “Sliders,” particularly an episode centered on an Earth-like world that has structured its society around the dictates of social media reactions.

The tonal shift is a major reason why critics have been stingy in their appreciation of the show, with most of the major criticisms come from people who never really embraced “Star Trek” the way its fans do — for not only its message, characters and settings, but despite its idiosyncrasies, inconsistencies and even its flaws (and, in many cases, love it because of those things).

They also complain that the show’s shifts between comedy and drama make it hard to follow, but I find it’s easier to just accept it all as comedy, especially the parts that try to be serious. It’s like performance art, with the joke being how much they’re trying to present serious sci-fi during insanely absurd premises. It’s kind of like when Andy Kaufman would upend his set by just reading The Great Gatsby all night. The intense commitment to the material is the joke. This isn’t a sci-fi show with an optimistic view of the future. It’s an homage to fans of such shows.

In the framework of its brand of existential comedy, “The Orville” goes to great lengths to put its audience in the mindset of watching a “Star Trek” show, only to completely obliterate the seriousness of televised sci-fi. The comedy isn’t always just in the jokes or the dialogue. It’s in the fabric of the show and the situations it presents as seriously as it can.

First, it basically takes Starfleet and staffs it not with a stuffy crew of humanist explorers driven by idealism, but with regular people. That gives us a “Star Trek”-style show in which the ship’s crewmembers are basically fans doing cosplay — complete with whatever side remarks and jokey banter fans might make while watching a “Star Trek” show together.

Characters often behave as if they know they’re on a sci-fi show, and that seems to be the intention. For example, in one scene an alien character is shown sitting on an egg — not unusual in the “Star Trek” sense of celebrating the diversity of alien biology. But then the show doubles down on the gag by showing the character’s naked backside on top of the egg. It’s not funny because it’s an alien hatching its young, it’s funny because we all know it’s an actor who was subjected to heavy makeup just to be put in a ridiculous situation for a cheesy gag. That’s the whole point.

In another episode, the captain and first officer are captured by a technologically superior alien race and placed in a zoo to be gawked at by strangers. Eventually, the officer responsible for rescuing them is given a commendation, the ship leaves and the episode ends with hundreds of sentient beings left behind in captivity with nary an ounce of further concern from anyone on the Orville, or any subsequent episode dealing with trying to free them. Since the template for these kinds of shows really only requires worrying about the main characters, ancillary concerns suggested by the episode tend to fall to the wayside.

The not-fully-developed plotting gives the show a lot of its charm, as stories may lead to unanswered logistical questions that are so obviously sitting there without the show seeming to care if anyone asks. That’s why it’s so great as a “Star Trek” pastiche. Episodes might raise questions they never intend to address, but viewers aren’t meant to think the show really thought things through too much to begin with. It’s lovingly poking fun at how and why we take things like “Star Trek” so seriously to begin with.

For as much as the show is trying to be “Star Trek,” it’s the contrast with “Star Trek” that makes it so brilliant. The more it takes itself seriously, the funnier the show becomes on a meta level, and thus more endearing.

The DVD set presents all 12 first-season episodes spread across four discs. All the bonus materials are on the fourth disc, comprised mostly of short promotional featurettes covering various aspects of the show in a minute or two. These include “Designing the Future,” “The Orville Takes Flight,” “The Science of ‘The Orville’: Quantum Drive,” “The Science of ‘The Orville’: Alien Life,” “Crafting Aliens,” “A Better Tomorrow” and a “Directed By” featurette that that focuses on Jon Favreau directing the first episode.

The making of the show is further covered in a five-minute “Inside Look” featurette.

There’s also an eight-and-a-half-minute “The First Six Missions” montage that recaps the first six episodes with some very serious overtones and music.

The most interesting extra is the 35-minute “‘The Orville’ at Paleyfest 2018” video of a Q&A with the cast, writers and producers that offers a lot more insights into the mindset that goes into making the show.

The second season of “The Orville” premieres Dec. 30 on Fox.

“The Orville”

‘Family Guy’ Marks 20th Anniversary With Musical DVD

The animated comedy “Family Guy” will mark its 20th anniversary with a new collection of musical-infused episodes of the series.

Family Guy: 20 Greatest Hits will arrive on DVD and Digital Jan. 8 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and includes 20 song-and-dance-filled episodes from the series, along with brand new bonus material.

Extras include a “300 Episodes, Two Cancellations, and One Mural” featurette; lyric videos for “I Need a Jew,” “Drunken Irish Dad” and It’s a Wonderful Day for Pie”; and a “Music Machine” to play the following songs:

  • “The Road to Rhode Island Song”
  • “I Need a Jew”
  • “You’ve Got a Lot to See”
  • “You Have AIDS”
  • “The FCC Song”
  • “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”
  • “Somewhere That’s Green”
  • “When We Swing”
  • “Shipoopi”
  • “Vasectomy”
  • “Noble Indian Chief”
  • “Drunken Irish Dad”
  • “Prom Night Dumpster Baby”
  • “All I Really Need is The Boy”
  • “The Spirit of Massachusetts”
  • “Surfin’ Bird”
  • “A Bag o’ Weed”
  • “It’s a Wonderful Day for Pie”
  • “All I Really Want for Christmas”
  • “Christmastime is Killing Us”
  • “Mr. Booze”
  • “Credit Card Debt”
  • “Poop in Strange Places”
  • “Butter on a Pop Tart”
  • “Brush Your Teeth at Work”
  • “Parents are Gross”
  • “Candy Quahog Marshmallow!”

 

Fox Launches ‘The Orville’ on DVD Dec. 11

The first season “The Orville” will arrive on DVD Dec. 11 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

A comedic sci-fi adventure in the spirit of “Star Trek,” the series was created by and stars Seth MacFarlane, who plays the captain of the U.S.S. Orville, an exploratory spaceship 400 years in the future. The cast includes Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J Lee, Mark Jackson and Chad L. Coleman.

The DVD includes all 12 episodes from the first season plus several featurettes and highlights from the show’s presentation at PaleyFest 2018.

‘Family Guy’ Season 16 on DVD Dec. 4

The sixteenth season of “Family Guy” will be released on DVD Dec. 4 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, timed with the 20th anniversary of the animated series created by Seth MacFarlane.

The season includes the show’s 300th episode, as well as the episode “Nanny Goats,” for which Alex Borstein won the 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Character Voiceover Performance.

Extras include extended episode animatics with commentary and deleted scenes.