Jack-of-all-trades FAMILY GUY creator and actor Seth MacFarlane finally gets to indulge his love of STAR TREK and Sci-Fi tropes with his very own TREK-inspired series, THE ORVILLE, debuting Sunday night on FOX.
While the network is playing up MacFarlane’s patented one-liners and bathroom humor in their marketing material, the ORVILLE show creator told me that his one-hour show has more drama than you are being led to believe, and the trick is capturing that tonal balance between light and heavy — which may be a first for a Sci-Fi show of this kind.
“The thing I like that makes me feel good about the show — take the STAR TREK element aside — tonally, it’s hard for me to compare to anything else that’s been on the air,” MacFarlane explained to me at Comic-Con. “I don’t think a science-fiction show of this type that walks this line has been attempted before. 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 damn close, but it’s up to the audience to decide.”
THE ORVILLE is not a parody of STAR TREK, but if there’s more than a passing resemblance to STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, its ships, aliens, and its all-encompassing Federation of Planets, it’s not unintentional. MacFarlane has long had a deep worship of all things TREK and even recruited veteran TNG producer Brannon Braga to be an executive producer for the show.
“There’s a lot of fun stuff; there’s a lot of really cool species, we’ve got really awesome-looking ships,” explained MacFarlane. “But 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 there’s nothing at the core.”
Set 400 years in the future, THE ORVILLE finds MacFarlane as a Planetary Union officer named Ed Mercer who lands his dream assignment to command his own starship called, you guessed it, The U.S.S. Orville. But his enthusiasm is quickly doused when he’s forced to work with his ex-wife, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), who has been assigned to be his First Officer. As they travel through the stars with an eccentric crew of humans and aliens, comedy and drama ensues.
Seemingly drawing inspiration from the likes of GALAXY QUEST and QUARK, it looks like THE ORVILLE may just find that delicate balance MacFarlane’s looking for if the audience does indeed give it a chance to breathe. MacFarlane sure is enthusiastic enough about the concept and clearly excited to play in the Sci-Fi sandbox.
“I went into this with such a deep love for this genre, it’s not hard for me to act like a guy who’s really excited to be on the bridge of a starship,” he says with a laugh. “It’s too much fun.”
THE ORVILLE airs Sunday nights at 8/7c on FOX.