I think I’ve reached the breaking point with The Orville. Watching episode five of the new season, I found myself yelling at the TV for the fifth time, because the writing seems so stupid and the characters seem so lame. I’m angry that a show with so much potential is so infuriating and dumb. I had to turn the episode off and start this post.
When the second season started, I re-watched the entire first season as an appetizer, and my conclusion was that there were many more good episodes than bad. There’s really only one I found a stinker (and couldn’t watch all of), but overall it was positive. I was looking forward to the second season.
Sadly, I’ve really hated all five episodes so far. I’m really torn about watching the show anymore.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about the show. I’m not generally a Seth MacFarlane fan, because his form of comedy is pretty squarely in the Idiot Clown category — a form of storytelling I’ve never found attractive.
[Honestly, the love of idiotic comedy and repugnant heroes are two things that trigger my misanthropy. I just can’t identify with a species that finds those attractive.]
The stinker for me in the first season was episode three, About A Girl (written by MacFarlane), in which Bortus’ egg hatches, but the child is female, which is a Bad Thing on Moclus, the male couple’s home world.
The episode turns on whether they should perform surgery on the infant to make it male, a standard practice on Moclus, but (obviously) a horror to everyone on the ship.
Where I turned the episode off was the trial held on Moclus to decide the issue: Commander Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) for the defense.
Problem #1: I think Palicki cannot act. She has zero gravitas as a Commander or a lawyer. I tried to watch it twice and couldn’t get through it.
It’s getting to be like fingernails on a blackboard with any scene she’s in. (Seth MacFarlane seems pretty bad, too.)
Funny story about Palicki: When I first started watching The Orville, she seemed very familiar, and at first I thought she was the gal from That 70s Show, Laura Prepon.
There is a vague resemblance, perhaps, but the funny thing is, I never thought Prepon could act, and I wonder if that’s why I mistook Palicki. (Later I realized she was Bobbi Morse on Agents of SHIELD. That’s why she was familiar.)
It’s possible the problem is actually the writing. I’ve seen a few observers say the females on the show aren’t well-written. I think that’s quite possible, and it’s something I’ve noticed, too.
Problem #2: The courtroom dialog was excruciating. The case was very poorly argued. It was painful to watch.
It was infuriating to me because the idea was well-motivated, but was designed and executed so badly, that I couldn’t watch the episode.
(I find this happens when a character or plot point is supposed to be very smart, but the writing isn’t up to that level. SF writers often struggle to make an advanced alien race come off as smarter than human. It kinda has to be done with indirection.)
Bottom line, maybe, is that people who’ve made a career of dick jokes may not be capable of stepping up to write substantive stories.
Problem #3: Moclus is a member of the Union, so their practices should be well-known. This issue would have been resolved long ago.
What’s more, the concept is a bit incoherent, forced into the idea they wanted. Generally speaking, the aliens tend more to be gags than well thought-out constructs (just consider Lt. Yaphit).
If I had to sum up my problem with the show briefly, it would be thus:
It’s Mr. Dick Joke trying to be Star Trek; infantile high school kids passing notes in class while playing spaceship.
I think MacFarlane is a serious fan. I believe he means well. I don’t know if his infantile brand of humor is something he believes deeply in or something he feels will sell (apparently it does).
One thing that keeps me watching the show (up to now, anyway) is that it’s positive, optimistic science fiction. Especially in the current social environment, I crave that.
Unfortunately, right now, most shows that excel in the science, character, plot, and theme of science fiction trade in darker, grimmer stories. They can be excellent SF, but sometimes I miss the Roddenberry Rose Glasses.
I find it nicer to dream of what we could be, than to wallow in what we are.
Anyway, I come here not to praise The Orville but to bury it.
I can begin with the second season premiere, Bortus Takes a Pee. Yes, the season literally begins with a MacFarlane pee joke. God damn it.
One of the first things I noticed was the high school relationship dynamics going on. Grayson is dating the ship’s teacher, so there’s this juvenile nonsense involving the triangle.
It’s not just that none of them act like trained professionals. It’s that none of them act like adults. (Or even the intelligent high school student.)
In the premiere the ship’s doctor acts like an idiot (writing!) — the way the son thing was handled was stupid. Adults would have made short work of the situation.
In Episode #2, Bortus Has a Porn Addiction and Uploads a Virus, there’s more high school relationship hi-jinks.
For the most part, so far the show has focused on childish personal behaviors (and will continue to do so). The science fiction part here involves rescuing some people from their expanding star.
And it was pretty bad SF. The kind that doesn’t stand up, at all, to plot analysis. It can only be accepted uncritically, if one can manage to choke it down.
(Why don’t people object to the incoherency is what I wish I understood.)
