‘The Orville’ review: Trek done better

An unexpected gem: I fully expected 'The Orville' to be a bargain bin comedy, but it is the opposite, instead being both a poignant and comedic show that pulls it off greater the longer it goes on. Pictured is Peter Macon in full prosthesis/makeup as Bortus, the downright best character.

When I saw Seth MacFarlane was making another show for FOX, I instantly wrote it off. His other series' Family Guy, American Dad and the ill-fated Cleveland show may not be as big of a cringe worthy laughing stock as any Chuck Lorre property, but they were never my cup of tea. I had the same expectations going in for "The Orville" which at first looked like an unashamed "Star Trek" parody show, but has ended up being much more than that.

Now that the second season is near its end, I am making the case of why you should be watching it. The basic premise is the same as "Star Trek’s": That an Earth Space Cruiser travels around territories with the intent of discovering new worlds and exploring uncharted space. MacFarlane plays the Captain, Ed Mercer, who is joined by a wonderful ensemble cast: First Officer Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), Doctor Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), Lt Commander Bortus (Peter Macon), as well as Scott Grimes, J. Lee being composed of the main cast, with Bortus being my absolute favorite of the bunch.

Instead of being some bland been-there, done-that comedy, what MacFarlane has done is essentially gotten his own Star Trek property, with the freedom to do whatever he wants with it. That comes in the form of genuinely funny times, but most surprising is excellent social commentary, especially with season 2. While season 1 mainly stays episodic, the show has slowly formed its own political universe that mirrors the real world’s now. Crew Members are a diverse bunch with many being species other than humans, and tackling the clash of cultures in an interesting setting. These consist of the most poignant and best episodes the series has had thus far.

I would be remiss if I did not discuss how this wouldn’t be as effective as it is without the strong central characters. All of them are well written and relatable, Mercer isn’t some Captain mastermind guy. He can be that, but he has a healthy dose of organic impulsiveness and stupidity that makes him more likeable that really makes him a well done character and not a cardboard cut-out. To wheel back a bit, Peter Macon’s Bortus needs to be discussed because part of me watches the show just to see him. His character is the stoic Worf of the bunch, but is given so many funny moments that Macon delivers with such insane deadpan skill.

I have a feeling that when he pitched this show to corporate overlords, he marketed it as a Family Guy in space, but what he has made is something miles better than that, and I can’t help but respect him and the entire crew for pulling it off as well as they have. The show is diverse in a way that one episode will have you belly laughing, another giving you extreme anxiety and relatability, but most having a mix of both and stick the landing.

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