Can ‘The Orville’ Escape the Curse of Seth McFarlane’s Poor Reputation?

Matthew Loffhagen
Fox
(Photo: Fox)

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they react to the name Seth McFarlane.

Some people won’t know who that is, and that speaks volumes about the kind of comedy they like to enjoy. Others will respond with glee, smiling at the memory of a favorite Family Guy or Ted joke.

An increasing number of people, when confronted with anything that features McFarlane, will screw up their nose in a face of disgust. The once popular comedian has been losing a lot of fans in recent years, with movies like A Million Ways to Die in the West and Ted 2 failing to connect with audiences, and McFarlane’s slew of irreverent Simpsons clones losing the spark of humor that made them so well regarded once upon a time.

As such, it’s hard not to feel conflicted when it comes to The Orville. It’s a Star Trek spoof with a lot of fun jokes in its trailer, and with Iron Man director John Favreau behind the camera for the first couple of episodes, it seems that this sci-fi comedy has a lot of potential.

But, it’s a Seth McFarlane show. Simply by having McFarlane front and center as The Orville’s Captain Kirk, the show stands to alienate a large portion of its audience. Many are tired of the awkward humor that made McFarlane famous, and many more find his reliance on jokes about rape and abuse to be insensitive and often downright disgusting.

Naturally, this means that fans of sci-fi comedy are conflicted. On the one hand, The Orville looks like the fun, witty Galaxy Quest television show we’ve been wanting for years. On the other hand, it has Seth McFarlane in it, doing his whole Seth McFarlane thing.

In fairness, The Orville probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. The show’s premise looks like fun, and with so many talented creators on board, it’s worth assuming that it’ll be a good time. McFarlane has turned out fun stuff before – it’s not all about teddy bears making sex jokes for him – so for a big tentpole show of this nature with such a large budget, it’s worth assuming that the comedian’s more risky material will have been left out.

Of course, that still doesn’t mean that people will tune in. For some, the merest mention of Seth McFarlane will be enough to make The Orville seem unappealing.

That’s a shame, because there is genuinely a chance that this show could be good. Perhaps it’s worth giving The Orville a single episode, whether or not you’re a fan of the lead actor’s previous work, just to see whether the show will surprise you.

With any luck, this show might just end up being one of the more enjoyable things to come out of this year’s fall lineup.

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