News

Seth MacFarlane Shares His Love of Space-Based TV As He Beams Up to The Orville

The creator and star talks about classic Star Trek, new aliens, and taking sci-fi seriously while having fun.

by | September 7, 2017 | Comments

The Orville may look like a Star Trek spoof from the creator of Family Guy and Ted, but Seth MacFarlane takes fun sci-fi seriously.

MacFarlane is a huge fan of episodic sci-fi, particularly Star Trek: The Next Generation, which frequently found humor in the mission-to-mission foibles of its motley crew. But TV doesn’t offer much high-profile space adventure with a lighthearted touch right now, especially with the recent cancellation of Syfy’s Dark MatterThe Expanse on that same network stays true to its literary source material and offers heavy-duty genre drama. Even the highly anticipated CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery is a more grim and gritty war story with lots of phasers and explosions.

Early trailers of The Orville reminded many of beloved 1999 film Galaxy Quest, a comedy starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and the late Alan Rickman about the cast of a Next Generation–like TV series that, through an alien cultural disconnect, gets caught up in an intergalactic war.

MacFarlane has said that the film wasn’t an influence, however.

“The intent of that movie was to be a full-on comedy,” he said during the Television Critic’s Association press tour in August. “As a result, the stakes, in terms of science fiction and the parables of science fiction, weren’t really something that needed to be taken all that seriously.”

Though it also aims for the funny bone, The Orville is something different and more earnest in its space comedy — a brightly colored show about the daily life of a spaceship crew.

Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) gets his last shot at captaining a spaceship when the Orville needs a leader. Only problem is: His ex-wife Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) has been made his first officer. Between Mercer’s one-liners and quirky crew members (one lays an egg in episode 2), The Orville serves up plenty of jokes, yet the missions are life or death, and both Mercer and the show acknowledge the stakes.

The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau directed the pilot, and each week the Orville crew boldly go where great sci-fi shows haven’t gone in a while — and some new places all their own.

MacFarlane, a tad hoarse from a day of filming (that includes acting and producing) and speaking to reporters, talked to Rotten Tomatoes about the show’s unique tone.


Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Was acting always your dream when you started out creating animated shows?

Seth MacFarlane: Not necessarily, no. It never was a foregone conclusion that had to be part of it.

RT: Why did you decide you had to star in The Orville?

MacFarlane: A: because it was just too much fun not to, and B: because I really wanted to straddle the tone that was both funny and earnest. It requires a love for comedy and a love for the genre and the willingness to be openly earnest and sincere in a Maria Von Trapp way.

RT: What were some ideas Jon Favreau had that really helped you realize your vision?

MacFarlane: Jon was all about tone. The pilot needed to set a tone that dealt with both the drama and the comedy. There’s really no other director in town who could’ve handled that as well as Jon. Jon is a master of tone. It was nice to be working with someone who had been through the writing/directing/acting gauntlet.

RT: Is there a workplace comedy aspect to The Orville also?

MacFarlane: There is, yeah. That’s what I always loved about the best days of Star Trek was it felt more like people working in an office than a military crew on a ship.

RT: Is Kelly looking out for Ed more than he ever knows?

MacFarlane: I think so. I think they’re both looking out for each other but certainly in the pilot.

RT: Will he start to clue into that?

MacFarlane: We do deal with that in season 1.

RT: Are the Krill your big bad guy?

MacFarlane: One of them.

RT: But are they like your Klingons who are always out there?

MacFalrane: There’s a very specific element to the Krill that I think makes them very unique that is revealed in our sixth episode. They’re different from the Klingons because of this one thing. I can’t tell you what it is, but you find out. It’s a very specific element to their species that allows us to tell very specific stories.

RT: Did you do the designs for the aliens?

MacFarlane: No, that’s all Howard Berger, our makeup designer.

RT: How did it work? You told him what you wanted and he came to you rather than presenting him sketches?

MacFarlane: Here and there. Most of the time I would say, “Come up with a really cool design and let us build a character around it.” It’s worked both ways.

RT: Did you insist on having a full title sequence to introduce each actor and the characters they play, and even printing the title of the episode on screen?

MacFarlane: Yeah, I miss that, and I think it’s good showmanship — the things that shows used to do to respect the viewer and would say, “Hey, somebody took the time to put on a show and this is that show. It’s not just filling an hour of time between commercials on a network.

RT: Does that cut about a minute out of your show?

MacFarlane: We haven’t really had too many problems. We found that our shows have actually been pretty close to length. We lucked out.


