While Seth MacFarlane has taken his Family Guy fame and created a mini-industry out of it, he has for years stuck with animation on the small screen, saving the live-action stuff for features. But that all changed with his sci-fi dramedy The Orville, which made its big and broad premiere over the weekend in a most auspicious timeslot. For anybody wondering how the critically polarizing new series did, Fox should be over the moon with joy, as the show premiered to not only a solid demo rating, but it also had over 8 million people tuning in on the night.
As the first scripted broadcast premiere of the fall season, The Orville's early viewership totals came out to a whopping 8.6 million pairs of eyeballs watching the Star Trek-esque pilot, which was quite a bit more action-y and dramatic than Fox's promotional campaign pushed it out as. Some of those fans undoubtedly expected to see Seth MacFarlane's take on sci-fi resemble that American Dad mini-arc where Jeff was traveling through space with the ghost of comedian Sinbad, which I imagine would be a weirdly amazing treat in live-action. But it felt far more like a traditional science fiction tale, just with some off-color humor thrown in to keep the tone from swaying into overly self-serious territories. (What would overly self-serious Seth MacFarlane even look like?)
On top of the impressive totals, The Orville managed to rope in an even more impressive crowd within the key 18-49 age demographic, as it earned a 2.8 rating, according to Deadline's updated numbers. So beyond all things football-related, such as NBC's commercial-lite Sunday Night Football coverage and Fox's The OT (as well as the last bit of the afternoon games), The Orville had the highest demo of anything else that aired that night, and it also matched the much-lauded demo ratings for This Is Us and The Mick premieres last year, which were the highest for any new scripted series.
60 Minutes, with its Steve Bannon interview, was the only other non-football programming to welcome an audience close to that, with 8.16 million tuning in. There's no denying that the NFL was king of the night, though, with Sunday Night Football getting an uptick in its numbers after a year of hearing about its ratings declines, bringing in well over 21 million people, with around an 8.0 demo rating.
Unsurprisingly, though quite craftily, Fox chose the first two weekends of the NFL's regular season to give The Orville its "special night" debut before shipping it off to what will be its regular night on Thursdays following Gotham. Plus, there wasn't much else happening on Sunday night beyond repeats, although both the 2018 Miss America pageant and the 20/20 special about Hurricane Irma were new. Those elements likely played into The Orville's decent first outing, so it'll be interesting to see where things go in the future. As well, it'll be interesting to see how viewers feel about it after a few weeks, considering critics were not so kind to it ahead of its premiere. (I quite enjoyed it.)
In the future-set The Orville, Seth MacFarlane stars as Ed Mercer, a newly appointed captain of an exploratory spacecraft, with a crew of mostly level-headed humans and aliens that get into some dangerous and weird adventures while trying to stay alive long enough to make it to the next one. The cast also includes Adrianne Palicki, Scott Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, and Mark Jackson, with well-known recurring stars like Chad L. Coleman, Norm Macdonald and Victor Garber.
Did you guys watch The Orville? If so or if not, you can find it next Sunday night on Fox at 8:00 p.m ET, with its Thursday night shift starting on September 21, just after Gotham's Season 4 premiere. To see when everything else will be hurtling towards your TVs, head to our fall premiere schedule.