“In order to sustain any kind of meaningful story, at least with a story that’s dramatic as opposed to comedic, you really need that time,” says Seth MacFarlane, who created and stars in the show as Ed Mercer, the captain of a spaceship in a Star Trek-inspired universe.” You really need that air to let moments play, to let beats play, and not have to rush through everything. And from the get-go, I felt that in order for the show to sustain it had to be more of a drama than a comedy. On a week-to-week basis, to get people to come back and follow these characters every week, things have to matter, and stakes have to exist and there have to be consequences for things. It can’t be shallow or you’ll just lose your audience. The hourlong format has played a huge part in allowing the show to become something more than just a parody.”
That understanding of The Orville — as more of a drama than a comedy — is a little bit counter to the way the show had been advertised when it first came out in 2017. “Season 1 [advertising] was definitely more of a misfire,” MacFarlane says. “It just wasn’t indicative of what the show was. You were seeing basically every gag in the pilot rattled off, one after another, when in reality they were fairly sparse and the focus was more on the story. I think that didn’t do us any favors, at least as far as the show was received by critics. I think a lot of them felt misled and that made them real cranky.”
But, MacFarlane concedes, the show took a little bit of time to find itself. “When you’re combining drama and comedy, particularly in an hourlong format, there’s always a bit of a learning curve and I think by the end of season 1 we really locked into what we wanted to be, and we’ve been thrilled with what we’ve done this season. I think it’s really going to surprise people in a great way.”
For season 2 (which will feature a Gossip Girl reunion with actors Leighton Meester and Jessica Szhor), MacFarlane says, “I think people can expect a major step up in scope this year as far as how cinematic the show is, as far as the visual effects are concerned. There’s been a real effort to make each week feel like you’re watching a little movie. [Audiences are] going to see a show that’s firing on all cylinders, that’s really come into its own and found itself.”
The second season of The Orville premieres Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. on Fox.