Why Fox's The Orville Is Unlike Any Other Sci-Fi TV Shows, According To Seth MacFarlane

the orville fox seth macfarlane

While science fiction has once again become a pretty popular genre across the TV landscape, an abundance of modern sci-fi series go extremely heavy on serialized arcs and ever-expanding mythologies for viewers to theorize over obsessively. Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane is taking his new show The Orville down the old school route with episodes dedicated to standalone adventures, and when CinemaBlend and other outlets spoke with MacFarlane at San Diego Comic-Con about the series, he explained to us why The Orville is quite a one-of-a-kind project.

The thing I like, that makes me feel good about the show, is that it's hard to compare it. I mean, take the Star Trek element aside, tonally it's hard for me to compare it to anything that's been on the air. I don't think a science fiction show of this type, that walks this line, has been attempted before. I mean shows like M*A*S*H have walked that line between comedy and drama beautifully. If we can have that kind of balance that would be a major victory for us, but it's hard. I think we've come pretty damned close but that is for the audience to decide.

The Orville is obviously going to have a lot in common with Star Trek in its off-Earth setting and the character dynamics of its diverse crew. (Co-star Penny Johnson Jerald, of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame, shared with us some other comparisons between the two shows.) It even bears a passing resemblance to Firefly in that manner. But the way Seth MacFarlane and the rest of the cast and crew were talking, The Orville features what sounds like it'll be a signature tone that's able to balance the weird and wonderful of sci-fi, the high-stakes tension of drama, and the high-concept absurdity of comedy. It's perhaps comparable to the tone of his answer, as MacFarlane went from braggadociously calling The Orville unlike anything else to humbly admitting audiences are the true judges here.

Interestingly enough, Seth MacFarlane and the show's producers (as well as some of the other stars) pointed out that the excellent first trailer that Fox put out there was not very representative of the project as a whole. While the promo did nail the scope and wonder of being in space, it also went for broke on comedic moments, and The Orville will apparently strike much more of a dramatic tone, with the comedy being birthed from the characters' relationships and personal stories; MacFarlane's Captain Ed Mercer and Adrianne Palicki's First Officer Kelly Grayson used to be married, for example.

the orville cast fox

With a cast that also includes American Dad's Scott Grimes, Walking Dead vet Chad L. Coleman, Shameless' Peter Macon, How to Rock's Halston Sage and more, The Orville could very easily just take place on the titular spaceship and focus on the uncomfortable situations that occur within. But Seth MacFarlane is a sci-fi fanatic, and when I asked about the show's world-building, he gave this extremely exciting answer.

We've shot 11 episodes so far - and I think within those 11, there is a lot of fun stuff. There's a lot of really cool species, there's a lot of really awesome looking ships. I'm trying to do the show that I would want to watch, and I like a lot of artistry in sci-fi. Our production design, our makeup artists...there's a team that has done work that, to me - and I've watched a lot of sci-fi - is unprecedented in television. You haven't seen anything this extensive on TV in a sci-fi show of this kind. I mean, they're creating worlds every week. And really, at the core of it, it is about these people. You never want to get into the quandary where you have amazing-looking visuals and then there's nothing at the core. It is about the people.

The trailer featured a brief appearance from Yaphit, a gelatinous creature voiced by Norm Macdonald, and while it was a small-scale appearance, that's exactly the kind of weird shit I want to see from The Orville as it kicks off. Especially if some of it is more thought-provoking than outright comedic. So if those first eleven episodes are as interesting as Seth MacFarlane made them out to be, that could lead to a lot of weird-looking aliens showing up in primetime, and TV can never have enough of those.

Science fiction fans across the country will find out just how different The Orville really is when it makes its space-faring debut on Fox on Sunday, September 10, at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you're in need of an update on what shows are hitting primetime in the coming months, head to our summer premiere schedule and our fall TV schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.