Episode #3 deals with the ship’s security officer, Alara, who is from a high-gravity world, so she has super strength.
Which is another sore point with me. The nature of her strength is hugely inconsistent, for one thing. Here, again, the design of an alien is more based on gags than reality.
I get the joke that Alara is small and petite, but I wish how it was all handled showed more cluefulness about the realities (Trek, after all, claims to exist in the real world).
The episode features a trip to her home world, and it’s nothing at all like a high gravity world or species would actually be. Everything is perfectly normal, except for the actors sometimes “reacting” to the heavy gravity.
This episode demonstrated how the show tries to straddle slapstick comedy and a SF drama. One moment it’s hi-jinks and slapstick, then it pivots suddenly to a story about a home invader guest star forcing at gunpoint the guest star father (of Alara) to stick his hand in a pot of boiling sauce.
Cute casting though: the invader guest star was John Billingsley, the doctor from ST:ENT, and the guest star father was Robert Picardo, the doctor from ST:VOY. I have to commend the show for some great guest stars.
Episode #4 is essentially Enemy Mine with the twist that Captain Mercer’s enemy is the ship’s crew member he’s been “dating” (as they say). It’s the Krill woman he met when he killed all her shipmates. She’s out for revenge.
(Apparently her disguise is impenetrable, yet penetrable, if you know what I mean, wink, wink.)
((The captain dating a crew member? Hello? And why all this juvenile relationship BS? Can we please, even if it’s stupid, get to the actual science fictioning? That’s what I’m here for.))
At least this episode had science fiction in it. But, as always, so many objections to plot points. These stories can’t stand up to any analysis at all.
Which brings us to episode #5 last tonight. Which I could only stand twenty minutes of before I had to bail.
And yet I have a whole page of notes. Stupid stuff that pissed me off.
¶ It’s a first contact episode. The Orville receives an “old-fashioned microwave” message from a planet. The message (which they can read just fine) is: “Is there anybody out there?”
Because, yes, that’s the message you’d spend a jillion dollars sending into space (as opposed to).
And in that universal language everyone can read.
The handling of alien language, let alone aliens, is one of the show’s monster fails. Crew members and various aliens speak perfect English except for those special words that pop up when the writers want to rewarm a stale joke.
¶ Alara’s new replacement, another petite female who looks nothing like someone from a high-G world. This one has more grit than the timid Alara.
¶ Captain Mercer is the least captainy captain ever. Commander Grayson is the least commandery commander ever. Neither can act; neither has any gravitas. Zero chemistry. It’s so painful to watch them.
¶ The big high school dance… oops, sorry, I mean Grayson shares a birthday with Bortus, and she’s all nervous about asking if he wants to join her party, so it can be a big thing, with people and stuff, but Bortus says no.
¶ Apparently the Orville was only a few light years away, because that’s all the time the message was in flight. They were awfully close to not have noticed a large civilization!
¶ Another problem with the show is that the “Union” (the Federation) is stupid. Various aliens work onboard starships, yet everyone seems utterly ignorant about them. Questions pop up that should be common knowledge.
The stunning constant ignorance of the characters combined with their juvenile outlook and behavior makes it hard for me to care about, or even like, any of them. These people are jokes!
¶ Okay, so first contact with a new species, and as they walk towards them Mercer suggests to Grayson they adopt fake names. For fun. Grayson is onboard with the idea, but Mercer chickens out at the last moment.
Consider the implication of deceiving the people you meet in first contact.
I don’t know if the show meant to imply those two fucking goddam idiot children have no business in space at all, let alone in command of a starship, but that is definitely the message sent.
My head kinda exploded at that point, and yet I hung in there. That’s not what forced me to stop watching. (It came close, though.)
¶ We learn that wealth in the Union is based on reputation, which raises so many questions I don’t even know where to begin on that one.
¶ The last straw was the “problem” with the planet. Never mind that, as first contact stories go, this was beyond awful, beyond stupid, beyond beyond, just fucking beyond any shred of sense.
(Never mind them walking into an OR without scrubbing. Or even wearing masks, because these people are playing at putting on a science fiction show.)
The “problem” with the planet is that, despite all their science and technology, they apparently still believe deeply in astrology.
So fervently, so passionately, that when they find out Grayson and Bortus have a birthday today and, gasp, are therefore “Giliacs,” they immediately haul off their invited alien guests to a concentration camp for the rest of their days.
(As opposed to simply booting them off the planet.)
¶ Apparently the tests performed on the others before releasing them could determine the month of their birth. Pretty good for an alien species!
I understand the point MacFarlane (who wrote it) is trying to make. It’s being made in a way I find mind-blowingly stupid.
So stupid it makes me disappointed, frustrated, and really angry.