Tag Cloud

Fall TV Holiday DGA Esquire BBC adaptation Comedy television Sundance Now NYCC E! 2015 BBC America Biopics HBO Lifetime Christmas movies award winner streaming binge based on movie Women's History Month Crackle OneApp Infographic Nat Geo DC Comics TCA 2017 facebook anime LGBTQ golden globes Pop SXSW San Diego Comic-Con talk show Podcast Arrowverse vampires romantic comedy American Society of Cinematographers batman YouTube Red The Purge stand-up comedy Character Guide police drama Rom-Com Awards Tour PaleyFest TCA Superheroes breaking bad Spectrum Originals Pirates Paramount Network tv talk TCA Winter 2020 canceled Pixar TNT Endgame Turner Nominations Peacock New York Comic Con X-Men Avengers NBC Paramount Tumblr science fiction IFC Films Creative Arts Emmys joker Certified Fresh robots Hallmark Hallmark Christmas movies Countdown Christmas book Marathons blockbuster Winners aliens Set visit RT21 Mystery canceled TV shows Hulu 21st Century Fox Tubi Adult Swim FOX independent Sundance TV Cannes YouTube Premium cults Black Mirror Sci-Fi Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Reality Nickelodeon Marvel History USA mutant comic Musical TV renewals transformers Fantasy MCU diversity richard e. Grant Masterpiece Universal TV First Look werewolf south america Disney+ Disney Plus Trivia Disney Channel Shudder RT History cinemax sag awards Amazon 007 Television Academy psychological thriller YA period drama Comic Book cancelled television DC streaming service Star Wars mockumentary Photos The Witch Winter TV HBO Max Crunchyroll Marvel Television Lifetime President Shondaland The Walking Dead halloween Starz children's TV National Geographic Summer disaster cancelled TV shows USA Network cancelled dc SundanceTV crime thriller Rocky Ovation quibi CBS romance docudrama Disney streaming service versus sitcom ABC Apple TV+ 45 Action APB dramedy adventure dceu Stephen King green book Box Office discovery Animation See It Skip It renewed TV shows game show Martial Arts Bravo Sneak Peek Spike 2016 Tomatazos crime drama Premiere Dates Baby Yoda Lionsgate screen actors guild DirecTV Fox News Cartoon Network zombies Song of Ice and Fire Quiz Mudbound Spring TV CBS All Access medical drama Trophy Talk casting Emmy Nominations miniseries cooking The Arrangement WarnerMedia Binge Guide comics Toys justice league SDCC Tarantino MSNBC Film Festival CNN travel harry potter TCM cars indie Netflix Christmas movies Lucasfilm Valentine's Day ghosts Logo Election GLAAD Discovery Channel Captain marvel Netflix hist PBS Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt slashers Syfy E3 boxoffice GIFs strong female leads Watching Series unscripted The CW zero dark thirty technology name the review AMC Britbox thriller cancelled TV series Grammys teaser doctor who OWN Apple what to watch Kids & Family cops 2019 movies Pride Month animated Sundance Drama Dark Horse Comics composers TV Land Comedy Central war CW Seed LGBT latino Polls and Games 2017 Film VH1 Apple TV Plus Mary Poppins Returns Teen festivals Disney Plus DC Universe Columbia Pictures Ghostbusters Awards serial killer Writers Guild of America directors Amazon Prime Video reboot Rocketman spider-man singing competition Chernobyl Reality Competition game of thrones Turner Classic Movies Comics on TV VICE biography dragons Disney Epix psycho spain Brie Larson Super Bowl Oscars witnail Star Trek FXX supernatural Red Carpet foreign kids Calendar Extras zombie Mary Tyler Moore Mary poppins GoT Video Games Amazon Prime 2020 Year in Review Interview CMT video Anna Paquin blaxploitation TLC sports Warner Bros. social media Horror ABC Family jamie lee curtis crime ratings ESPN TBS screenings Food Network Marvel Studios political drama Family Pet Sematary 2018 Mindy Kaling space Sony Pictures spy thriller revenge FX Elton John toy story WGN sequel true crime Rock Opinion Superheroe christmas movies Country A24 71st Emmy Awards anthology Emmys El Rey Showtime Freeform BET cats Thanksgiving 24 frames Classic Film finale spinoff cartoon elevated horror MTV series comiccon spanish language crossover Academy Awards politics Vudu TIFF theme song hispanic Western Holidays nature Walt Disney Pictures TruTV Music Acorn TV Heroines Ellie Kemper A&E IFC Cosplay 20th Century Fox Schedule historical drama First Reviews YouTube rotten movies we love Musicals Trailer free movies natural history ITV Best and Worst